On Wednesday evening, a congressional committee voted to advance a bill to the House that will require background checks for every single gun sale and most gun transfers that occurs within the country. Currently, unlicensed gun sellers are not required to perform background checks on gun sales — meaning buyers can make purchases at gun shows, online, and in other private transactions.
This is one of the first major legislative moves that the Democratic-controlled House has made since taking office, but the bill also had the support of several Republicans. A separate bill was also advanced that would close a loophole that currently allows a buyer to purchase a gun if the background check isn’t done within a three-day period.
The bills were passed with the Parkland shooting in mind; the house observed the tragedy with a moment of silence, the day before the one-year anniversary of the shooting. “I ask that we work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, to end this silence with action to make all of our communities safer from gun violence,” said Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, whose constituents are the Parkland community. “I ask that this moment of silence not be in vain.”
Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia, who was voted into office this past fall on her gun safety and racial justice platform, cast her vote in tears. “For my son Jordan Davis, I vote aye.” McBath’s 17-year-old son Jordan was shot and killed in 2012 by a (white) man who didn’t like how loud he (a black teen) was playing his music.
Students and Staff Hold a Moment of Silence and Day of Healing
While members of the House invoked the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, other gun safety advocates made sure to acknowledge both the visibility of school shootings as well as the historical and statistical breadth of gun violence in America. “[It] is also so important to remember the daily gun violence that goes on in this country that gets people involved: suicides, homicides,” said Sharon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America, in an interview with NPR.
All public schools in Broward County, Florida, observed a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m. on Thursday, February 14th. The moment of silence lasted 17 minutes: one minute for each life lost. Seventeen victims also were injured in the incident. In addition to holding a moment of silence, Marjory Stoneman Douglas held a “Day of Service and Love.” Rather than going to regular classes, students could either take the day off or participate in community service activities that the school had organized. MSDHS had grief counselors and therapy animals available on campus for students and staff.
Published on Thursday, MSDHS English teacher Sarah Lerner penned a piece for The Atlantic in which she shared the moment she realized she too was a survivor of a school shooting. Registering for an event for Everytown for Gun Safety, she was stumped by a form that asked “how I was connected to gun violence. I stood there for what felt like and hour. Finally I checked the box to indicate that I was a survivor of gun violence.” Lerner had been in a different building than the shooter and had kept her students safe, but had never considered herself a victim, despite having lost students and suffering from psychological trauma.