Commentary: Last week’s school shooting already is old news

As the shooting at a California high school unfolded, the Senate yet again blocked a gun-reform bill.

By Gina Painter / For The Washington Post

We will be yesterday’s news.

Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, has joined the list of all-too-familiar tragedies: Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook. But in a week, the news cycle will have moved on. The interviews will cease. The sound bites will be replaced. We will be yesterday’s news.

Yet for those of us who lived through the horrific day — for the children who lost their friends and the parents who lost their children — last Thursday’s violence will linger over our community forever.

We see images of our school in the national news. Backpacks strewn over the campus where children dropped their belongings and ran for safety. A war zone of lunch boxes and music stands where kids were practicing. Notebooks. Sweatshirts.

We remember barricading the doors and huddling the kids in the corners of our classrooms. We remember running with kids to safety and holding them while they cried. We remember dressing wounds and telling 14-year-old kids that they would be all right while being so very unsure of our abilities to save them.

For us, this will never be over.

Politicians will speak about Saugus as they have done about the many other school shootings in this country. We will become a sound bite. A stat. Or, maybe they will avoid it entirely.

And nothing will be done.

School shootings have become so commonplace that our nation has started measuring these tragedies against one another. “It could have been worse. It’s not like Saugus is Sandy Hook.”

Someone actually said these words to me. Beyond the obvious lack of empathy, it speaks to how desensitized we, as a nation, have become.

Two children were killed after a gunman, who died the next day from self-inflicted wounds, shot them at our school. Our pain is no less searing.

We have now moved to a place where partisan politics rule the headlines at the expense of actually effecting change. While the shooting was unfolding — while my fellow faculty members were performing CPR on students who were bleeding from the .45-caliber rounds that were rattled off in our quad — U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, took the floor of the Senate to block a common-sense gun reform bill.

“Legislation that would affect the rights of American citizens under the Second Amendment should not be fast-tracked by the Senate,” she said in Washington; at the same time that our children were being escorted out of their classrooms by the SWAT team, single-file, hands in the air, here in Saugus.

And she won. They always do. The National Rifle Association machine scored a victory at the cost of two more of our children.

What are common-sense gun laws, anyway? The only thing that makes sense is to not allow people access to weapons of war that kill children. The only thing that makes sense is not to sacrifice kids. I wonder if these same advocates who speak so staunchly about their right to own a gun would be willing to sacrifice their own children and grandchildren.

Even today I see insensitive and ill-timed comments about how “it’s not the guns. It’s mental illness.”

It is the guns.

It’s the guns that are killing our children.

It is a gun that killed two of our students, injured four more and indelibly damaged our community in the span of 16 short seconds.

But we will be yesterday’s news. And nothing will be done.

Gina Painter is a teacher at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California.

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