I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the morning of my son’s first day of school.

As we waited at the bus stop, I told him again how much he would love it — how he’d meet all these new friends, how he’d love his teachers and learn so many cool things.

Hanging over it all was a promise: You will be safe there. No matter how unfamiliar or overwhelming it feels, no matter the ups and downs you go through there, school is safe.

The problem is, it’s a lie, and it gets harder to tell every time someone massacres students and teachers at a school just like my son’s.

But it’s still far easier to tell than the truth.

The truth is, students in America face a threat that kids in no other wealthy country have to deal with. Yet despite all the dead bodies and heartbreakingly small coffins — and the horrible toll the threat of school shootings takes even on students who never experience one — an entire political party has given up trying to solve it.


Republicans have not for a while now offered anything more than “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of a shooting. Now they can barely bring themselves to offer that.

Nashville School Shooting

An an entry to Covenant School has become a memorial for shooting victims, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

After the recent shooting at a Christian school in Tennessee, where three students and three teachers were killed in minutes, GOP lawmakers, when they were answering questions at all, were saying there is simply nothing that can be done about it.

Before the latest bloody scene had even been cleaned up, these lawmakers, who put so much time, effort and money into getting elected, were saying that even the highest office-holders in the country were powerless against gun violence.

That was not the view of politicians in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand or Norway, all of which had high rates of gun ownership and an embedded gun culture. Following mass shootings, they didn’t hesitate to place further restrictions on firearms, leading to fewer guns and less gun violence.

It worked there, and it can work here too.

Don’t tell me we’re different when it comes to guns.


We don’t have to relitigate the Second Amendment here. Whatever was meant by the Founding Fathers, there’s no doubt that the Constitution allows for limits on gun ownership.

And besides the references to patriots and the “tree of liberty,” today’s gun culture has little to do with 1776. In fact, it barely goes back two decades.

Prior to bipartisan gun reform passed in 2022, the last significant legislation passed in response to gun violence was in 1994, when a ban on assault weapons was put into law as part of a bipartisan crime reduction bill.

The ban had little effect on gun violence as a whole, but it did reduce the number of people killed in mass shootings, which have increased sharply since the ban expired, as have the number of active-shooter incidents each year.

But the assault-weapons ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed. Since then, Congress has failed to meaningfully address gun violence, and states across the country have loosened gun laws in increasingly dangerous ways.

Yet anytime one of their products designed to rip apart enemy soldiers is used to shoot up a grocery store or kindergarten class, they say a complete ban is right around the corner — and their customers run to the store to add to their arsenal.


As a ploy to sell more guns, it has been wildly successful. For a long time, the number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. every year stayed between 3 million and 4 million, but that began to rise in the mid-2000s. Production peaked at 11 million a year in 2016, and remains elevated. Millions more guns are imported every year.

In 2020, nearly 18 million new firearms were put into circulation in the U.S., two and half times the number released in 2008.

That’s no accident. It’s the result of policy choices, and of a partnership between Republicans and the gun industry that has made us both the most heavily armed country in the world and the one with the most gun violence.

So don’t tell me you can’t do anything about it, when you did everything in your power to get us to where we are now.

Tell the truth. Tell me you don’t want to do anything, no matter how many kids are killed and traumatized.

No matter how many students and teachers go to school in fear of being shot.

My son isn’t there yet. He thankfully is unaware that schools are targets of violence, and that guns are the leading cause of death for kids now. He doesn’t know that a good number of adults don’t seem to care.

So I keep telling him school is perfectly safe, and hope against hope we’ll come to our senses before he finds out it’s a lie.


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