Tuesday morning, two families sent their young teens off to another day of high school in Marshall County. It turned out to be their last.
Details are scarce, but about 8 a.m., within the space of 10 or 15 minutes, a 15-year-old student at the school, apparently used a handgun to kill those two classmates and wound at least a dozen more.
We join Gov. Matt Bevin and the many other leaders who have praised first responders, deplored the violence and offered prayers and sympathy to the community.
But we don’t, and can’t, join them in determined silence about the reality that easy access to guns assures more families and communities will suffer similar tragedies.
Tragedy after tragedy, when advocates raise their voices for sensible gun laws, they are told it’s “too soon,” that healing must come first.
That is a false argument, validated only by the river of money that flows from the gun lobby into campaign coffers. Healing should also include crafting laws that will allow other students to live out their natural lives, save their families and communities from this suffering.
This tragedy has played out way too many times in the 20 years since a 14-year-old opened fire at Heath High School in West Paducah, killing three and injuring five.
“Easy access to guns is killing our kids,” said one of those injured 20 years ago. Missy Jenkins Smith was paralyzed from the waist down by the bullet that entered just above her heart and grazed her spine. Smith spent five months hospitalized but returned to graduate from Heath, went on to earn a degree in social work, marry and have two children.
In 2000 she made her way, with the help of heavy equipment, to the podium at the Democratic National Convention to endorse Al Gore for president because of his efforts to limit gun violence.
As a social worker, she counseled at-risk kids, like Heath shooter Michael Carneal, who feel bullied or ostracized to help them avoid violent answers to their problems. She has written a book about her experiences and speaks frequently to students, telling her story and warning about the dangers of bullying.
And she campaigns for laws that will keep guns out of the hands of children.
“I am not against guns,” Smith told Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, but she is for “more sensible gun laws in this country.” That includes holding adults responsible when they allow children access to guns. “Guns must be kept out of reach of children.”
With the General Assembly in session, this is the time to turn prayers into action and enact common-sense gun laws that could save lives.