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  • Writer's pictureDJ

If we can protect birds, why can’t we protect children?

In 2020, the most recent year we have reliable data for, 45,222 people were killed by a gun in the United States. There are an estimated 400 million guns in the US. With a total 18+ population of 265 million, that’s 1.5 guns for every adult in the country.

In May and June 2022, the people of Uvalde, Texas, buried and mourned 19 children and two teachers following an attack by a lone gunman on Robb Elementary School.

Arnulfo Reyes, a teacher who attempted to protect the children in his care, was shot along with eleven of his fourth grade class. He survived, and in a subsequent TV interview he recalled that when he realised the danger, he told his class to hide under tables and pretend to be asleep, as they were taught.

As they were taught. So much about the incident was shocking and numbing that those words almost slipped by unnoticed. This is the education children are getting, and the education that dedicated teachers have no choice but to give them. Fourth grade children – nine year olds – must prepare for the moment when men with military-grade weapons will storm their classrooms and seek to end their lives.

When we bury a child we bury everything they could have been. It’s the most tragic “what if?”, and since May 24th the people of Uvalde have been forced to ask it over and over again. They won’t be the last community to do so.

Over the past 10 years the National Rifle Association has spent well over $100 million funding the election campaigns of prominent Republican politicians, making it very unlikely that meaningful legislation on gun control will be passed by the current US senate.

Throughout the 19th century, Americans celebrated Christmas Day by shooting as many birds as possible. In 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman suggested they count them instead. With Chapman’s Christmas Bird Count, the pastime of competitive bird watching was born. Now the Big Year competition challenges US bird watchers to spot as many birds as possible on the North American continent in a single year.

So, at the dawn of the 20th century, our friends across the Atlantic were perfectly happy to lay down their guns and be less of a danger to birds. Why, 122 years later, are they so reluctant to lay down their guns and be less of a danger to their own children?

The people of Texas could decide that they’ve buried enough children and vote for a change, starting with this November’s mid-term elections. Republicans opposing gun control have a tight grip on every state-wide office, with majorities in the State House and Senate, an entirely Republican Texas Supreme Court, and two Republican Senators in Congress. Donald Trump won Texas in 2016 and 2020, and no Democrat Presidential candidate has won the state in almost half a century.

School shootings are a monstrosity. What if, this November, people voted for politicians committed to ending them? After all, if we can protect birds, why can’t we protect children?


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