Twenty school children and their six teachers lay dead in Newtown, Connecticut. The nation mourns. Most everywhere our leaders – in government, churches, schools and even sports – respond to the single burning question: What must we do to keep our children safe – and might that include some sort, any sort, of gun safety measures?
In South Carolina, our state’s political leaders are silent.
And why? After a week of waiting and thinking about this, the only rational explanation seems to be that they are so afraid of the all-powerful gun lobby that they refuse to speak out or to act.
This is rank political cowardice, plain and simple.
A week ago we were all shocked and stunned by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. For the first few days, we as a country were numbed by the tragedy. President Obama met with the families, experts offered their advice about how to deal with the tragedy and most of all we prayed. We prayed for the victims and their families and we offered special prayers of thanks that our own children were safe.
And then leaders began to lead. President Obama launched a national initiative to review gun and safety laws to determine what should be done, with a promise of national action and legislation when Congress returns in January. All over the country governors, legislators and mayors (including Joe Riley of Charleston and Keith Summey of North Charleston) did something – whatever they could. All were responding to the same question posed above: What must we do to keep our children safe – and might that include some sort, any sort, of gun safety measures?
Everywhere state political leaders have responded to this question. Except in South Carolina, where a review of our state leaders’ official websites turns up no evidence of any public statements addressing this fundamental issue. None.
- Gov. Nikki Haley – Seven days after the killings and only in response to a specific request by Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut, did she issues a four sentence statement supporting the observance of a national moment of silence. Nothing else.
- Superintendent of Education Mick Zais – issued a statement expressing sympathy but again, nothing else.
- Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell – nothing.
- Attorney General Alan Wilson – nothing.
- All five other constitutional officers – nothing.
- Speaker Bobby Harrell – nothing.
- Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson – nothing.
- Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler – nothing.
- House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister – nothing.
- House Minority leader Harry Ott – nothing.
- Potential 2014 statewide candidates – Sen. Vince Sheheen, Sen. Brad Hutto, Sen. Tom Davis, Sen. Larry Grooms – the list goes on and on.
Their silence is deafening.
These politicians routinely issue statements and proclamations on everything from recognizing National Dairy Goat Awareness Week (seriously) to supporting Drink Your Milk Day. But they are all totally silent about these killings and refuse to act when the lives of our children are at stake.
In fact, the most visible response in our state was from Winthrop basketball coach Pat Kelsey, whose sadness and outrage echoed across the county via an internet video and attention from the national news media.
From our state’s political leadership – nothing.
The sad truth is that after years of intimidation, threats and millions of dollars in campaign contributions, the gun lobby has effectively silenced a huge portion of the political leadership in our state. They are simply too afraid for their own political career to do anything…anything at all.
But now, there is some reason for optimism. The Sandy Hook killing was so brutal, so senseless and so revolting that many political leaders in other states are now no longer afraid. Democrats and Republicans that in the past have been all about ”the 2nd Amendment” are now talking about ”reasonable regulation” and ”doing something meaningful.”
Everywhere, that is, but in South Carolina.
There is no reason why Sandy Hook couldn’t happen in South Carolina. It could happen tomorrow. And if it did, then some of the above listed politicians would be in front of every television camera they could find proclaiming their sorrow and outrage. But then it will be too late.
The time to act is now – before it happens again or happens here.
Gov. Haley should immediately convene the above politicians and other political leaders and go to work – right now. If she refuses to do it, any or all of these politicians could take the lead themselves and call the meeting.
Every newspaper in the state should support this call for action. Every parent should contact these politicians and urge them to act.
There is only one message and only one item on the meeting agenda: What must we do to keep our children safe?
To do anything less is simply another profile in cowardice.