My Point of View: It’s time to change the trajectory of gun violence

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-ERickson

(Content warning: violence)

On May 24, my daughter finished her last day of fourth grade in Albert Lea. Within an hour of her bursting through the door in summer vacation mode, reports were coming in that something was catastrophically wrong in Uvalde, Texas. A shooting.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It hit me first as unreal, like an event that must have already happened. Which shooting was that one again? But it was new, and the news got worse by the hour. By the next day we learned that 19 students, mainly fourth graders, and two of their teachers had been murdered by an 18-year-old male using an AR-15 he had purchased legally, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition to spare.

Then we learned that local police on the scene hadn’t rushed the shooter because they were apparently afraid of sustaining casualties themselves, and a Border Patrol agent had fatally shot the gunman. The few survivors had been trapped for over an hour with the killer. One child had smeared herself in her lifeless friend’s blood and played dead.

When police feel outgunned by an 18-year-old with an assault weapon and don’t rescue trapped children, and those children are desperately and repeatedly calling 911 for help as quietly as they can as their classmates bleed out around them, it’s as clear as can possibly be that guns designed for combat do not belong in civilian hands.

It’s not a lack of prayers. Do you think the dead children didn’t have parents and grandparents who prayed to God to protect their babies every single day? Yet, an angry young man with an AR-15 still slaughtered them.

It’s not violent video games or movies, or mental health issues, or unarmed teachers, or doors. 

It’s the guns. 

The Onion, a satirical newspaper, published the headline, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ says only nation where this regularly happens.” The Onion has used that same headline 21 times since 2014.

No other products that cause this much violent death are subject to so few regulations and shielded from liability under consumer safety laws. This is all courtesy of the gun industry’s powerful lobby, most notably the National Rifle Association. It is not pro-life to vote in favor of these policies, it is pro-profit. Children’s shredded bodies are collateral damage to the gun industry.

One of the girls who died in Uvalde was identified by her green converse sneakers. Her name was Maite Rodriguez and she was 10 years old. A doctor from Uvalde testified to Congress that two of the victims who arrived at his hospital were decapitated by the bullets that hit them. 

AR-15 bullets hollow out children and liquify their organs. That is what they are designed to do. So what do we need to do? We need to hollow out the influence of the gun industry, and that means voting out politicians in Congress who are owned by the gun industry and are blocking sensible reforms that we need now. 

There is precious little room in the GOP for candidates who don’t bow at the altar of gun industry profits. It doesn’t matter how many children are decapitated in their schools or how many grandmothers are slaughtered while buying groceries. Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York ended his re-election bid amidst backlash for his support for a ban on AR-15s after the Buffalo attack in May. 

Last week the Senate passed a modest bipartisan gun reform bill, 65-33, which includes enhanced background checks for people under 21, expanded red flag laws to include serious dating partners and stiffer penalties for interstate gun trafficking and straw purchasing. Choosing the side of gun profits over common sense safety reforms once again, the NRA came out against the measure. 

While the bill will likely pass the House and be signed into law by President Biden, some of the provisions could be immediately challenged under the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, which came out just one day prior to the Senate’s legislation. The 6-3 ruling is based on the conservative majority’s radical interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Gun shops saw a boost in AR-15 sales after Uvalde, just like they do after every high-profile mass shooting. The obscene truth is that mass desecration of human flesh with AR-15s is a cash cow for them. 

The past two decades have been a timeline of horrors, but we can change this trajectory. It starts with deciding that it’s more important to protect our kids than gun industry profits. The last thing that any politician should want to flaunt is an A+ rating from the NRA. It’s a badge of brutality soaked in the blood of schoolchildren. It is a badge of power, deaf to the sound of Rachel weeping for her children.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.