On February 14th, 1929, in the midst of prohibition and Al Capone’s mob, there was a massacre in Chicago:
Chicago’s gang war reached its bloody climax in the so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. One of Capone’s longtime enemies, the Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran, ran his bootlegging operations out of a garage on the North Side of Chicago. On February 14, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.
In 1934, as a result of the gang and mob violence in Chicago and elsewhere, often with the use of machine guns and silencers, Congress passed the 1934 National Firearms Act. This law required restrictions on the sale and possession of automatic guns like machine guns and also on gun silencers. Some wanted to ban these guns outright but in the end, the compromise was a national registry for these firearms, along with a lengthy waiting period and a $200 tax meant to discourage people from buying these products. The NRA supported the law. And Congress did something about the awful violence from the weapons on the list of those restricted.
And it worked. Machine guns and silencers are rarely, if ever, used in crime or shootings. Never mind that the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress would just love to have silencers back on the market so that anyone could have one. Imagine the Sandy Hook or Marjory Stoneman Douglas or any other mass shooting death toll if others in the buildings or vicinity did not hear gunshots going off to alert them to an emergency. It was actually the heinous mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert, involving multiple rounds of ammunition and a bump stock on an assault rifle that derailed the bill to make silencers easier to purchase.
Good grief. What were they thinking in the first place? Never mind. The gun lobby does not like gun laws unless they loosen the restrictions on deadly weapons.
On Valentine’s Day of 2008 5 students were shot and killed and 17 injured at Northern Illinois University.
A Graduate student who had stopped taking his medication for a psychiatric condition carried a shotgun and 3 handguns with many rounds of ammunition- because he could. Happy Valentine’s Day America.
Last Valentine’s Day there was a massacre as well. 17 students and teachers were massacred by a young man with a semiautomatic rifle who shot off 100 rounds into the bodies of human beings going about their everyday lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:
It is the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that took place on April 20, 1999. The shooting came at a period of heightened public support for gun control following attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas respectively in October and November 2017.
And Congress did…………?
So again we are here imploring Congress to have the spine to stand up to the interests of the corporate gun lobby. In my last post, I wrote about the hearing that occurred last week- H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. H.R. 8 was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last night. This will be the first such bill to get a hearing, pass out of committee and get a vote on the House floor in decades. We expect the bill to get a floor vote later this month. This is the best news I have heard in a long time. The timing was not a coincidence. It passed just as the country will be remembering the victims of the Parkland shooting. Thank you to the members of the committee who voted with the American public. It was, of course, a party-line vote with all Republicans voting against it. Why? We know the answer.
There will be a vote in the House but the Senate, controlled by Republicans and the Presidency, bought and paid for by the NRA ( and perhaps in collusion with the Russians) will be too afraid to do the right thing. They will fail us again.
Meanwhile, what is going on with the Parkland students who have been so eloquent and have changed the entire conversation around gun violence in America?:
The teens haven’t stopped working, urging young people to register and vote even though some of the students thrust into celebrity are barely old enough to vote themselves. They’ve been lobbying for tighter restrictions on firearms and challenging the National Rifle Association and the politicians it supports.
More: After Parkland shooting: A day-by-day fight over guns in America
“I’ll always care about the issues that face our nation,” Kasky told USA TODAY. “And I will always feel dedicated to helping play a part in solving them.”
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lauded the students as articulate – and understandably angry. She noted that after the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the survivors were very young children whose parents took up the challenge. High-schoolers made the scene different, she said.
“A lot of time the media is rushing to the site of a mass shooting but not finding a lot of people to talk to,” Brown said. “Here, you had people willing to talk, and articulate.” (…) The school will mark the tragic anniversary Thursday with a Day of Service and Love. Students will be serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children. Mental health experts and therapy dogs will be there. At 10:17 a.m., the entire district and the community is asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the 17 who lost their lives. (…) There was no significant federal legislation, but the Trump administration did issue a federal regulation banning bump stocks.
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing,” Brown said. “These kids are still out there, and they have made change.”
They are still out there, many still hoping for common sense from Congress. As teen-agers they have been amazingiy resilient, articulate, brave, bold and persistent. But they, like those of us who have been doing this for decades, have discovered how difficult it is to change the gun laws and the conversation around guns and gun violence.
It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are. Only in America.
Today please take action. Participate in a service in your community. Donate to a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Call your Congress members and ask them to support H.R. 8 in the name of the victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting. Attend a local event if there is one. In Minnesota there is a Protect Minnesota Broken Hearts day in remembrance of the Parkland shooting victims and a lobby day to let legislators know that we want them to support legislation to expand background checks and for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
And, as always happens after one of the many mass shootings in America, parents of the victims get involved in passionate pleas to do something. They know the pain. They grieve. They are angry. They are resolved. They want something to happen. Such is the case with one of the most high profile of the Parkland parents, Fred Guttenberg. Here is an article about him:
Guttenberg used to own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; now he’s become a full-time activist opposing the NRA and telling any politician who will listen about what happened to his daughter, a high school freshman and competitive dancer. He has one rule: “I wouldn’t ever sit down with these people — I stood,” Guttenberg says. “I did not want to make anybody feel comfortable talking about what happened to my daughter…the second-to-last to be shot, on the third floor of this school, running from an active shooter. One shot in her spine. Because it could have been their kid, and they’re going to know that.”
“It could have been their kid”…… Yes it could have and could be. Once it happens your whole perspective changes. Nothing is the same and suddenly gun violence is a thing. I appreciate the parents who put themselves out there knowing that ugly conspiracy theorists will attack them and deny their grief as if it isn’t real; knowing that the gun lobby will argue against common sense and lie and deceive in spite of the tragic violence happening every day.
What if it was their kid? What if it was their sister, father, mother, brother, good friend?
I will be in spirit with the students, friends and parents and with those who are taking action. Sadly, I will be attending the funeral of a very good friend and supporting her family. As it turns out they are a gun owning family who have always supported common sense gun legislation. They understand that gun laws and owning guns can co-exist.
I will be grieving with my good friend’s family today. I will also grieve for my own sister as I do at the funerals of others. But I will rejoice that we are moving forward to change how things are to how they can and should be.
In memory of the victims of the Parkland shooting:
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Chris Hixon, 49
Luke Hoyer, 15
Cara Loughran, 14
Gina Montalto, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alex Schachter, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Peter Wang, 15