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Trump misses the mark on his gun response, and we deserve better.

It's time for more than just "thoughts and prayers."

Trump misses the mark on his gun response, and we deserve better.

On Feb. 14, a former student walked into Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he shot and killed 17 people.

It was the 18th school shooting in this year's first 45 days. Like a number of other recent shootings, the gunman used a highly customizable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Like many more, the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, classmates of the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, described him as “creepy and weird" and an "outcast" known for spreading anti-Muslim hate and wearing President Trump's ubiquitous "Make America Great Again" hat.


Students react following the shooting. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images.

When it came time to address the country in the wake of this tragedy, Trump did what many politicians do in these situations: He blamed mental illness.

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior," Trump tweeted Thursday morning. "Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

But then what? In fact, according to BuzzFeed, the FBI was made aware of Cruz as a potential school shooting threat back in September. Cruz allegedly posted online, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

At what point should he have been stopped? Trump placed blame on people for not reporting Cruz to law enforcement, when in fact, he was.

Then there's the matter of mental health.

Trump addressed the county from the White House on Feb. 15, 2018. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Speaking from the White House, Trump managed to avoid mentioning the word "gun" in his televised address. Rather, he tossed in a few religious references, saying, "In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold onto God's word in Scripture: 'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.'"

He committed to visiting the school sometime in the near future, and said that the country needs to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

Gun violence isn't a mental health issue, and even if it were, our government is failing to address "the difficult issue of mental health," generally.

A 2014 study by Drs. Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish set out to explore the connection between mental illness and mass shootings.

Together, Metzl and MacLeish examined four of the major arguments made in the wake of mass shootings: that mental illness causes gun violence, that a psychiatric diagnosis can predict future violence, that we should fear "mentally ill loners," and that gun control won't prevent future mass shootings.

What they found was that mental illness and gun violence have a tenuous connection at best, and that a lot of the rhetoric around that connection is vastly oversimplified.

Even if mental health and gun violence shared a convincing causal relationship, the fact is that this administration has repeatedly tried to gut Americans' access to health care — including mental health That leaves us with just two options: Either our politicians don't believe this is actually a mental health issue, or they think it is but don't care enough to fix it.

Neither option is cutting it. We deserve better — so do our kids.

Columbine was 25 fatal school shootings ago. We've done shockingly little to prevent this from happening again. Our collective shrug has created a generation that sees this as a normal part of life.

But even they're not having it anymore. On the morning of Feb. 15, Parkland students Kelsey Friend and David Hogg went on CNN, and pointed out what's painfully obvious about solutions that involve little more than offering "thoughts and prayers" and blaming mental health. "What we need more than [thoughts and prayers] is action," said Hogg.

"We're children," he said. "You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role."

GIFs via CNN/Twitter.

Gun violence is a complex issue, which is why it's so important that it be studied. Unfortunately, we can't even get that right.

In 1996, Republicans in Congress put an end to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s studies about gun-related injuries and death. Fearing massive cuts to their overall funding, the CDC agreed to end its gun violence research.

In 2013, President Obama lifted the ban on the CDC's gun violence research. Unfortunately, again fearing backlash from pro-gun members of Congress who control the agency's budget, they've been reluctant to wade back into the divisive issue.

The first step to address the epidemic of gun violence is to acknowledge that there is, indeed, an epidemic of gun violence in America. We deserve leadership on this issue that goes beyond shrugging and blaming mental illness or offering our thoughts and prayers to victims.

We need action — and we need it now.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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