From Watergrate to world wars, revered journalist Dan Rather has seen a lot of injustice in his day.
Still, certain senseless tragedies can strike a nerve. Wednesday saw one of those tragedies.
A 19-year-old gunned down students and adults at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018. Nikolas Cruz slaughtered at least 17 people in his killing spree, both inside and outside the building.
After the 18th school shooting this year alone, many baffled, heartbroken Americans are asking: How can this still be happening?
In a thoughtful yet gut-wrenching Facebook post, Rather reacted to the massacre in Florida both with emotion and with an appeal to reason.
“Sadness and despair — those were my first reactions,” the 86-year-old journalist began. “But then, quickly, I am hopping mad.”
“What happened in that Florida school today IS NOT OK,” he continued. “THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Our children should be able to go to school and be SAFE.”
Rather used an unlikely, eye-opening comparison to illustrate our inaction over gun violence: Ebola.
“Remember the national panic over Ebola? It ended up killing one person,” Rather wrote:
“But there was a national consensus that we would do whatever it took to protect Americans. But when it comes to gun violence in schools, we just throw up our hands? Thoughts and prayers? Is that how we should have responded to threats like 9/11 as well?”
Ebola, however, didn’t have one of the most powerful lobbying groups enticing U.S. lawmakers to stay silent.
The National Rife Association (NRA) dumped roughly $50 million into the 2016 election campaigns of (mostly) Republican candidates who vowed to uphold — and even expand on — the U.S.’s lax gun control laws.
And the group’s power is especially prevalent in Florida, where this shooting took place.
The Sunshine State has “become a laboratory for generating new forms of gun protections,” according to NPR’s Terry Gross, who pointed to prominent Florida gun lobbyist Marion Hammer as “one of the most powerful people in the NRA.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the biggest beneficiaries of gun lobby cash in 2016, as the NRA spent over $3.3 million targeting his opponents.
At the national level, the NRA spent over $11 million on ads supporting Donald Trump — and nearly $20 million on anti-Hillary attack ads, according to Business Insider.
“We like to call ourselves the best country on earth,” Rather wrote. “We like to say how we have a can-do spirit to conquer challenges. But all that self-congratulatory rhetoric rings pretty damn hollow on days like today.”
“Anyone who says now isn’t the time to talk about gun violence, anyone who says there’s nothing we can do, anyone who offers up only thoughts and prayers is saying that they can’t be bothered with the hard work of trying to keep American children safe. Shame on them. And shame on our nation.”