When will we do something tangible about school shootings?

I’m still getting used to the idea of writing a column for a few reasons. One, there are enough people out there spouting off their thoughts and ideas on social media many times a day. Why should I pile on?

Then, there are opinions on television and in newspapers across the country.

I have waited a few weeks to give my thoughts on the shooting in Florida.

Some of my delay was trying to gather my thoughts and not just spout out thoughts — like Sen. Paul Ryan and many other said, there is no need for a ‘knee jerk’ reaction after a tragedy like that.

But, at what point will a tragedy actually be enough for us to do something?

Imagine if Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 2018 instead of 1942. Politicians would get on Twitter and Facebook and talk about how sad it was and how we are sending thoughts and prayers to Hawaii and then collectively, we forget about it in a few days.

I don’t know what it will take for people in charge to step up with a plan instead of the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ line which is probably easily copy-and-pasted ready to use any day of the week.

Maybe, just maybe, we should try to address the situation. In recent weeks, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart raised the age to buy guns — and many people from my roots in Southwest Missouri are mad about that. But for one, Dick’s doesn’t have any stores down that way and two, it would be hard to boycott Walmart when the headquarters is an hour from Joplin and you have about a billion different stores in that bubble.

Maybe putting an age limit on guns will help? But we have age limits on cigarettes and alcohol that rarely stops teenagers from smoking before they are 18 or drinking before they are 21.

If you are going to do either, you will do it, regardless of the age requirements.

But, moving on, I saw a lot of things on social media that struck a chord with me following that Florida shooting. I posed a question to many of my friends who are teachers to see if they would be OK carrying a gun to work.

A majority of them didn’t like the idea and one of my friends that was vehemently against it sent me a link last week and said ‘that’s why.’ Nothing else, but those words. The link was about the teacher in Georgia that fired a shot and barricaded himself in his classroom.

That is an isolated case, but perhaps that teacher with a gun himself or herself could’ve had an outcome just as scary as Florida. The Florida state officials reacted a bit on Monday, March 5, passing gun reform laws that call for a three-day waiting period and ups the age to buy a gun to 21. The governor, who is endorsed by the NRA, can still kill that momentum by not signing the bill.

The Florida Senate, however, rejected a ban on assault weapons last week and the idea to arm teachers also fell to the wayside, even though the president mentioned arming teachers in the aftermath. But, that’s also the same person who signed a bill revoking gun checks for mental illness that the previous president got rolling.

I think it is a bad idea but I would support a teacher who feels the need to bring a gun to school, but where are we in society that two of the places that we should feel safe — church and school — are seemingly becoming ‘ducks on a pond’ targets for the crazies?

While trying to think of the right words to say on this subject, I found a lot of people said things that crossed my mind or made me think.

Lord knows we shouldn’t care what celebrities think about anything tragic, but Andy Richter tweeted, ‘Imagine using your time today to argue that your hobby is more important than 17 people who were murdered in a high school.’

As with any gun tragedy, the words gun control were brought up and the liberals and conservatives had something else to go at each other’s throats about.

Is it a gun problem or a mental health problem? Or a little bit of both?

A friend of mine that teaches at Staley mentioned it isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. In the last 20 years, we’ve had presidents of both parties leading our country and we still had school shootings. Sure, they say they want to do something, but eventually lobbyists get in the way and if you want to keep your public office there are some boats you don’t want to rock, right?

I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened and I recall that shooting shocked the country and resonated with people in my generation. Now, the shootings tend to happen so often that its forgotten shortly after because a new tragedy has occurred.

Someone I follow on Twitter used sarcasm to point out we should be sad and mourn the death of the students, but let’s not dare to talk about trying to fix the issue that caused the tragedy.

As she said, ‘the best time to fix a problem is when it’s too late.’

That seems to be the strategy we’ve used for years, but when did it change? If you are a terrorist from another country and you attack us, we will bomb your country. But if you are a homegrown terrorist that gets a gun and shoot kids, we will send thoughts and prayers to the victims and then the shooter can go on death row after a three-to-five year trial?

I don’t have any right answers about what to do, but I do know we need to do more than send thoughts and prayers when kids die.

I’ve seen plenty of ideas kicked about. Some of them may be worth looking into more, but some of those also are ideas that will take money and that is something that is in high demand in most places.

Cody Thorn is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com. Follow him on Twitter:  @Citizen_CodyT.