Protect our children's right to life

Opinion: Columns

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By Tom Jacobs

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Almost three months ago, I wrote a column titled "Partisanship is killing us from within," highlighting how unreasonable statements and actions of local partisans who are more interested in ideology than responsible solutions tear at the health and cohesion of our community.

Sadly, with the recent shooting murder of 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, the figurative killing has turned literal, and congressional partisanship is partly to blame.

In the days since the shooting, a predictable post-tragedy pattern has played out: Some politicians insist that school shootings happen for a single reason only, claiming for instance that mental illness is the sole cause for the loss of life at the Parkland high school. They insist that the estimated 300 million guns in the United States have nothing to do with such tragedies.

This type of one-sided statement is caused by the cancer of partisanship. We find ourselves in a political climate in which reason and prudence are trumped, pun intended, by the compulsive need to accuse, ridicule, and blame the other side. 

Every reasonable person, both liberal and conservative, understands that many causes contribute to such tragedies, including untreated mental health conditions, family and societal circumstances, and lack of gun safety regulation. Because of this, they agree that prudent action now must include improvements to all aspects of the above.

Reasonable people know that making progress is neither a matter of confiscating every gun in the country nor putting an armed guard in every classroom.

According to steady polling over the last several years, the very large majority of Americans are entirely reasonable: 90 percent of the U.S. public wants a tougher universal background check system for gun purchases. Similarly, according to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, a majority of gun owners who are NRA members support this type of policy proposal also.

The importance of this last point cannot be overstated. Too often, fueled by deep emotion, our own statements play into the self-serving and manipulative narratives by politicians and some media that pits everything as a battle between latte-sipping liberals and gun-toting conservatives.

The real issue is the corrosive influence of money in politics. Propped up by special interests, partisanship is a construct that offers convenient scapegoats: the irresponsible other side. Partisanship is a proxy battle that allows elected officials to hide behind, valuing special interest groups over their constituents.

Through their campaign contributions and aggressive intimidation tactics, the NRA leadership — not its membership — has achieved control over elected officials to such an extent that they say completely unreasonable things for fear of losing their jobs.

At least since the massacre at Sandy Hook in 2012, when 20 first-graders and six adults were brutally murdered, members of Congress have been derelict in their duty to keep the American public safe.

This time, we must hold them accountable. We owe it to the victims and survivors of mass school shootings alike.

If you turn 18 before Nov. 6, or are older, make sure to register to vote. 

If you are a student attending grade school, high school, or college, participate in the March 14 School Walkout to advocate for gun safety measures. It will start at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes — 1 minute for each victim who lost their life in the Parkland massacre.

For all people who believe additional student safety measures are called for, including common-sense gun safety measures, show your support by attending the March 24 March for Our Lives in all major U.S. cities.

The political dysfunction we experience today is possible only because we, the people, allow it to exist. I believe it is time for the reasonable people on both sides of the aisle to demand more from those representing us. The right to life is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue, it is an unalienable and self-evident foundation. 

This year, as you keep yourself informed in preparation for the November midterm elections, make support for common-sense gun laws a litmus test for candidate consideration.

Tom Jacobs is a resident of Riverside.

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