It seems we’ve lived this story before: a preventable American tragedy, followed by community activism, followed by legislative inaction. It’s a cycle that remains a consistently unfortunate reality across this country. We, in Florida, have not been immune from such vicious acts before — we’ve seen what happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a few years ago.
Here in South Florida, such tragedy has never occurred so close to home. In a sleepy west Broward town, 17 students and teachers are dead on what began as an ordinary day at school — and ended in those ordinary restless moments before that final bell rings. I’ve seen that normalcy before as a high school teacher, and I can attest to never believing that such horror will ever happen to you — until it does. For Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the City of Parkland, there will never be a day where the prospect of it happening again will not be far from their collective consciousness.
FULL COVERAGE: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
In the aftermath, our society has some decisions to make — not apart, but together. The purpose of America has always been — and should always be — working jointly for the common good. Today, our division and dysfunction are partly to blame for the circumstances and events that this environment has created. The shooting in Parkland — like all of those that precede it — is not the only tragedy — though it is the primary one we should rest our focus on in the coming weeks. An entire community needs healing, and we should do all that we can to make that healing possible. The other “American tragedy”, however, is our failure to divorce ourselves from our own ideological echo chambers, and jointly agree to what is best of us all.
The right to own a firearm is as old and as clear as the U.S. Constitution. And it would be unconstitutional to strip that right away. But in a world that has changed so much and so intensely since 1789, it makes sense to revisit the reality of how the Second Amendment should be applied in 2018. Our founding fathers never envisioned a world where a teenager would shoot his fellow classmates with the power of a semi-automatic firearm. Such a tool for destruction could have never been conceived in a more technologically primitive time. So, then, it seems obvious that such weapons should either be completely removed from our grasp, or at a minimum, more difficult to purchase than a handgun that is used for protection — far closer to the true intention and nature of our founding documents.
Our state and federal legislatures now have an opportunity to first reset this debate, and second, set an agenda that will serve as the starting point for the culture change that is so desperately needed in our time. Our current leadership would be wise to consider measures that enact sensible legislation that limits access to assault rifles, implements necessary background checks, and enforces mandatory waiting periods. These are not concepts that are limiting our constitutional rights — but sensibly enforcing them. This is not a discussion to postpone — it is a discussion that we must insist on before the last several weeks sadly fade from our memory until the next time.
RYAN ROSSI, BOCA RATON
Editor’s note: Rossi is a former teacher at St. John Paul II Academy (formerly Pope John Paul II High School).