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Abby Zimet: Kids Are Begging, Begging, Begging For Their Lives

Sandra Hastings, with daughters Penelope and Mahalina, protests the Nashville shooting and our endless gun violence.  Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
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In the wake of the Nashville shooting, even as mourners gathered at the first funeral – of a 9-year-old “shining light” – and thousands of Tennesseans demanded their lawmakers “Do Something!”, GOP goons still staunchly, blindly refuse to act on or even acknowledge our national gun carnage. It’s “premature” to talk of gun control, they say; we need more doors, cops, cameras, Jesus. “You guys are banning books,” says the rest of America. “Dead kids can’t read.” 

The shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, which killed three kids and three adults, was one of 103 mass shootings already recorded this year; of those, 90 were school shootings, which last year hit a 50-year record of 303. Still, astoundingly, right-wing lawmakers and the NRA continue to push for more guns in the unholy name of their “Constitutional rights.” On Friday, a judge struck down Minnesota’s 21-year minimum age law allowing someone to carry a handgun in public – they’re looking to expand it to rifles – because you’re never too young to carry a deadly weapon on the streets of our fair nation. Just ask Kyle Rittenhouse. We’d like these clueless gun freaks to read the Washington Post’s recent, ghastly, in-depth account of how AR-15s “blow the body apart.” If there are too many big words in it, maybe they could listen to the harrowing, newly released 911 calls last Monday to the police dispatcher in Nashville, Tenn., where “kids are fighting for their lives.” They’d hear kids barricaded in their rooms speaking in frantic whispers, a woman huddling with children in an art room closet amidst booms of gunfire, a woman hushing kids to stay safe, a child crying dangerously loudly that, “I want to go home!” as emergency alarms wail eerily around them. 

Friday’s first funeral was for Evelyn Dieckhaus, “a constant beacon of joy” who loved drawing, playing with her dogs, singing to Taylor Swift and being with her big sister; her family asked mourners to wear pink and green “in tribute to Evelyn’s light and love of color.” Services were held Saturday for substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and Hallie Scruggs, 9, whose father is pastor of a related Presbyterian church; after getting calls from those in the school he raced there, not knowing his daughter was a victim. Services for William Kinney, 9, are Sunday, custodian Mike Hill, 61, Tuesday, and school head Katherine Koonce, 60, Wednesday. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers in Congress got back to the business of being assholes. Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, a gun store owner who’s handed out AR-15 pins to GOP colleagues, proudly wore his pin the day after. Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents Nashville, declined to apologize for posting a Christmas card of his smiling spawn cradling assault rifles: “Why would I regret a photograph with my family exercising my rights to bear arms?” Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett, who’s adamant about banning drag shows, called the shooting “horrible,” then blithely declared, “We’re not gonna fix it”; as to his own daughter, “We home-school her.” Kevin McCarthy posed for pictures with tourists, refused to discuss gun control and rushed into his office.

In a hearing about crime and gun violence, shrill Lauren Boebert grilled DC City Councilman Charles Allen in a who’s-on-first-debacle about his alleged efforts to decriminalize pissing in public. Boebert, bellicose: “You led the charge to reform D.C.’s crime laws, is that correct?” Allen, mild: “I chaired the committee.” She: “So you led that charge. And these changes are now law here in D.C., correct?” He: “No, those are not the law.” She: “Did you or did you not decriminalize public urination?” He: “I did not. The revised code left that a criminal offense.” She, feverishly studying her notes: “But weren’t you in favor of it?” He: “No.” Etc. Online responses: “Boy, we’re really governing now” and “I feel more dumber watching this.” Ditto an exchange in which Marjorie we-need-more-guns Greene repeats a story about when she was in 11th grade “and Joe Biden made our schools a gun-free zone” – except George H.W. Bush was president and his Gun-Free Zones Act became law months later – only to get a brutal reality check from Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz, deeply involved in gun control since Parkman. Charging six people are dead “because you guys got rid of the assault weapon ban,” he noted what an AR-15 bullet does, that “there’s nothing left of these kids when people go into school and murder them while they’re trying to read,” and that, amidst/ despite absurd GOP book-banning efforts, “Dead kids can’t read.” 

As craven as D.C.’s GOP is, Tennessee’s GOP lawmakers, astonishingly, are worse. In a state that already has some of the most lax gun laws, legislators keep pushing to further loosen them – though last week, in the bloody wake of Covenant, they politely delayed hearings “to be respectful.” Still, their rhetoric was fantastical. The community is “getting to work to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” “No law could have prevented the shooting,” and asking if their policies play a part is “an unfair question.” They want to train, hire, arm more school cops, though they change nothing. They want better windows, locks, doors, cameras, though ditto. Their stunning indifference is clear in an infuriating videoby the Tennessee Holler’s Justin Kanew, who walked the capital halls Tuesday to ask two dozen GOP lawmakers, all of whom he knows by name, “3 kids died yesterday. What are you doing to keep kids safe?” He even helps them with suggestions: background checks, red flag laws, limit magazines. The result: Deafening, surreal silence. They hurry away, stare at watches, rush into elevators, close office doors, smile uncomfortably. They bicker about semantics: “Gun violence is a non-specific term.” They claim “you can’t buy assault rifles.” They say schools should be locked to keep them safe from “exterior violence,” he’s “just a hippie with a cell phone,” “what we need to work on is man’s sinful heart” – which may be true, but the kids are dying of guns, not sin. 

The same spectacle of willful blindness played out Thursday when thousands of protesters, mostly kids and parents,  flooded the statehouse to demand stiffer gun laws to end the slaughter. Packed into the rotunda, they held angry signs – “No More Silence,” “Do Your Job,” “If I Die In School Put My Body on the Steps of Congress” – while chanting, “Vote them out,” “Shame on you,” “They’re killing us – our blood, your hands,” and, as troopers roughly cleared a path for lawmakers, “Do you even care?” “They’re supposed to represent us,” said one student. “This is our home too.” Inside the House chamber, three progressive Reps – Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson – took the well to stand with protesters and declare, “Gun control now”; GOP Speaker Cameron Sexton called a recess and threatened them with expulsion. That night, he and other GOP lawmakers began a campaign to “turn a lawful, peaceful protest into something ugly, because ugly is how they roll.” They claimed kids asking they not be murdered were “an insurrection, worse than Jan. 6,” “an invasion,” “an incitement to violence,” “Tranuary 6th.” “LEFTIST PROTESTERS STORM TENN CAPITAL!! INSURRECTION !!” lawmakers charged. “Wannabe communists conducted a probing attack upon the state…The communist failed.” Earlier, kids watched as lawmakers exited stone-faced in their suits, again steadfastly ignoring all pleas to end the carnage. “Did anything move you guys today?” they were asked. “Kids are here begging, begging, begging, for their lives…And you’re silent.” And, somehow, they still are.


First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Abby Zimet has written Common Dreams’ Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women’s, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues.

2 comments on “Abby Zimet: Kids Are Begging, Begging, Begging For Their Lives

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    April 4, 2023

    Thinking back at the time my children where small and in school (not in the US), I can’t imagine a world in which they wouldn’t be safe, except hurting themselves climbing a tree in the school’s ‘green bit’.

    Come to think of it, I can’t imagine going out into the street and fearing to be shot, probably by accident. And I live in a third-world country.

    Like

    • Vox Populi
      April 4, 2023

      Yes, the fascists have ruined our country, I’m afraid.

      >

      Like

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