When it comes to school shootings, be as outraged as Rep. Jamaal Bowman

OPINION: The New York representative blasted Republicans for their refusal to take action on commonsense gun reform.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, theGrio.com
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) speaks at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol Building on February 02, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

“Republicans won’t do sh*t when it comes to gun violence …” I mean, show me the lie. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., wasn’t exaggerating or being obtuse when he made that declaration online after confronting Republicans leaving the House floor, calling them cowards and demanding to know why they refuse to act. Honestly, he is one of the few legislators who’s got the right energy after yet another mass shooting at a school in Nashville last week

One Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., deigned to engage with Bowman by responding “You know there’s never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry.” Bowman didn’t hesitate to call out the fact that “More guns lead to more deaths,” and then he asked a simple question that got Rep. Massie in a tizzy that derailed the entire exchange, “Have you ever worked in a school before?” At that moment, Massie knew he messed up. There’s no way Massie could defend the asinine proposal because the man he was debating had worked in schools for 20 years as a teacher, a counselor and a principal before coming to Congress and knew exactly what he was talking about. 

Teachers’ unions like the American Federation of Teachers have been explicitly clear in their continuous calls to ban assault weapons and advance commonsense gun reform. The National Education Association made a simple declaration that “Our children just want to be safe” and that tracks with polling that shows that 63% of young people support stricter gun laws. And teachers polled in 2018 overwhelmingly rejected the notion of arming them as a solution with 73% opposed to the idea. So, the data backs up Rep. Bowman all the way. 

But in spite of the data, what happened next in the confrontation at the Capitol was like a reflex — Massie told Bowman to “Calm down.” 

“Calm down,” is a statement that is meant to mischaracterize Bowman as an angry Black man instead of a righteous congressman who is fighting for change that the people clearly want. It’s a tried and true practice that Black people know all too well. On top of that racial text, “calm down,” is also a statement that ignores the fact that three 9-year-olds were killed in the hallways of their school just days before. It’s a statement that erases the three school staffers who were senselessly killed while simply doing their jobs. It’s a statement that minimizes the grief and outrage that their families are experiencing, knowing they will never be able to hold their loved ones again.  

It’s a tool that Tennessee legislators even tried to deploy when teens and parents protested at the state Capitol days after the mass shooting. Protesters chanted “Six are dead, how many more,” and sang “This Little Light of Mine,” all while Republicans in the state tried to label it an insurrection — as though the peaceful protest comprised largely of children who fear being killed at their schools was anything like the insurrectionists crashing through windows, beating police officers and breaking into congressional offices on Jan. 6. All of this while Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee emphasized that, “Now is not the time to discuss legislation” and Republicans at the state house delayed hearings on two gun safety bills. It’s giving the same energy and intention as Massie telling Bowman to calm down while children are dying. 

The truth is that dying children don’t mean much of anything to Republicans who have blocked commonsense gun-violence prevention legislation such as assault weapons bans, universal background checks and requiring waiting periods in the 10 years since Sandy Hook and the 10 months since Uvalde. And if Republicans have their way, more children will die and mass shootings will continue to happen on a loop.

Juanita Tolliver thegrio.com

Juanita Tolliver is the host of Crooked Media’s “What A Day” Podcast, and an MSNBC political analyst.

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