Another Cry of ‘Never Again’

Jewish Light Editorial

The anguished plea of “never again” that has long been associated with the Holocaust has surfaced with new force and new meaning following the horrific deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Too many mass shootings in the United States have led to rote expressions of thoughts and prayers, with hollow, unfulfilled demands for action against the ease of obtaining deadly weapons. But this time seems different. Why? It’s the voices of teenagers who have seen their friends and classmates gunned down in scenes of tragedy that will haunt them forever.

Those eloquent, disillusioned voices have clearly prompted a welcome new chapter in the seemingly endless gun debate. In forums, media interviews and elsewhere, in Florida, Washington, St. Louis and across the nation, young people who supposedly are disengaged from politics and government have made an abstract debate very real.

 “I was in a closet,” Douglas student Alfonso Calderon recalled, “locked for four hours with people who I would consider almost family, crying and weeping on me, begging for their lives.”

Classmate Sarah Chadwick said:

“Never again should a child be afraid to go to school. Never again should students have to protest for their lives. Never again should an innocent life be taken while trying to gain an education.”

Sadly, those anguished voices have too often been met with the same tired responses and cynicism that the gun debate has prompted. President Donald Trump even had a cheat sheet, caught on camera, on which someone had scribbled prefabricated phrases he could use to respond, such as  “What can we do to help you feel safe” and “I hear you.”

And instead of challenging the National Rifle Association to help solve the problem, he continues to praise it, calling them “a group of people who really want to do the right thing. … These are good people.” 

Trump’s main suggestion is arming teachers, a shortsighted, quick fix that new Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, rightly calls “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

To his credit, Trump has come out in favor of banning “bump stocks” that turn semiautomatic weapons into even more efficient killing machines, saying he would take action unilaterally if the change wasn’t done legislatively. And he’s said he would favor stronger background checks, though whatever change is made in that area will depend heavily on the details involved.

Unfortunately, some misguided arguments against the students have St. Louis roots.  For example, the Gateway Pundit, described by The New York Times as “a fringe website that gained prominence in 2016 for pushing conspiracies about voter fraud and Hillary Clinton,” spread a bogus theory that one of the most articulate of the students, David Hogg, 17, was coached about what to say. 

Similarly, Dana Loesch, who began her media career as a mommy blogger in St. Louis before earning wider notice as a shrill advocate for the NRA, said last week that “many in legacy media love mass shootings. I’m not saying you love the tragedy, but you love the ratings, because crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

And don’t forget that U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., ranks among the leading recipients of NRA money, with $4.5 million. He also used campaign funds to pay his NRA membership dues.

Put all of that aside and listen to what the late Chief Justice Warren Burger — no one’s idea of a flaming liberal — had to say about the constitutional right to bear arms that so many people hide behind to excuse and perpetuate uniquely American mass shootings:

“The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have seen in my lifetime.”

It’s time that the “good people” of the NRA meet their match, with common sense and an equal sense of outrage. The tide is turning. And not-so-little daughters and sons will lead the way. 

Good for them.