Being ‘sick and tired’ won’t curb gun violence

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.

STACEY NEWMAN

We knew it was coming.  

The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history happened in Las Vegas last week, with 58 killed and more than 500 injured. The numbers of fatalities will keep changing, as families are devastated and medical professionals with superhuman powers try to save victims.  

I echo renowned civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer,  who said: “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  

I am sick and tired of our Congress and my state Legislature doing nothing besides issuing condolences. Prayers, even the warmest of ones, do absolutely nothing to prevent the next mass shooting.  

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I have been sick and tired since the Columbine shooting “woke” me in 1999. In the aftermath of the shooting, my 6-year-old daughter went on the national Rosie O’Donnell show to say how scared she was of guns in her first-grade class.  

I’ve been sick and tired of watching an entire millennial generation grow up with fear of their safety in schools, theaters, places of worship, workplaces and concerts. 

I’m sick and tired of watching my daughter, now a school counselor, worry about what she would do with someone armed in her school.

This is entirely our fault. This is on us.  

We stand idly by on election days as candidates who support the gun lobby are elected to every office from the White House on down to mayor. We throw up our hands when they loosen gun restrictions every year and ignore solutions that will keep us safe. We laugh at political ads with assault rifles but forget to demand candidates be forthright on actual gun violence-prevention issues.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Elected officials supported by the gun lobby will not change their allegiance to the lobby once in office. They use all kinds of excuses in their votes to make it easier to buy firearms and carry in public, enabling gun manufacturers to increase their sales.  Other elected officials defer hoping no one notices their votes or their silence when it matters.

Assault weapons have been legal in the United States since  the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004. The last serious attempt to reauthorize the ban in 2013 was introduced by U.S Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one month after the Sandy Hook school shooting but failed by a vote of 40-60.  An amendment to the bill that would have limited to 10 rounds the size of the magazines for such weapons also failed. 

Assault weapons are legal in Nevada and even in Missouri, protected by law in HB294 in 2011. We turned the other cheek when Missouri legislators, including Democrats, voted to legalize assault weapons and lower the age of carrying concealed weapons.  Missouri has no restriction  on the size of magazines and last year even overruled city ordinances preventing open carry, making it legal to carry an assault weapon on our streets.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has postponed a vote on the Hearing Protection Act, which would make silencers for firearms legal. Silencers make it difficult to locate a shooter, making it harder for victims to escape or law enforcement to intervene.  

Five Missouri Republicans in Congress are among the 165 co-sponsors of the silencers bill: Reps. Sam Graves of Tarkio, Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville, Billy Long of Springfield, Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth and Jason Smith of Salem. At least we know these five from our congressional delegation will be voting, and we have a damn good idea how the rest of the NRA-bought-and-paid-for GOP will. According to a New York Times report last week, the National Rifle Association has spent more than $4.5 million to support U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-Mo.), over the course of his political career, so we already know he won’t do anything to prevent gun violence.  

The responsibility of the Las Vegas massacre and every other daily gun violence fatality falls on our shoulders.  Many of us say we don’t know how our elected officials stand because a) they didn’t knock on our door or b) we didn’t get their campaign mailer or c) we cared more about other issues. The majority of Missourians don’t know who even represents them in the state Legislature or that we in the state Capitol don’t work in Washington, D.C.

I refuse to accept that our astonishing rate of gun violence is what makes America great.

Texas guitarist Caleb Keeter, who performed with the Josh Abbott Band at the Las Vegas country music festival hours before the shooting, agrees. The band and its crew were on  the festival grounds during the shooting, and Keeter said on Twitter later that the weapons crew members had on their bus were useless because they feared police would think they were the shooters. 

“I’ve been a proponent of the Second Amendment my entire life,” Keeter wrote. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. … We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.”

I refuse to stick my head in the sand and say nothing can be done.  I refuse to stay simply sick and tired.

I remain “woke” and demand you be, too.