Failing to learn lessons of Columbine 20 years later/My Word/Dawn Nagy
Orlando Sentinel Apr 19 2019
On April 20, 1999, two Columbine High School students walked into their school and murdered 12 students and one teacher, while injuring 21 others before turning the guns on themselves. As I was just a handful of years out of high school myself, the horror of that day is seared into my memory.
That was, quite literally, half my lifetime ago. At the time it was the deadliest high school shooting in history. The phrase “at the time” is what we should all be focused on here. Because not much has changed in the past 20 years, except that now our neighbors in Parkland hold this horrific title.
The teens who perpetrated the Columbine High School attack had hoped it would rival the murders of the of the Oklahoma City bombing. We’ve seen that homegrown domestic terror repeatedly occur within our schools, and spread to places of worship, movie theaters, concerts, and our own Pulse Nightclub. Yet we rarely call it domestic terrorism, and collectively we rarely do much more than disagree on what should be done to prevent it.
After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the American public and our elected officials went to work to protect our citizens by doing everything from creating TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, to changing building codes, improving passenger screening and creating or reorganizing 263 government agencies. There was certainly debate over what specific changes should be made. But we didn’t drag our heels. We didn’t wait 20 years. We all agreed things needed to change. We spent money, we passed legislation, and we made massive, necessary changes to our daily lives. We are safer because of this.
2,606 people died in the terror attack on the World Trade Center. Yet every year 17,207 American children and teens are shot, and 2,737 of them die from gun violence. Gun-related injuries are actually the third-leading cause of death for people ages 1-19 in the U.S. When more children die from gun violence each year than there were victims of the World Trade Center attack, how are we not treating this as an equally urgent crisis? How are we not creating or reorganizing 263 government agencies? How are we not making massive, necessary changes? We are letting decade after decade go by and we are not addressing the violence and terror against our children.
Each day that we fail to take action we fail the victims of Columbine, and the thousands and thousands of children who have died from gun violence since. It’s time for common-sense gun reform. We must demand that our elected officials make the massive, necessary legislative changes that the majority of the American public supports. For 20 years we have made the choice (and make no mistake about it, it is a choice) to continue to allow our children to be murdered. Isn’t 20 years long enough?
The author lives in Orlando.