Congress finally did something to stop gun violence. Something ridiculous.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

It’s been about three weeks since Nikolas Cruz stormed into the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people.

The Parkland shooting placed student survivors center stage in the latest national debate about gun violence in America. After a series of brave demonstrations and town halls demanding accountability from the NRA and lawmakers, a group of senators are actually reintroducing a bipartisan bill to curb gun violence.

The “Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act,” also known as the “No Fly, No Buy” bill, is sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). The bill was first introduced in 2016 — by Senate Democrats — after Omar Mateen, who was on the terrorism watch list for 10 months and was still able to purchase a firearm, opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando.


Now, in response to the Parkland shooting, the bill is making its way through Congress once again. The legislation in question would prohibit people on the Transportation Security Administration’s “No Fly” list from buying a gun. At first glance, the bill sounds reasonable — right?

Photo via Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

But here’s the thing: The bill would not have prevented Cruz — or any other recent mass shooters — from purchasing his firearm and subsequently unleashing bloodshed.

While lawmakers reintroduced the gun control measure in response to the backlash from  the shooting, the bill does not apply to Cruz since he was never on a no-fly list.

In January, according to the New York Times, the FBI received word that Cruz had purchased a firearm and had been discussing about plotting a school shooting. The anonymous tipster told the FBI through a hotline that Cruz has a desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts.” But rather than forward the tip to the Miami FBI office, the bureau ignored it and failed to investigate Cruz.

And since Cruz was never investigated, he was not referred to the Terrorist Screening Center where it holds the no-fly list database. This is hardly the first time either.

Jared Loughner, the man who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, was not on a terrorism watch list. Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children in the Sandy Hook shooting, was not on the terrorist watch list. Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, and Robert Dear, who opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, were also not on the list.

Photo via Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

And not only does this bill miss the real troubling factors of mass shooters, it's racist.

Instead of devoting time, resources, research and programs addressing domestic violence, toxic masculinity, and white supremacy, (which are all common threads with a long list of white mass shooters in the last four decades) the bill gives credibility to an inherently racist and reckless list that encompasses more than 1.5 million names within the last five years without proper screening and investigation.

It also disproportionately targets people of color. It historically targeted notable civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X. The ACLU has released statements condemning that the majority of individuals in the list are either Arab, South Asian, and/or Muslim — many of which are law-abiding U.S. Citizens. In fact, Dearborn, Michigan, which is one of the most populated Arab neighborhoods in the country, was second — only behind New York City — for the city with the most names on the watch list. One of the people from Dearborn on the list is a 7-month-old baby.

But more than just being racist, the No Fly, No Buy bill strengthens the false belief that the people listed in the list are there for reasonable suspicion or are probable national security threats. It adds further stigma and suspicion on our fellow neighbors — who happen to have darker skin, come from a different country, and/or worship in a different way — without any effective measure to end gun violence.

Photo via Win McNamee/Getty Images.

One bill is never going to end mass shootings.

A gun control bill is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. It takes a lot more than just introducing a bill. It requires more citizens like Cameron Kasky, a student survivor for the Parkland shooting, to demand lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to promise to never accept financial contributions from the NRA. It also requires lawmakers to actually agree and act on that promise.

To end gun violence, law enforcement authorities must place a lot resources into researching and investigating trends of domestic violence and white supremacy. They must also take reports of domestic violence and extremism seriously, not only when it’s perpetrated by a brown and black person. It requires judicial powers to review the legal framework on domestic violence, right-wing extremism, and white supremacy.

But the onus also falls on all of us too. We must continue to take the ills of toxic masculinity seriously and start productive conversations on the matter. We must be active, vocal, and strong in combating the ills of xenophobia, gendered-violence, and white supremacy. And if you can’t do that, then one of the most helpful ways to assist in the fight is simply through donating funds to organizations like the Brady Campaign and signal boost activists like Stoneman Douglas student survivors like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg. They’re effectively taking a stand for something our previous generations failed to do.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken, and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-and-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term stupid isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he belives applies to everyone.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."