Castillo: Prayers won’t stop this cycle of madness


Hunkered down on a classroom floor with his classmates, as a shooter roamed the halls opening fire on teachers and students, a terrified 14-year-old Florida high schooler tweeted these chilling words Wednesday:

“I am in a school shooting right now …”

Once, these words would have seemed unfathomable, even in the city where lethal bullets rained down from a University of Texas tower 51 years ago.

Now – incredibly, sadly – mass shootings are almost commonplace.

INSIGHT: Why security measures alone won’t stop school shootings.

The latest gun massacre in America left at least 17 people dead. Slaughtered. Words fail us at times like these, incapable of capturing the depth of our grief, our disgust and, yes, our rage.

“This keeps happening again and again and again …” said a headline on CNN’s website Thursday over a graphic listing 21 shootings at U.S. schools from 2000 to 2017. Not a complete list, those massacres killed 64 people, including 26 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. in 2012. They do not include at least eight school shootings in 2018, nor the mass shootings in Las Vegas (2017) and Orlando (2016) and down the road just three months ago, at a country church in Sutherland Springs, where a gunman killed 26.

Each mass shooting brings a familiar and cruel cycle: Politicians offer impotent and hollow thoughts and prayers; partisan politics fuel intransigent Facebook debates; politicians shamelessly beg off debating gun policy, saying now is not the time; and Congress sits on its hands. And then the next shooting comes along and pierces a gaping hole in our collective soul once more.

With virtually every mass shooting, we learn once again that semiautomatic guns with large magazines of ammunition that can more easily inflict mass casualties are accessible to people intent on slaughtering. In the case of Wednesday’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., authorities said the AR-15 rifle used by the gunman was purchased legally. In Florida, an AR-15 is easier to buy than a handgun, the New York Times reported.

JUAN CASTILLO: Bloated water bills. Secret hiring. This isn’t ‘fake’ news.

Military-style weapons like the AR-15 have been used in many if not most of the nation ‘s recent mass shootings. Despite the increasing occurrence of these massacres, there’s been no federal legislation to tighten gun laws since Newtown. Though Congress passed a national assault weapons ban in 1994, it expired a decade later.

Still, with every mass shooting the argument persists that weapons are not the issue. President Trump, who pointedly avoided mentioning gun control Thursday, said he would make school safety a top priority and tackle the “difficult issue of mental health.” The Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, Trump said.

It’s not the first time the president has sought to spin a mass shooting as a mental health issue. We can’t forget, however, that it was Trump who undid an Obama-era regulation that would have blocked some mentally ill people from buying guns. That effort to strengthen national background checks was a response to the massacre at Newtown.

In his tweets Thursday, Trump offered prayers and condolences to the families of the victims. A survivor of the mass shooting lashed back: “Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

Another Trump tweet seemed to lay some responsibility on neighbors and classmates who he said knew the shooter was a “big problem.” Perhaps the president could also look inward and see his hypocrisy on mental health and mass shootings.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

On Wednesday, as that terror-filled, 14-year-old high school student live-tweeted on the mass shooting, one of his followers responded, “Stay safe and stay hidden, Aidan! We’re all pulling for you, kiddo.”

All Americans should pull for the safety of our children by demanding that Congress pass gun laws to help protect them from mass shootings. No parent should have to fear that sending off their child to school in the morning might be the last time they see them alive.

We strive to be a civilized society but we fail our aspirations – and our children — when we do not act and when we allow our lawmakers to not act. Grief and rage cannot bring us to our knees. Words cannot fail us; they must inspire us to act. We are only powerless if we choose to be.

How many more times will we allow ourselves to read these haunting words again: “I am in a school shooting.”?

Castillo is the editorial page editor. Contact him at jcastillo@statesman.com



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Commentary: When the Endangered Species Act arrived, species revived
Commentary: When the Endangered Species Act arrived, species revived

When humans arrived, species died. Homo sapiens in our geologically recent dispersal out of Africa have left paths of destruction across the planet, the one place in the universe we actually know life exists. Now, the Trump administration wants to roll back the Endangered Species Act (ESA), one of the cornerstones for the protection of this living...
Letters to the editor: Sept. 21, 2018

One intriguing aspect of “all politicians lie” is no politician ever disputes the claim. Politicians welcome the phrase as normal behavior in society. Once accepted, politicians are free from the burden of telling the truth. A trial defendant caught in a lie will be convicted. An applicant who lies during a job interview will not be hired...
Editorial: Take time to vet Kavanaugh allegation, run proper hearing
Editorial: Take time to vet Kavanaugh allegation, run proper hearing

The stakes couldn’t be higher. The next justice to be sworn onto the U.S. Supreme Court will likely serve for decades, providing a pivotal fifth vote on a nine-member court that has been narrowly divided on critical issues. The Affordable Care Act. Marriage equality. Protections for immigrants and visitors from Muslim-majority countries. Regulations...
Facebook comments: Sept. 21, 2018
Facebook comments: Sept. 21, 2018

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Mary Huber, 13 neighborhoods are starting to gentrify or see longtime residents displaced by rising property values, according to a new University of Texas study. Touted by researchers as one of the first steps toward solving the city’s affordability problem, the study looked at areas with large proportions...
Opinion: The late hit on Judge Kavanaugh

Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation, and possibly his career on the nation’s second highest court. And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for...
More Stories