Kelly green Converse. High-top shoes with a hand-drawn heart over her right toes.
This is how the parents of 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez identified their daughter’s body in Uvalde. By her sneakers.
Too many Americans have walked a path that should not have been deadly, their lives taken. Uvalde was the 213th mass shooting of the year.
That was two weeks ago. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which characterizes a mass shooting as one with at least four victims, not including the gunman, the number has grown to at least 246. It’s becoming normal for us to have more mass shootings than days in the year in America. In 2020, guns became the leading cause of death for children in America. We’ve done nothing.
Uvalde was the 27th school shooting this year.
DNA tests were needed to name many of the 21 victims of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde. This is why Maite’s shoes mattered so much. They were recognizable. An AR-15 dismembers the body. Blows holes through the spirit, too.
Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader, survived the domestic terrorist attack at her school. She did so by taking her tiny hands and smearing herself, her Lilo & Stitch T-shirt, in the blood of her friend. She lay next to her murdered classmates, pretending to be dead like them. And when she could, Miah grabbed her teacher’s phone and called 911.
She testified via video recording Wednesday at a House hearing on gun violence. When asked if she felt safe in school, she shook her head no. A shooting, Miah believes, will happen again.
Rep. Andy Biggs called the testimony pernicious and outrageous, saying she was being forced to relive her trauma for political gain. While claiming to care for child victims of gun violence, he believes gun control will not keep us safe. The hypocrisy is bewildering and the reason why a child would have to bear her bruises for the world to see.
No child should be exploited. Nor should they be silenced. Or left unprotected. Or torn apart by bullets.
Her father and her doctor testified. I do not believe Miah was made to be a pawn. No child should have to live through what she survived. Now, they are fighting for what is to become of their lives in the wake of this massacre.
The House Wednesday night passed a package of eight bills to curb gun violence, The Protect Our Kids Package. This legislation would raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, regulate ghost guns, criminalize gun trafficking, ban the sale of large-capacity magazines, codify the bump stock ban, and require the safe storage of guns.
On Thursday, they will vote on red flag laws, which make it easier to prevent anyone deemed dangerous by the courts from buying or possessing firearms.
Unfortunately, the bills as written stand little chance of making it through the Senate and becoming law.
The NRA and many Republicans want to arm our teachers and militarize the police because we always choose violence over solutions and systemic change. But when violence knocks on their front doors, the call for legislation is immediate. And exclusive.
After an armed man was arrested near Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded the instant greenlight of The Supreme Court Police Parity Act, expanding protection to immediate family members of Supreme Court justices.
“House Democrats must pass this bill and they need to do it today,” McConnell said on Wednesday. “No more fiddling around with this, they need to pass it today … before the sun sets.”
The bill stalled. Security is important for SCOTUS. But McConnell does not seem to see it’s important for us all. Common sense gun reform is a step toward helping everyone.
“As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one that we agree on more than we don’t,” said Uvalde native and actor Matthew McConaughey as he addressed lawmakers in the nation’s capital earlier this week.
“Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit that we have a life preservation problem on our hands?” McConaughey asked.
Gun violence is a national epidemic. Yes, we do need mental health resources. But mental health is a global issue. Gun violence is a very American issue, because here, we value guns more than life.
There are more guns than people in this nation.
In 2017, Americans made up just four percent of the world’s population but owned almost 46 percent of the global stock of civilian firearms, according to The Small Arms Survey cited in The Washington Post.
“Only in America do we normalize mass shootings and the trauma left behind,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said at Wednesday’s hearing.
“Whether it is our babies learning in Uvalde or our elders shopping in Buffalo or neighbors in my district, the Massachusetts 7th, whose experience don’t always make national deadlines but do deserve as much attention, it is long past time to treat gun violence as the public health crisis that it is,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin declaring our country to be in a continued “heightened threat environment.” Violent online forums, misinformation, and conspiracy theories could “inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.”
Americans are in danger and we are the danger.
The GOP demands prioritization of expanding protections of justices while meaningful gun laws have been halted for decades. This is reflective of the elitism attached to whose lives we’re willing to make sacrifices for and who we’re simply going to sacrifice for the love of guns and money.
Will we rush to cover the Black people in Buffalo?
Zeneta Everhart still tends to her 21-year-old son’s wounds just weeks after he survived the Tops shooting. He was working.
“My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15,” Everhart said at Wednesday’s hearing on gun violence.
“As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now, I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children,” she added.
Will we demand, with our vote and our voices, that we cover children like Miah and Miate?
Think of that hand-drawn heart on the right toe of her Kelly green high-top Converse. How will we lift her name, all of their names?
On Twitter, a call for Converse to reproduce Maite’s shoes and donate the money is gaining traction with over 14,000 likes and more than 3,000 retweets. I would buy those shoes. Corporate activism matters.
But we cannot simply shop our way out of this and move on. This is how we forget. Again and again, so many names erased and lives lost. We bought shirts and said slogans and then we moved on to the next trendy bit of activism and forgot.
We are all in a state of trauma, our lives a normalized negotiation with violence.
There is an urgency for legislation that cannot wait. A change in American culture that requires an unyielding demand for safety in this country. Not security for the select few, but safety for everyone. Now.