Eleven years ago, a gunman killed 32 people and wounded more than a dozen others atVirginia Tech University on a clear spring day. In that moment, the entire nation was forever changed by gun violence.
Fast forward to February this year, after the shooting unfold at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We saw the same response in a post-shooting tragedy: Communities in shambles, national outrage, a swarm of press coverage that eventually goes away and a whole lot of talk from our leaders in Washington with very little action.
In the wake of Parkland, the current administration attempted to placate Americans—who are scared they are sending their kids to school only to have them shot and killed—with a school safety commission headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And while Secretary DeVos’s “listening” session tour might seem like a good idea, it’s frankly nothing but a sham and a direct attempt to fool Americans while doing nothing to keep us safer.
The second “listening” session happened on Tuesday in Kentucky and it’s hard to believe there was actually any interest in “listening.” Once again, none of the cabinet secretaries, including Secretary DeVos, former NRA A+ rated Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen even bothered showing up. In fact, there was a mere one business day’s notice given before this “listening” session. The public could attend for a short window if people signed up in advance, but really—if the administration is making it this hard to participate, how much do they really want to hear from them?
And in a wild—but perhaps unsurprising—turn of events, DeVos made it clear the commission isn’t going to focus on guns. How can you possibly talk about school safety and ending school shootings without discussing guns and the role they play?
Just last week, Secretary DeVos stopped a psychologist mid-sentence as he began to address the role of firearms in schools, conveniently citing a lack of time to continue.
This is not what real listening looks like.
Some “leaders” might try to talk a good game about school safety, but they’re really just trying to move on as soon as possible. Why should we be surprised? We’ve seen the same after other mass shootings that have shaken our nation to its core.
But there is something different this time in the wake of the tragedy in Parkland.
The next generation of leaders is standing up to demand change in a way we’ve never seen before. They are honoring the 96 Americans shot and killed every day and the hundreds more wounded. They’re calling for changes to our nation’s gun laws and making sure that our leaders know that since our lives are on the line, their jobs are on the line with the upcoming election.
Arming teachers, putting guns in schools, or blaming it all on mental health and video games isn’t what the American public is calling for. It’s time to get serious. The “school safety commission” is a waste of time if it fails to listen to Americans or even address the basics of gun violence in America.