A meme’s been going around that reads, “Let’s take a moment to honor the sacrifice of our brave school children who lay down their lives to protect our rights to bear arms.”
North Carolina Republicans can add to that, “lay down their lives to help adults further their political careers” to that.
Just hours after 19 children and two teachers were murdered by a man who purchased two assault rifles on his 18th birthday, North Carolina state Republican lawmakers made the baffling choice to hold a press conference to announce a proposed bill they claimed would protect K-12 students, not from being shot to death at their desks, but from learning about gender and sexuality.
The “Parents’ Bill of Rights” is similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that recently dominated headlines. When questioned about the stunning lack of empathy that led to the announcement hours after a massacre, Republican state Senator Phil Berger said, “This has nothing to do with what happened in Texas” and that it’s “interesting someone would even try to connect the two things.”
Well, Phil Berger, the connection is dead children. Berger, whose election web site unsurprisingly lists him as “pro-life,” would probably claim not to realize that according to the Trevor Project, 45% of LGBTQ youth, those explicitly targeted in this legislature, have seriously considered suicide in the past year. Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide.
Governor Roy Cooper will likely veto this legislation. Still, this tasteless publicity stunt was probably successful for Republican state senators like Berger, Michael Lee, and Deanna Ballard, looking to court the kinds of voters who feel it’s their God-given right to own semi-automatic weapons yet have the gall to claim they’re “pro-life” in a vain attempt to convince themselves they’re good people.
This legislation would require school districts to inform parents of any changes related to their “mental, emotional, or physical health or wellbeing,” which is vague enough to be interpreted as outing students to their families, which will be deadly to already vulnerable children from conservative, bigoted families. Rich, since the popular Republican deflection for the Uvalde school shooting is to pretend they care about mental health.
“Hollywood and video games glorify violence while those with mental illnesses remain untreated. I hope we find a path as a nation that focuses on early intervention, help for those who genuinely need help, personal responsibility to our families and our communities, and not a path fueled by politics for short-term political gain at the expense of our personal freedoms,” Chuck Edwards, the Republican primary winner for the district’s next congressional representative race said in response to the massacre at Uvalde.
Edwards said we need to “come together as a nation and work to address the fundamental causes of such senseless acts of violence” but was careful not to mention how easy it was for a troubled man to purchase a gun and murder 19 children and two teachers in their classrooms. Edwards campaigned and won the Republican nomination on being the anti-Madison Cawthorn, but like his predecessor, seems hellbent on putting his career over the good of his hypothetical constituents because if we continue acting like easy access to guns is not a problem and pretend that alienating already vulnerable children with bigoted legislature is for their protection and not personal political gain, well, people will continue dying, possibly right here in District 11.
Edwards hasn’t taken any money from the NRA yet, but he’s still just a state Senator. If he wins, I’m sure he’ll join the ranks of our Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, who’ve allowed the NRA to buy their morals with a combined $11,408,000 of donations, as reported by Newsweek
“We have a political crisis on our hands – elected officials in the grips of the gun lobby and too compromised to do the right thing,” Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the Democratic nominee for District 11, tweeted on May 25. “19 children and 2 adults murdered, more hospitalized, as of now,” she tweeted in the same thread, “If that doesn’t bring you to your knees, I don’t know what will.”
Can you imagine hearing about a gunman ripping apart children in their classroom with a gun he just purchased on his 18th birthday, but instead of outrage, you think about how you can further your political career? North Carolina Republicans can, and if you’re actually pro-life, that should be a massive problem for you.
Pat Brothwell is a former high school teacher, and current writer and marketing professional living and working in Asheville.