At a press conference on the day following a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Senator Ted Cruz condemned the murder of an innocent child while criticizing the media for asking this all-too-urgent question: Is it time for us to review our existing gun laws?
Senator Cruz, along with other lawmakers, has fought tooth and nail to restrict woman’s access to reproductive healthcare — all in the name of “defending life.” He falsely refers to Plan B as “abortion pills,” he wants to block access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers, and he recently advocated for the Senate to pass a dangerous 20-week abortion ban.
But nearly five years after 20 young children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — which neighbors my hometown of New Canaan—so-called “pro-life” elected officials like Senator Cruz have not prioritized a solution to combat gun violence. Instead,
they have prioritized politically-charged attacks on women’s access to safe, legal abortion. We’ve seen 20-week bans, six-week bans, repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare, and endless assaults on Planned Parenthood.
While many of our elected officials have sensibly pushed commonsense gun control legislation over politically-charged attacks (my Senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and my Congressman, Jim Himes, to name a few) others have taken the easy way out: a “thoughts and prayers” press statement and a collective moment of silence in the chambers of Congress.
Thoughts, prayers, and moments of silence bring people together in dark times. But when members of Congress choose to remain silent when they hold the legislative power to combat this epidemic, it’s a cop-out. And when these members of Congress instead use their legislative power to attack constitutionally-protected health care, it’s shameful. Since the Newtown massacre, America has seen nearly one mass shooting per day. If this pattern has shown us anything, it’s that silence kills.
I’m not only looking at Senator Cruz. I’m looking at Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, who have led the fight to block 2.4 million people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood since President Trump took office. I’m looking at Congressman Trent Franks, who co-sponsored the dangerous 20-week abortion ban that passed in the House the day after the Las Vegas shooting. I’m looking at every single elected official who claims to stand for the “sanctity of life,” yet does nothing when guns take over 33,000 lives every year (and when guns serve as the most lethal method of suicide, it’s no wonder that over 21,000 of these are suicides).
The science doesn’t back up the claim that a 20-week-old fetus can feel pain — but it goes without saying that victims of gun violence feel pain.
I’m not alone when I say that I was absolutely disgusted when these so-called “pro-life” elected officials voted against the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting. So-called “pro-life” politicians — including Senator Cruz — chose to reject expanding universal background checks, which 90% of Americans support. What message did their vote send to those Newtown parents who had to bury their children just one month earlier?
I originally began my draft of this op-ed on November 4, approximately one month after the mass shooting in Las Vegas:
One day after a man open fired at a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas, the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban safe, legal abortion at 20 weeks. One day after a man used a legal, lethal weapon to murder at least 58 and wound over 500 people, our representatives voted to restrict women’s access to constitutionally-protected healthcare. To say our priorities are out of order would be a disgusting understatement.
I am deeply ashamed of the lawmakers who have been silent for far too long. They have to do better.
I was ready to tell these lawmakers that thoughts, prayers, and empty moments of silence would do nothing to prevent the next mass shooting. I was drafting a cry for help, a cry for our lawmakers to protect Americans from weapons designed to kill. I wanted to deliver a message to the representatives who chose to pass an abortion ban on a day when, once again, America was grieving for the victims of another gun massacre.
But I couldn’t even keep up with the epidemic. Before I could finish putting my infinite outrage, frustration, and disappointment into words on a page, our nation was hit by yet another mass shooting. At least 26 people were killed in Sutherland Springs. Around half of these victims were children.
24 of the 26 people killed in Sutherland Springs (credit: NBC News)
How many more lives must this nation sacrifice before so-called “pro-life” politicians in Washington say enough is enough? How many more innocent children will face the barrel of a gun and lose? When will our lawmakers free themselves of their cowardice and end their everlasting moment of silence?
I have one message for anti-women’s health politicians in Congress: If you truly stand for life, then find the courage to fight gun violence. Fix the loopholes in our background check system. Keep military-style assault weapons off the streets. Resist the dangerous gun lobby. Because an America that allows guns to take 93 lives every day is not a “pro-life” America.