A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Even a fourth grader can see continued inaction on guns doesn’t make sense

Ten years old. The year I mastered Double Dutch and long division. I remember it well. My best friends were Anne and Kay. We were in the fourth grade at St. Francis and belonged to the same Girl Scout troop. Sometimes we walked home from school together, joining arms to stroll past the church, down Main Street, and up Maple to Anne’s house. Kay and I continued on until she took a right on Linden and I trudged the last block by myself, to 31 Oak.

There were not many things to be afraid of in our little town, although we did fear our teachers, the good Sisters of Mercy. Getting in their crosshairs unleashed wrath like none other, even jeopardizing a girl’s chances of getting into heaven. So most of the time we behaved because when you are ten, that is pretty much what you do.

Uvalde Schools logo

Hearing of last week’s carnage in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered by an 18-year-old armed with an automatic weapon, my consciousness was flooded with memories of grade four. At Robb Elementary, most of the casualties were 10 years old, an age when we are just emerging from the cocoon of childhood, learning how the world works and dreaming about what our place might be in it one day.

The Uvalde kids who were murdered were not so different from me and my friends when we were in grade four. Tributes to them report they loved sports, took pride in making the Honor Roll, had dreams of going to college to become a lawyer or a marine biologist. One little girl loved singing the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with her dad on morning drives to school. Tik-Tok dance videos were a favorite of another, and one little boy proudly wore a T-shirt that said, “Tough guys wear pink.”

In the aftermath of the shootings, grim old men in cowboy hats lined up to explain what happened. The incoherence of spokesmen brought to mind the expression, “All hat and no cattle.” Facts changed between press conferences. The timeline was adjusted and readjusted. Contradictions mounted. Finally, there was an admission that mistakes were made. Period.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Politicians in a position to pass laws that might prevent future tragedies spoke of “hardening schools,” making them impenetrable with armed guards, metal detectors, and a host of other para-military measures. The call to arm teachers was renewed, in spite of protests from parents, educators, and law enforcement. Our own Senator Mitch McConnell admitted, “Words simply fail,” and then he and his buddies left Washington for 10-day vacations.

Children trapped in the carnage had called 911, whispering into the phone. Not once or twice, but many times more, they asked, then begged, for help. Meanwhile, 19 officers of the law stood in the hall adjoining the scene of the crimes as the teenage assailant mowed down most of the kids.

Outside the school, parents who were there for end-of-year ceremonies and honor roll announcements demanded that someone step in and defend the children. When they accosted police and shouted objections, the protests were ignored.

After more than an hour of inaction, the assailant – who was probably wondering when someone would show up and put him out of his misery – was killed by border patrol. The rampage was over, but the emotional carnage is just getting started. As millions of Americans clamor for better gun regulations, elected officials at the state and national levels refuse to listen.

Their inaction does not make sense at all. Even a fourth grader can see that.

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