(from New York) Two weeks after the March for Our Lives started by the survivors of the mass shooting at the High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, Washington seems to want to forget all about the half million youths, families and teachers who took to the streets demanding tighter gun control legislation. Nor does it appear to acknowledge 800 demonstrations held across America and abroad united by the cry: “Enough is enough!”
For public opinion, the STOP School Violence Act that passed the House, providing students and educators with tools to recognize and prevent violence in their schools, is a weak step, marked by insufficient funding and backed, inter alia, by Republican Senator Dean Heller. According to Opensecrets.com, the database tracking federal campaign contributions, Heller received over 125 thousand dollars in direct and indirect contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful arms lobby, thus his draft-bills are influenced by this financing. Mental disease prevention centres received presidential mandate to conduct researches on the causes of gun violence, but for the time being no specific funding programs for gun research have been launched as the NRA considers them “appropriations that support and advocate gun control policies.”
These multiple vetoes make it very difficult to change the law, despite the fact that 78% of Americans, according to a poll by NPR, the National Public Radio, are in favour and 63% consider it the major issue of the next election campaign.
So while the Federal Government is stalled, the same cannot be said for individual States. In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that raises the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, and extends a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases. In the meantime Raul Valdes-Fauli, mayor of Coral Gables, a city near Miami, had proposed a ban on high-velocity semi-automatic rifles, but unfortunately the ban was lifted after three weeks, when a group of voters accused him of bypassing a Federal Law and exposing the city to state-mandated sanctions. Valdes-Fauli has decided not to give in to threatening claims that he will be forced to cover all court costs for defying State law; in fact he joined the mayors of eight cities demanding that local governments be included in the debate on gun control ordinances.
“If you walk into city hall today or a park today, we can’t even put up a sign that says ‘No Firearms Allowed’”,
said the mayor of Weston Daniel Stermer, also a member of the local administrators’ network. The penalties targeting local officials date back to 2011, drawn up with the help of NRA representatives. Florida mayors is not the only protesting network. In fact Everytown for GunSafety , the nonprofit organization founded in 2014 by the former mayors of New York and Boston Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, now counts more than one thousand active members including ex-mayors and mayors in-office demanding measures in defence of life and advocating gun control legislation. Mothers, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans have joined the movement to end gun violence and make communities safer.
At the same time, California, Connecticut, lndiana, Oregon and the State of Washington passed laws authorising law enforcement authorities to take away guns from those deemed a risk to themselves and to others. Known as “Red Flag provisions”, these restrictions have proved to be effective and useful as they don’t violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms and protect citizenry. In fact, the Brady Centre to prevent gun violence pointed out that
42 percent of the perpetrators of mass shootings had shown clear signs of instability.
In the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, Alabama, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah have adopted these ordinances and 19 other states are seriously considering joining, while waiting for Congress to finance the decisions of these States or to enact a federal law extending the provisions nationwide, the Red Flag laws enjoys broad support by local administrators and state courts.
Also the Church, that released statements during the protests and during the debate on gun control legislation, is starting to consider the possibility of relaunching campaigns such as the one conducted in the 1980s by Fr David Russell, a priest in the Miami Archdiocese, who had brought his gun to the altar and invited parishioners to turn in their own guns, reminding everyone that Jesus told his disciple not to use weapons even in the dramatic moment of Judas’ betrayal. In 2012 a parish in the Detroit archdiocese sponsored a gun buy-back program in which 365 guns, including six assault weapons and a handful of sawed-off shotguns, were turned in and $16,820 handed out. “Those are dramatic gestures,” said the archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski in an interview with National Catholic Reporter. “Maybe we ought to do something like that.” To those who noted that the bishops have not taken the same vocal stance as with abortion and immigration, Msgr. Welski replied that this a complex theme: “When you look at people who live in rural areas, they see their need for guns as a means of protection. But we continue to encourage people to move toward some gun control and we would not support the arming of teachers.”