On Sunday of last week, a man was forcefully and violently removed from a United Airlines flight. The videos of the moment in time have been viewed by millions on social media sites around the world. The scene has aired on every news and "entertainment" channel, large and small, over and over. Social media has gone crazy, celebrities have weighed in, entire countries are upset about it and have called for a boycott. United Airlines stocks have fallen, causing millions of dollars in losses. I have personally seen something about the incident on the national news channels every single day since it took place a week ago. We've learned about the doctor's marred past (that doesn't matter), how many of his family members are doctors (also doesn't matter), the fact that his injuries are more extensive than originally thought, his lawsuit, and the various policies of airlines in booking and overbooking. We've heard from airline officials, corporate officers, pilots, passengers, teachers, and lawyers. We've heard from experts on airline safety and security, legal issues, airline technicalities, the psychological effect this will have on the passengers, and any other issues you could think of. We know the "police" that removed the man from the plane weren't really police, even though their jackets said so. We know everything we could possibly want or need to know about this incident, and then some. It was a horrible incident and the public outcry has been rightfully swift and loud.
But where is the public outcry over the latest school shooting?
On Monday of last week in San Bernardino, Karen Elaine Smith was at her job teaching special needs children when her estranged, abusive, husband walked in and fatally shot her from ten feet away. Jonathan Martinez, an eight-year old child who was still missing his two front teeth, was killed in the process. Another child was injured but is recovering. The shooter reloaded his gun and turned it on himself; another death. More than a dozen special needs children sat in their classroom and watched this horrifying tragedy unfold before their eyes.
On the day of the San Bernardino shooting it was national news. Stories followed the next day as we learned about the marriage and abrupt separation of the two adult victims, the abusive nature of the teacher's husband and his deceitful Facebook page, the tragic death and identity of the eight-year old boy, the well-being of the nine-year-old who was shot, and additional details of the shooting itself. I saw one single article on Facebook that included a photograph of the teacher who lost her life, and one photograph of the grinning, toothless boy who is now gone. The story has since all but disappeared from the national news and social media. There are no experts talking about domestic abuse, or gun owner statistics, or how many children have died in violent shootings. We have not heard experts lamenting the psychological toll the shooting will have on the children who were present. We have not heard how many women are dying by the guns of their abusive partners. No stocks have fallen. There are no calls for boycotts. There is no public uproar, outrage, or outcry.
Shootings have become commonplace in this country. We have gotten used to them. Everytown for Gun Safety reports that, since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 that collectively horrified the nation and the world, there have been 220 school shootings in this country. Sandy Hook was supposed to be our country's watershed moment, the tipping point that would finally cause real change in our antiquated gun laws. It seemed that as a country, we felt that the only reason those twenty children could have died was to spark a national outrage that was loud enough to drown out the National Rifle Association (NRA) and force our government to listen to the voices of its' people.
After Sandy Hook, the public outcry was loud. We had celebrity service announcements.
We had a visibly shaken president in tears as he spoke about the violent loss of children and teachers. We had a nation in mourning. We had a moment in time where the country came together, gun owners and non-gun owners, and realized that changes needed to be made. But despite well-meaning attempts by President Obama and Vice-President Biden, very little has changed, more than four years later. So our moment passed and it appears that we collectively moved on.
Today it seems as though we barely notice a school shooting. It comes and goes in the press with little more than a mention and two days worth of coverage, one day for the event itself, and another to disclose the newly discovered details. The current president of the United States has called the United Airlines incident "horrible" and "terrible." What has he said about the most recent school shooting? Nothing. Not even a tweet.
A distressing silence, even though facts, statistics, and common sense clearly show that changes need to be made to our current national gun laws.
For the safety of our friends, our children, our families, and our country, we cannot be silent. We must object, protest, complain, cause an uproar, shout, call, write, email, post, share, get angry, and be sad. When each of these noises are combined, it becomes the voice of the people, and will eventually cause change. As President Obama said following the Sandy Hook shooting, "Doing nothing is no longer acceptable." That hasn't changed in the four years since he said it.
There was a report on the news this morning (one week and one day after the incident) that United Airlines has changed their policies. A passenger will no longer be deboarded to accommodate United Airlines crewmembers. Crewmembers must now check in at least 60 minutes prior to departure time to secure a seat on a flight. Those changes in policy were almost immediate because people reacted strongly with shock, anger, disgust, or fear; with emotion. Those changes came quickly because stock prices fell and a business was threatened.
It is much more difficult and time-consuming to create a change in policy for an entire country, particularly when a force like the NRA pumps in millions of dollars to stop it. A national change in policy requires a prolonged effort and therefore a long attention span, which seems to be part of the problem with much of the United States government.
The loss of life or lives by the use of a gun has to continue to be a big deal. The shooting of a woman and two children from ten feet away in front of a classroom of special needs children has to be more shocking than a man being forcibly dragged off of a plane, as terrible as that was. But therein lies another part of the problem. When my daughter first showed me the video of the man being dragged off of the plane I was shocked. But when I saw the news of the San Bernardino shooting I am sorry to say that I was not the least bit shocked. I wasn't even a little bit surprised. I was sad, but that isn't enough. Being sad doesn't create change.
As individuals and as a country, we must continue to be shocked and to FEEL and to REACT strongly to each and every shooting of a human being in this country. We need a BOLD public outcry every. single. time. Until we have nothing left to cry about.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you and credit to Everytown for Gun Safety for the use of their informational graphics. Everytown For Gun Safety and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have never lost their focus or their voice as they continue to raise awareness and money for common sense gun safety laws. They can be found at www.everytown.org and www.momsdemandaction.org if you would like to see what is happening, get involved, or make a donation.
*At Noa's request, 50% of all proceeds from the sale of this original poster are donated directly to Everytown for Gun Safety. BOLD girl Noa created this piece of art for the BOLD girl book and in response to gun violence in America. It is available as a 12x16 poster in the "SHOP" tab of this website. For more information on Noa or