Children deserve our focus

Betsy PickleOpinion

It has been two days since an 18-year-old high-school dropout stormed into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, barricaded himself in a classroom and started shooting an AR-15-style rifle, resulting in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers, as well as injuries to 17 others.

If we as U.S. citizens can’t keep our children from being gunned down at school, then we are worthless.

Let North Korea or Pakistan or Russia or Iran push the red button. Oblivion is nothing compared with the hell that the families of the 21 Uvalde victims are going through.

This isn’t about politics. It makes no difference if you’re Democrat or Republican, anti-abortion or pro-choice. If you outlaw abortion, you might save some fetuses, but give them a few years and they’ll probably be murdered right before they head home for summer vacation. Or scarred for life by witnessing a mass shooting.

It doesn’t matter whether we ban books and allow prayer in classrooms or fund schools and pay teachers what they deserve. Someday soon, a misguided male will take out his anger with an assault weapon on a bunch of innocents.

WWJS – what would Jesus say? Look at Mark 10: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (New International Version of the Bible)

A lot of Christians conveniently forget this when another school shooting happens. For all those sending “thoughts and prayers” without taking action, please reset your spiritual focus. If we refuse to make the lives of children our top priority, everything else we do is pointless. And that applies to people of all faiths and beliefs. Do we really need to be told why teen suicide rates are so high?

People in the United States are obsessed with multitasking. I say we are going downhill fast because we refuse to focus. And we must. Today. Right now.

It has been almost 10 years since the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s been four years since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There’ve been far too many other shootings in between and since.

And nothing has changed – wait, that’s a lie. Governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Bill Lee of Tennessee have made it easier for people to carry weapons in public. They’ve opened the door wide to concealed carry and pooh-poohed background checks. All while sending “thoughts and prayers” in abundance to grieving families.

In their thirst for power and their service to the powerful gun lobby, Abbott and Lee have abdicated their most basic duty: to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

As a private citizen, I got on the phone Wednesday morning and called the offices of Tim Burchett, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty. I told their assistants that they were not representing Tennessee or East Tennessee values because Tennesseans don’t value losing their children to shooters who were able to easily access weapons capable of inflicting mass deaths. I demanded that each put aside anything else they were working on and concentrate on crafting laws to close whatever loopholes we have. I encouraged my Facebook friends to do the same.

Do I have much hope that any of those officeholders will take my words to heart? No. But then I remembered that I have a platform, and I can reach beyond my friends list.

So, I’m putting this out there:

Make. This. Your. Focus.

Call your representatives at the state and federal level. Email them. Blast them on social media. Tell them you don’t believe the “right to bear arms” includes high-capacity magazines and semiautomatic assault weapons. Tell them you favor background checks and waiting periods. Tell them you insist on testing and licensing anyone who desires to purchase a weapon. Don’t let up until they take action.

Because if you don’t, the next school shooting belongs on your conscience.

Betsy Pickle is a native Knoxvillian and a veteran freelance writer and editor.


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