Each year of high school, I recall copies of Dave Cullen’s Columbine filtering through the hallways after an English teacher or two regularly assigned it. Covering the infamous 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, Cullen’s book is an important confrontation with many myths — such as the belief that the shooting stemmed from emo or goth culture — around the shooting. Having never read it for class myself, though, it was something of a harrowing presence seeing the book emerge and retreat each year. One semester, a friend told me that our high school’s cafeteria had the same open-floor layout as Columbine’s cafeteria, where some of the most striking surveillance footage was taken of the perpetrators. I wish I hadn’t — I wish there was no cause to — but I imagined what I would do if I was at lunch when a shooting began at my school. More and more students have had to live that reality since 1999.
The shooters at Columbine slaughtered 12 students and one teacher. In 2005, a student at Red Lake High School in Minnesota slaughtered his grandfather and his grandfather’s partner, before slaughtering seven of his classmates at school. In 2007, a Virginia Tech student slaughtered 32 students on campus. In 2012, a man walked onto Oikos University in Oakland and slaughtered seven students. Later that same year, a man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and slaughtered 20 children and six teachers. In 2014, a student at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington slaughtered four of his classmates. In 2015, a student at Umpqua Community College in Oregon slaughtered eight classmates and one teacher. In 2018, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida slaughtered 14 students and three staff members. Later that same year, a student at Santa Fe High School slaughtered eight students and two teachers. In 2021, a student at Oxford High School slaughtered four students. And just this past month, an 18-year-old slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This is just the start of lives lost to school shootings in America.
Heartbreak and confusion, fear and repulsion — these emotions run through most of us after hearing these tragedies. Following the shooting at Robb Elementary, Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed some of these feelings, accurately deeming the massacre as “horrific” and one that will “impact” Uvalde for “generations to come.” However, like many Republicans in the aftermath of yet another traumatic act of violence in schools, Abbott made sure to explicitly identify only one solution to prevent horrors like these — “mental health resources.” Just three days after the shooting in Uvalde, gun advocates and conservatives such as former president Donald Trump piled blame onto mental health and refused to address the role of gun violence in the shooting at a National Rifle Association convention. At Abbott’s press conference May 25, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, both Republicans, scolded Texan Democrat Beto O’Rourke for shouting his condemnation of the politicians' support for gun rights at the foot of the stage. That same week, when a reporter pressed Cruz on why such violence in schools is unique to the U.S., Cruz only accused the reporter of pursuing a “political agenda,” casting him aside for it.
Contrary to Cruz’s beliefs, the 21 lives lost in Uvalde are absolutely political. Every life lost on that list of over 600 people is political. Moreover, they are immediately political. Should the friends and families of victims have their grief respected? Absolutely. But sympathy should be accompanied by persistent action and conversations on how to avoid this grief in the first place.
For Cruz to say these deaths shouldn’t be politicized is to ignore that these deaths result from political action. That NRA convention, at which Republican and conservative gun advocates gathered, is evidence enough to know that far too many right-wing politicians prioritize gun rights over human life. In a letter to the LA Times, one conservative actually defied this trend, rhetorically asking — “Is protecting the 2nd Amendment more important than protecting the life of a second-grader?” Though I don’t think the amendment is worth protecting in the slightest, no matter the context, I support this writer’s desire to have conservatives reevaluate issues of gun control.
Let me blunt — blood is on the hands of avid pro-gun Republicans. The blood of these innocent children is the ocean keeping many conservative politicians afloat. I am sickened. I am repulsed. There is zero respect to be had for people like Cruz, Trump and other politicians who ignore guns’ role in school shootings across this country — absolutely none.
To conservatives reading this willing to break rank and advocate for gun control, I beg you to do it relentlessly. These seemingly endless cycles of violence and sympathy do lead to congressional attempts at legislating new gun control, but most frequently it is Republicans who stall these bills, including some coming from their own party. Strict gun control is needed in this country. Without it, these horrors will continue.
Bryce Wyles is an Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.