By Ed Brett
Dear Representative Rothfus,
On Valentine’s Day my wife and I received a phone call from our daughter, who is a guidance counselor at a public high school in Central Florida. She called to let us know that the shootings that had just taken place were not at her school or that of our two grandsons, and that they were all safe. We had not yet heard about the senseless slaughter at Stoneman Douglas High School when she called, so once we got off the phone we put on the television to get the facts.
We were sickened by what we saw and heard. Seventeen innocent students and teachers gunned down by a mentally ill nineteen-year-old with a long history of violence and erratic behavior. I could not help but think that what happened in Parkland, a supposedly “safe” affluent neighborhood in Broward County, could just as easily have happened at my daughter or grandsons’ schools. My next thought—one that I have after each of the almost weekly killing sprees that I view on TV—was: how can this happen in my country? As I watched news clips of the killer, wearing his “Make America Great Again” hat, while shooting his guns in his backyard in preparation for his “big day,” I knew the answer: it’s the powerful NRA and the politicians—every Republican as far as I know, but some Democrats as well— who take their blood money and in return do their bidding. After each massacre these politicians line up to tell journalists that the panacea for these mass murders is to better identify and treat mental illness. They never address the fact that every other developed nation also has unstable individuals, but what they don’t have is the NRA and unlimited access for virtually anyone to buy automatic weapons.
The killer is a nineteen-year-old, who was too young to legally buy an alcoholic drink but old enough to legally buy an AR 15 automatic weapon that has no practical purpose except for the killing of human beings. How can this be? The NRA spent $52 million on the 2016 elections, buying votes. Almost all of that money went to Republicans like President Trump and you. And in return for their blood money Trump, Rothfus, Ryan, McConnell, and the rest of the Republicans—I know of no exception—make sure that no meaningful gun reform will ever take place. There are 300 million guns in the United States. One person dies every fifteen minutes from gun violence; there have been eighteen school shootings already in 2018—yes, eighteen school shootings in less than two months! That’s about three a week. So I ask you, is the bargain you and your fellow Republicans make with the NRA really worth all these dead children? Do you ever ask yourself why no other industrial democracy has the gun carnage that we have? Do you really believe that our Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to cover automatic weapons that can kill scores of people in just a few minutes, or do you just say that knowing how ludicrous it is? According to the latest polls, sixty-seven percent of the American people favor a ban on assault weapons. So why don’t you? I think I know the answer. How much money have you received from the NRA?
In closing I ask you, I beg you, go against your political party and back legislation that will prohibit the sale of AR 15s and other similar murder weapons. And if you can’t—or won’t—do so, then I have one final question: How do you sleep at night?
Edward T. Brett
Professor Emeritus, Department of History
La Roche College