Seven days in May ― saving America from within
By Martin Schram
"Seven Days in May," the epic 1960s novel and a film starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Ava Gardner, was a fictional tale about right-wing Pentagon generals who tried to topple the U.S. government.
Seven Days in May, 2022, the epic tragedy starring us all, is the reality news that is now dominating news screens everywhere. You and I are feeling like we are trapped into watching a slo-mo version of heart-wrenching, mind-numbing scenes that just keep on looping.
We know the whole world is watching us in stunned disbelief. And sometimes it feels like we, too, are outside looking in. We see half of our nation's leaders willfully lying to us ― and their followers pretend they don't know they are being lied to.
We suddenly have enemies whose evil isn't about committing willful action against us, but willful inaction ― a fear of taking common-sense acts to save us from ourselves. Because their honest action may cost them the power ― and that is what they crave most of all.
Today, our Seven Days in May 2022 tale actually begins with a context-setting preface from 2015: Texas' new governor, Greg Abbott, wanted to assure his supporters he was all about making Texas No. 1. On October 28, 2015, @GregAbbott tweeted:
"I'm EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let's pick up the pace Texans. @NRA."
Abbott led Texas to enact a series of laws that relaxed gun controls, including permitting Texans to carry firearms without permits or training. And lo, it came to pass: With 1.8 million gun purchases in 2020, Abbott's Texas became America's No. 1 state in gun sales.
Seven days in May 2022 takes place in the close-knit community of Uvalde, Texas, just an hour up the road from the Mexican border.
May 17: The day after his 18th birthday, Salvador Rolando Ramos entered a gun store in his hometown. Obeying all the relaxed federal, state and local laws that helped make Gov. Abbott's Texas No.1, Ramos legally bought an AR-15-style, military-looking semi-automatic rifle. Even though youths his age were legally three years short of being considered mature enough to legally buy a beer in Abbott's Texas No. 1.
May 18: Young Ramos returned to legally buy himself 375 rounds of ammunition for his birthday gun. There were no laws prohibiting this sale, nor even red computer flags questioning it in Abbott's Texas No.1.
May 19: Young Ramos returned to his gun store and legally bought another AR-15-style semi-automatic. Again, there were no restrictions or red computer flags questioning this repeat sale in Abbott's Texas No.1.
May 24: Seven days after buying his first birthday gun, young Ramos used it to shoot his grandmother in the face. He loaded his birthday guns and ammo into her pickup truck, drove toward Robb Elementary School, but crashed his grandma's truck into a culvert near the school. He reportedly fired shots at people across the street, walked around for 12 minutes ― yet was able to enter the school without encountering police or even a school security guard.
For one hour, he fired shots yet was allowed to remain in a school room with terrified students. By the time lawmen finally burst in and Ramos was killed, 19 children and two teachers were shot dead. Uvalde had become America's second worst school massacre.
Abbott later made two main points to reporters: (1) Ramos had no known psychiatric problem that could have prevented him from buying his guns; but (2) the real problem here was Texas's shortage of mental facilities. He never mentioned the failure of the limp gun laws of Abbott's Texas No.1.
There was one decade in America when this could not have happened. In 1994, sales of semi-automatics such as the AR-15-style rifle were banned during the Clinton years ― and numbers of mass murders dropped sharply. But a decade later, President George W. Bush and his Republican allies allowed the ban to expire ― and mass gun murder numbers increased sharply, ever since.
Republicans in Washington and where you live have tried doing nothing except lowering flags and pausing for moments of silence. Our children keep getting massacred. Finally we must return to our one other bold option: We must join the rest of the world's safer democracies by at last enacting rigorous gun control measures. Including reinstalling our ban on assault weapons ― a control that significantly reduced gun massacres.
And that's where you come in. You must vote to oust officeholders who still insist on doing nothing but holding onto their seats while your children keep getting massacred.
Martin Schram (email@example.com), an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive.