A year later, we know that the shooting that killed 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., really was different from the other mass shootings that all too frequently have claimed innocent American lives.
Marches were organized, students rallied and protested, new leaders were elected and laws were passed at the state and local levels.
This is meaningful change. It inspires hope that Americans — and young Americans in particular — have grown sufficiently disgusted by the loss of so many lives that we will no longer accept inaction.
Yet even the momentum supporters of rational gun policy have finally achieved can still too easily dwindle into complacency. And there is so much work to do.
Congress, for example, hasn’t passed any meaningful gun laws since the Parkland shooting last Feb. 14. Bump stocks, the implements a shooter in Las Vegas used to commit the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history in October 2017, were banned last year by executive action from President Donald Trump, not by legislation.
Recently, however, Reps. Joe Cunningham and Jim Clyburn, both Democrats of South Carolina, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., introduced a bill that would close the so-called Charleston Loophole that made it easier for the Emanuel AME Church shooter to buy a gun he should not have been allowed to purchase.
Federal law limits gun purchase background checks to three days. If the check hasn’t been completed by then, the sale can proceed. Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Clyburn and Mr. King’s bill would extend that deadline to 10 days in most cases or a maximum of 20 if extra research is needed.
Several bills introduced in the South Carolina Legislature would close the Charleston Loophole as well. It is maddening that lawmakers haven’t passed anything to that effect in the years since the Emanuel AME shooting in 2015.
It’s unclear that a longer background check period would have prevented the murder of nine men and women at Emanuel AME. Inter-agency miscommunication seems to have been the primary problem. But background checks are worthless if they’re not completed.
They’re also worthless, of course, if they never start in the first place. Too many gun sales in the United States can proceed with no background check at all.
Fixing that glaring flaw has overwhelming popular support, including among gun owners. It must be a priority if we hope to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of demonstrably dangerous criminals.
Mass shootings are shocking and horrifying. But the overwhelming majority of gun deaths — there were at least 39,773 people in the United States killed with guns in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — don’t get as much attention.
Those deaths might be tied to drug crime or domestic violence, a robbery gone wrong or a random act of hatred. More than half of gun deaths each year in the United States are suicides.
At least 13 states have so-called red flag laws, many of which were passed in the wake of the Parkland shooting, that allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate guns and block new gun purchases if a judge determines an individual to be an imminent threat to himself or others.
It’s difficult to count crimes that aren’t committed, but many shooters give warning of their intentions beforehand, so it makes sense to allow law enforcement to intervene in extreme circumstances.
A similar red flag bill has been introduced in South Carolina this year. It’s worth considering.
Gov. Henry McMaster and state lawmakers have pushed to have greater law enforcement presence in schools in South Carolina. The focus should be on safety rather than increasing the already troubling number of students who end up in the criminal justice system instead of in-school discipline.
Misguided efforts like arming teachers would only make schools more dangerous.
A year after the Parkland shooting, progress is being made — thanks in large part to the eloquent and passionate calls for action coming from Stoneman Douglas students and their peers around the country, including here in the Charleston area.
We need that sense of urgency now — not after the next tragedy.