Commentary

Enough with the public trauma

Why do Republican elected officials fundamentally not care about gun violence?

June 8, 2022 4:00 am

Members of the community gather at the City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed before the gunman was fatally shot by law enforcement. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, a survivor of the Uvalde school shooting who smeared herself with a classmate’s blood and played dead in order to escape the gunman, will testify to the House Oversight Committee. 

Read that sentence again. And ask yourself why. 

We are a nation reduced to public shaming from traumatized children in order to wring an ounce of compassion and human decency from Republicans who value guns over human lives. We are a country where 11-year-olds who survive mass shootings have to recount their trauma in public because the Republican Party fundamentally doesn’t give a damn about gun violence. 

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Part of the dystopian rituals this country now regularly goes through are people who have endured horrific trauma — mass shootings, rape, pregnancy loss, terminal illness — hauling their grief out on the hearing table for public view in a desperate hope Republican legislators will somehow give a damn. 

We do it with rape survivors and women who have lost wanted pregnancies in opposition to abortion bans. We do it with mass shooting survivor families in legislatures across the country and Congress. We do it with cancer survivors in a desperate plea for health care that won’t make them choose between dying or going bankrupt.

State legislators have told their own stories about sexual assault and abortion, to no effect on their Republican colleagues passing no-exception abortion bans. According to the Detroit News, “In Ohio, a fetal heartbeat bill passed even after three lawmakers spoke out on the floor about their rapes — among them State Rep. Lisa Sobecki, who argued for a rape exemption by recounting her own assault and subsequent abortion.”

I am sick of it. And the rest of us should be too.

As a state senator, now-Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told the story of her own rape in opposition to a 2013 bill requiring women to buy separate insurance coverage for abortion — which couldn’t be purchased after pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. Again, her Republican colleagues did not care and passed the bill anyway. 

Before the late Sen. John McCain’s 2017 thumbs-down, families with grievously sick children were traveling around Capitol Hill, pleading with Republican Senators not to take their health care away by overturning the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t matter. If not for McCain’s single vote, millions would have lost their health care thanks to a Republican Party that fundamentally does not seem to comprehend compassion as public policy.

And we all know what is going to happen this week. Families from Buffalo and Uvalde will testify. We will bear witness to the depth and expanse of their grief and be unable to meaningfully console it because the people who do care are tactically outweighed by the people who don’t.  

Rep. Lauren Boebert and the rest of her kind will respond with something cruel and ugly, because in their soulless emptiness that’s all they know. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will wave vaguely in the survivor families’ direction, utter some marble-mouthed words about how tragic it all is, and we need better doors or something equally idiotic, and tell his caucus to again vote “no” and do nothing, just as they did a decade ago after Sandy Hook. 

The question long ago stopped being why this keeps happening. The question is why the Republican Party and its elected officials fundamentally do not care. The question should be why so many lives are expendable to them in service of their own power, and why they have abandoned any semblance of concern for their fellow human beings when it comes to public policy. 

I am sick of it. And the rest of us should be too. Miah Cerrillo shouldn’t have to testify about the horror that happened to her. We should not be asking a child to bear the burden of courage that adults — Republican Senators — around her will not.

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Laura K. Chapin
Laura K. Chapin

Laura K. Chapin is a Democratic communications strategist who works with progressive causes and candidates in the Rocky Mountain West. Previous to her time in Colorado, Chapin spent many years working in Washington, D.C., including serving as press secretary for several members of Congress.

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