Two years ago, America’s deadly romance with guns resulted in a heartbreaking tragedy. On February 14, 2018, a 19-year-old armed with an AR-15 killed 17 classmates and teachers and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. That Valentine’s Day, parents tucked Valentines in lunch boxes their children would never read. Siblings exchanged hugs and kisses they never thought would be their last. Friends bought Candygrams they would never have a chance to deliver. And children across our country witnessed another school shooting adults promised would never happen again.
Now, as Jessica Kurzban said in the New York Times, “Valentine’s Day is a day scarred for us all. It marks our collective failure to do our most basic duty: protect our children.” And every day we continue to neglect this basic duty to protect our youngest Americans, another 9 children and teens are killed by gun violence. A total of 3,316 children and teens were killed with guns in 2018. Meanwhile Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate have yet to advance the life-saving gun violence prevention bills put on their desks a year ago.
We must demand better. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s commit to ensuring no parent or child ever has to worry if it will be their last. Let’s show our children we love them—not just with candies or cards—but actions, votes, and policies to keep them safe where they live and learn. And let’s demand leaders give children the greatest gift of all: a chance to play, learn and grow up safely, free from violence and fear.