- By The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
On Wednesday morning, Alyssa Alhadeff was, in her mother’s description, “a talented soccer player, an incredible creative writer, and all she had to offer the world was love.”
Nicholas Dworet was a hard-working swimmer with a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis.
Carmen Schentrup was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist.
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Wednesday afternoon, the teenagers were dead. They, and 14 other students and staff members at a blood-streaked and terrified Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, just south of the Palm Beach County line.
In an all-too-familiar story that both brands and shames this nation, an obviously disturbed 19-year-old — who killed those 17, wounded 15 others and left a school of 3,100 and their parents with a lifetime of psychological scars — had no trouble buying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle along with an assortment of other guns. An arsenal, which he displayed proudly on Instagram.
Because in America, your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is apparently just words on a document. These are supposed to be inalienable rights; nothing is supposed to take them away. But the Second Amendment now trumps them.
Absurd interpretations of that amendment have stripped the purpose of maintaining a well-regulated militia from an “unabridged” right to bear arms. The National Rifle Association has paid out millions of dollars to lawmakers, mostly Republicans. And now we have a nation that seems utterly resigned to the reality that any unhappy mentally ill person with a grudge can possess the means to wage his own demented personal war on unwitting, undeserving and unarmed people.
Thanks to the NRA, we are supposed to respect as sacrosanct the ability of the disgruntled worker to obtain the means to commit mass murder on the job site that fired him. The mystery man who opens fire on a country music concert below his high-rise hotel window, the confused man with terrorist leanings who rakes a crowded nightclub.
The problem student who returns to the school that expelled him.
He’ll be completely within his rights to go to a gun store, or a gun show, or an online site to buy the kinds of rifles that soldiers take into battle. Maybe he will have to endure the inconvenience of a few days’ wait for a background check. But he’ll get his guns. He’ll get his bullets.
Even if he’s well-known by schoolmates as “a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on his social media,” as the AP describes him. Even if he states on a video blogger’s site, “Im (sic) going to be a professional school shooter.”
Yes. “School shooter” is now, apparently, a profession.
Other nations have people with mental health issues. Many of them, like ours, have spotty mental-health systems. But the United States has by far the largest stockpile of weapons. According to a 2007 study, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the U.S. was 89 guns per 100 persons, more than one for every American adult — and this was before unfounded fears of never-realized Obama administration confiscations sparked huge runs on gun sales. The world’s second ranked country is civil-war-torn Yemen: 55 guns per 100 people.
And so we have four times the gun-death rate of Canada, 10 times the rate of Ireland, 51 times the rate of the United Kingdom. Countries that are otherwise a lot like us.
Although most Americans want stricter gun laws, we can thank NRA lickspittles like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has taken $3.3 million from the gun lobby over his career, for letting this madness go on as if we’re talking about a weather pattern instead of public policy that’s within our ability to change.
Rubio has voted against bills that would have banned high-capacity magazines with more than 10 bullets, expanded background checks on gun purchases and barred gun sales to people on the FBI Terror Watch List.
His all-purpose explanation: “The right of citizens to defend themselves by bearing arms is a fundamental human right.”
What about the fundamental human right of Alyssa Alhadeff to try her hand as a creative writer? For Nicholas Dworet to swim for Indianapolis? For Carmen Schentrup to pursue her studies?
The Constitution was never meant to aid and abet mass murder. For the gun lobby and its vassals to use it to justify nearly unbridled sales of killing machine like an AR-15 is an abomination.
There is a solution. The ballot box. Each and every politician who has blocked common-sense curbs on gun sales must be defeated. It is time for a new crop of leaders, unafraid to defy the NRA and determined to protect the right of children to go to school without the fear of being mowed down amid screams and bullets.