EDITORIAL: It's time to study mass shootings

York Dispatch

Twelve students who never had a chance to graduate from Columbine High School would be in their mid-30s now.

Twenty children who should be in seventh grade in Newtown, Connecticut, will always be 6 and 7 years old.

And now, among the 17 dead, are those students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who will never finish growing up. And there are brave adults who died attempting to save those children from the rapid fire of an assault weapon.

All who were terrorized will forever be changed.

And in the wake of this most recent mass shooting at a school, the predictable responses from politicians pour in.

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Thoughts and prayers.

"Florida - you're in my heart and prayers," Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, tweeted Wednesday. 

"My heart breaks for the students and loved ones of those affected by today's terrible shooting in Florida," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., wrote.

"No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school," President Donald Trump said to his vast Twitter audience.

We've been through this so many times, with mass shootings in so many different spaces. Concerts, churches, nightclubs, workplaces, movie theaters, they're all scenes for one man with a gun to take many lives. 

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Somehow, this has been a normal occurrence in our land of the free. Another mass shooting, another space that is no longer safe, more photos of grieving families, more stories of heroes dying to save others.

And within an increasingly short amount of time, we move on. The dead are buried, the families are left to their mourning, and the country looks away.

But then a young man (it's nearly always a young man) takes a gun into a school and starts pulling the trigger, again and again and again.

Some people have been shocked by videos of students at Douglas saying everyone knew Nikolas Cruz would be the one who shot up the school. Yes, this is something that kids say now, something that is talked about, joked about. Who will be the one who brings a gun here and starts shooting? And what will we do when it happens? 

There are plans in every school for what to do if gunfire begins. Active shooter drills are conducted, just as fire drills are conducted and tornado drills. Children are taught to lock doors, turn off lights, hide in closets and under desks so that the shooter will move on to the next classroom.

Anxious family members wait for news of students as two people embrace, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sent students rushing into the streets as SWAT team members swarmed in and locked down the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

And the government prepares teachers and security guards and police and fire departments and emergency rooms for the mass shootings that they know will continue to happen.

And yet, for the most part there doesn't seem the political will to even study the mass shootings to see if there's anything that can be done to stop them.

You can thank the National Rifle Association for that.

In 1996, the NRA turned its sights on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that it was promoting gun control by funding research into firearm injuries and deaths, according to the Washington Post. The Republican-controlled Congress at the time threatened to strip funding from the CDC unless that research stopped. The CDC complied.

The National Institute of Justice, a branch of the Department of Justice, funded 32 gun-related studies in the '90s but none between 2009 and 2012. 

Researchers who want to study causes of violence know not to use the words "guns" or "firearms" when looking for funding because they know there will be blowback, the Post said.

Why is Congress too scared to even consider looking into the causes of mass shootings? The NRA gives them millions of reasons why every election.

While direct NRA contributions to politicians were only a little over $1 million for the 2016 election cycle, the group spent nearly $54.4 million on outside contributions, according to OpenSecrets.org, a group that tracks campaign finances.

Among the recipients was Toomey, who has received $79,908 from gun rights groups, according to the New York Daily News. Perry received far less, having gotten $8,500 from the NRA, according to Penn Live.

The NRA spent more than $30 million toward electing Trump, according to Open Secrets.

Politicians want to make sure the money keeps rolling in, and they also want to make sure the NRA doesn't start funding the opposition. So a ban on assault weapons died in 2004, and there are few nationwide studies on gun violence.

And we once again sacrifice children to the gun manufacturers.

We can't continue this way as a society. Congress needs to stand up to the NRA and say, we need to at least study the problem of mass shootings in this country. Maybe there is a way to stop them. Maybe the solution is to get rid of assault weapons, or maybe we need a better method of figuring out who is going to be the next person to walk into a crowded space and start firing.

Without a serious look at the problem, everyone trying to stop the next mass murder is shooting blind. And more children will never graduate from high school.