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Jason Walsh: Student message on gun control strong and clear

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Various texts sent from students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to family members, Feb. 14, between 2:21 and 2:27 p.m.:

“There’s a shooting at my school and I’m hiding but if anything happens I love u ok.”

“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”

“I’m so scared.”

“As of right now 20 are injured and a few are dead.”

“We’re all in a corner I’m covered the most by everyone.”

“There’s screaming nearby…”

Those messages tell much of the story – with all the terror, desperation and heart-wrench that went with it – about what happened in the six minutes from when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz caught an Uber to campus to when he finally dropped his AK-15 and fled to the local Subway for a soda. In that time, 17 at the high school were killed, another 17 wounded. And all of the nearly 1,000 people on campus at the time had their lives changed forever.

On that day, Stoneman Douglas became the latest headline in a blood-stained laundry list of mass-shooting sites that now includes Mesquite, Nevada (58 killed, Oct. 1, 2017); the Pulse nightclub, Florida (49 killed, June 12, 2016); Virginia Tech (32 killed, April 16, 2007); Sandy Hook Elementary School (27 killed, Dec. 14, 2012) and others too numerous in number to name in one brief column. Stoneman Douglas is, at press time, ninth on the list of deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Remember the 13 killed at Columbine that shocked the nation in 1999? No longer even top 10.

The numbers dull the senses – as much for their tragedy as their frequency. There are mass shootings that happened this past year that many people only vaguely remember; they’re that common, they’re that much part of furniture.

In the old days, we conducted earthquake drills because they are a natural occurrence. Earlier this month Sonoma Valley High School conducted an “active shooter drill” because, well, they’re a natural occurrence now, too.

Such slaughters have happened with enough regularity in recent years that those who stand to gain most by the availability of mass-killing weapons – the NRA leadership and the politicians beholden to them – have perfected their course of action when confronted by the 75 percent of Americans who demand stricter gun-control measures.

They blame everyone else.

They blame the schools for not having their own AK-15s to exchange machine gun volleys with sociopathic murderers during lunch break. They blame guidance counselors for not sussing out which of the hundreds of self-loathing teens they see daily will be the next Dylan Klebold. The President himself scapegoated the poor Stoneman Douglas school resource officer for not blasting in Navy Seal-style, as Donald Trump says he would have done without a second thought.

There’s plenty more blame to go around, too. How about the school-shooting victims themselves for not finding good enough hiding places, or for texting their moms too loudly while the shooter stepped softly between rows of desks? Everyone’s to blame except the mad availability of military assault weapons in civilian society.

The answer, according to President Trump, isn’t to raise the minimum age to purchase fire arms – albeit people under 20 are by far the most likely to stage a school shooting. Rather, he says, we need to arm “highly trained expert teachers.”

As it happens, the President’s dream of a Rambo-like Algebra 1 brainiac was personified this week by Dennis Alexander, a teacher at Seaside High School, near Monterey (and reserve local police officer), who accidentally shot a bullet into his classroom ceiling during a gun-safety lesson, sending shrapnel into the neck of one of his students who, fortunately, wasn’t seriously wounded. It sounds like a joke, but there’s no punchline here – this guy is who the White House believes will deter suicidal school shooters.

The rest of America, however, would prefer the gun-control debate in Washington not be influenced by the fifth season of “Breaking Bad.”

Time and time again the prospects of Congress enacting reasonable gun-control measures to thwart disturbed men from their unfettered access to assault rifles becomes downright depressing. Because time and time again a mass slaughter occurs and time and time again Congress does nothing. Rinse blood-soaked shirt, repeat.

But this week there was at least a glimmer of hope. A glimmer in that on Wednesday at 10 a.m. tens of thousands of students across the country stood up, literally, against the corruption and craziness that defines the national dialogue on gun control, walked out of their classrooms to deliver a clear message to the adults in charge: Enough is enough.

Depressed, suicidal, grudge-holding teens are as prolific in America as guns – and any high school could be the next national symbol for senseless and preventable mass murder. Do something, adults. Because we’ll be voting in a few short years – and if you don’t act with meaningful gun legislation, we’ll act at the ballot box. At Sonoma Valley High School, somewhere around a thousand students took part in the walkout, which was scheduled to last 17 minutes, a minute for each victim at Stoneman Douglas.

Their signs asked, “Am I next?” “Would you rather lose your guns or your children?” “My life is worth more than your guns” and, the well-observed, “I should be writing my high school essay, not my will.”

One sign read, “We are the students. We are the victims. We are the change.”

Let’s hope so. Because god knows the generations currently in charge are paralyzed for change.

Maybe today’s message to adults won’t fall on deaf ears yet again.

Or maybe tomorrow’s message to adults will have to be made in the voting booth.

And maybe one day the message to adults won’t have to be, “I love you... goodbye” – texted in sweat and terror from the corner of a classroom rampage.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.