This Mama is Tapping Out: The NRA, Gun Lobby, or President Trump Can Explain This Mass Shooting My Kids

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Images from the Las Vegas Shooting at the Mandalay Bay Hotel

I turned on the TV to get the traffic report, weather, and a glimpse of the news while I was getting everyone ready to start the day yesterday morning. As I untwisted my hair, I assure you that I was not prepared for to hear the news of yet another mass shooting, and this shooting was biggest in modern history. It stopped me, fingers tangled in hair, mouth open. There were 20,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. At the time I was watching, there were 40 dead and 200 injured. By the next day, the tally would reach 59 dead and over 500 injured.

The lack of the usual movement from my room drew in my teen. I guess it was enough to break her morning routine. She joined me. I told her what was happening as I finished my hair. enough to break her morning routine and join me. I told her what was happening.

“OMG! Again?”

“Mmhmm, and they say this is the biggest one ever.” I shook my head in disgust.

“Sooo, what’s going to happen after this?”

We sat in silence for a few minutes. I had no answer that I hadn’t given before.

If I were conservative, the answers were given. Mental illnesses, criminals who bought the guns illegally, terrorists infiltrating our country. This guy was an All-American white guy from what we know right now. He bought his guns legally. Walked right into the gun shops and waited on the permits, etc. The other answers are gangs and drugs.

These answers are now lies as the shootings keep happening and affecting more people. As we see regular white guys buying the weapons and using them to take aim at their feelings. I don’t know what else to tell my kids to soothe them and reassure them that these things won’t happen. That I can keep them safe from the people wielding the guns, because I am constantly told, “the guns are not the problem.”

The preliminary reports say that the Las Vegas shooter was holed up in a hotel room with automatic weapons — multiple automatic weapons that allow him to kill continuously without having to reload the same one over and other. The weapons that can kill a lot of people in a short period of times. These are not hunting rifles. They are machines built to take human life.

I am done trying to explain this all to the teens and toddlers. I have been saying the same things for almost two decades to my kids now and I don’t know what else to add.

You see, my family has been familiar with these shootings since an early age. In March 1998, Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson decide to pull a fire alarm and play target practice with the teachers and students fleeing the building. They killed 5 people and injured 10, paltry sums but at the time it was the deadliest school shooting in the US. I started taking college course later that fall at Arkansas State University. My babysitter was the Westside School, the school nurse actually. She witnessed the tragedy first-hand and decided to retire not long after that to spend her days caring for babies and toddlers — kids wouldn’t point guns at her. After the shooting, I told my toddler and baby at the time what the gun lobby told my politicians was the problem. Golden and John shouldn’t have gotten to the guns because said that guns should have been properly stored away from kids. Also, the school was lacking in security. People shouldn’t be able to walk right in. This was not a gun control issue

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This famous photo shows law enforcement scrambling to get a Virginia Tech student out of the line of fire.

I was finishing my degree in 2007 when the Virginia Tech shooting occurred in April. Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people before turning the gun on himself. The government and gun lobby told us that this was a “mentally ill” person who shouldn’t have gotten a gun. The background checks and waiting periods prevented such things. This was not a gun control issue, once again. I told my kids (ages 11, 9, 7, and 4) that some people were not well and could not tell real from fake. They saw or heard things that were not there for example. These people will be barred from getting guns. “Good but how did he get the gun” and “so this won’t happen where you go to school, mommy?” were the questions I had to answer. I did my best to answer those and others to reassure my kids that their mom was safe as she studied on campus.

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Staff and students fleeing Sandy Hook Elementary with the help of law enforcement.

I finished my degree and started writing and working from home. Five years later, Sandy Hook rocked my kids’ adolescence. Adama Lanza killed his mother and then went down to her school and took the lives of 27 children and adults. Once again, gun control was advocated for but turned down. The gun lobby said we need to make it harder to get to the kids in school — more security, armed officers onsite. That will keep them safe. They also told us that we needed to make it even harder for the mentally ill to get guns. No gun control necessary.

“I thought we did that already,” was one of the questions I received from my confused and frustrated teens. “How is this still happening?” They screamed at the news.

All I could say was, “I thought so too,” as I gave them the party line that the government and gun lobby settled on. Better school protections, tighter restrictions on buying. My teens were not convinced. We lived a bit too close to the wrong side of Chicago where kids were dying every day and guns seemed to run in the streets like water. We all just sat and watched the news reports in silence.

Next came Dylan Roof, who in June 2015 opened fire inside a black church and killed 9 people. Not a gun control problem. The kid was disturbed.

Then, San Bernadino on December 2, 2015, where Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 at a business event. Possible terrorism, they said. No gun control needed.

Pulse Night Club Miami happened the very next year. Omar Siddiqui Mateen killed 49 people on June 12, 2016. This one took place the same year my third daughter came out to the family. The thought of someone targeting people like her was terrifying to all of us! I am not sure if the news reached into her social media net of influence. I think it did. She wasn’t her usual self that summer. Meanwhile, the gun lobby and government called this an act of terrorism and pushed us to move on. No gun control needed over here.

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The Pulse Night Club gunman was allegedly motivated by homophobia and religious fanaticism.

There are so many more incidents, shootings, where human lives were taken, but the death toll not high enough to beat the one before it and garner national news. Each time, I grew more and more frustrated. How to explain these things to my kids when the leaders don’t even have an answer for our country? The gun lobby and the government have never been a help. Their excuses never matched up with the real problem, which in turn created a problem for me as a parent. How do I explain the issue in a way that makes my child feel safe when our own government won’t address the real problem in the shootings? The real problem is the guns. I know everyone has a right to own a gun, but do they have to have access to stockpiles of the same guns used to take massive human lives? And how it the company that makes so much money off the killings getting so much of the influence in the argument?

That’s why I say I am done.

The gun lobby, President Trump, NRA, all of you can come to my house and explain to my kids what happened on October 1, 2017, and what our government is doing to fix it. You come see how successful your party line against gun control holds up to the tears of a kid who is seeing the images in the media and wondering if she will be safe again. Come on over and answer the rapid-fire questions from a cynical teen who can see through the thin charade, and is instead demanding the truth.

After school today, I have two teens and now two toddlers to talk to. The thought of giving them the government line is exhausting. We will end up discussing the true problems, but the garbage line the gun lobby and government are already starting to peddle won’t hold. And, you know what, I refuse to push it.

I am tapping out and putting you in the ring.

Go one. I am too tired to peddle your bullshit excuse for this massacre.

You tell the kids that security, gun cabinets, or mental health checks or whatever the hell you come up with, will keep them safe until the next massacre.

Go on. The kids are waiting.

Written by

Jonita Davis is a writer, film critic, and professor. She’s a member of NABJ, AAFCA, a Rotten Tomatoes critic, and an adjunct professor.

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