Could this finally be the turning point?
That’s the question that everyone’s asking in the wake of the latest horrific school shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day, which claimed the lives of 17 people after a 19-year-old former student opened fire on innocent victims with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.
We all know the statistics, which make grim reading: the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012, the sixth school shooting incident in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students, and the 30th ‘mass shooting incident’ in the US in 2018.
But the same old predictable responses were wheeled out by die-hard supporters of the Second Amendment: this was not the time to politicise a tragedy; guns don’t kill, people do; this was a mental health issue, not a gun issue.
And, as reliable as the sun rising and setting, the president issued a truly pathetic response, managing to blame the FBI and the victims, with not a single mention of the gun used to unleash such carnage. He then interrupted his golfing for a truly bizarre video op at a hospital where he ‘congratulated’ first responders on the speed at which they arrived at the scene.
However, it feels like this utterly inadequate response might actually be a good thing, since it has galvanised people into trying to ensure that this time it is different; that it won’t just be business as usual for America - more guns and mass shootings.
First, Emma Gonzalez, a student at the school, addressed a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale (below) to issue a passionate condemnation of lawmakers and gun advocates, and now there are plans to march on Washington on 24 March to demand that action on gun control be taken.
And it’s in the context of this seeming change of attitude among youngsters, who have not shied away from calling out politicians in thrall to the NRA on social media, that an incredibly powerful video has been made by one New York gun enthusiast.
Scott-Dani Pappalardo purchased his AR-15 rifle over 30 years ago, is an avid target shooter and a longtime supporter of gun ownership rights - and he even has the Second Amendment tattooed on his arm.
But, as he explained in a video that has gone viral, he decided to destroy his gun or, as he titled his post ‘my drop in a very large bucket #oneless’.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘Well what do you need to own a weapon like that for, its only purpose is to kill’ - and I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of fun to shoot. I’m not a hunter, I’ve never killed anything with it, except a bunch of targets. And I remember after Sandy Hook happened, I said to my wife, I’d gladly give this gun up if it would save the life of just one child.
“That’s five years ago now and since then, over 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings. So I guess my words were just empty words in the spur of the moment. And now, here we are, 17 more lives lost, so when do we change? When we do make laws that say maybe a weapon like this isn’t acceptable in today’s society? And there’s a lot of blame people can put on - desensitising with video games and the internet, bad parenting, mental illness - but ultimately it’s a gun like this one that takes away the lives. This is the end result.
“A lot of people will say, ‘If we change the laws, the criminals are still gonna get the weapons so why should we punish legal gun owners?’ - of which I am one. But I’m gonna give you a newsflash, until the other day Nikolas Cruz was a legal gun owner, Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, killing 58 people, was a legal gun owner until that night. And quite frankly anyone, any legal gun owner, is capable of snapping and committing an horrific crime. Even without mental illness.
“So now, what do I do with this? How do I get rid of it? Now, I could sell it, I’d get between $600 and $800 for it, and because it is a pre-ban weapon and it is registered, I’d have to sell it to either a legal licence gunsmith or to someone in law enforcement, so in the back of my head I say: ‘What if, whoever buys this weapon, their child gets hold of it, and brings it to school one day, and shoots a bunch of people, can I live with that?’ and I don’t think I could.
“So I’ve decided today, I’m gonna make sure this weapon will never be able to take a life, the barrel of this gun will never be pointed at someone. I mean think about it, is the right to own this weapon more important than someone’s life? A weapon like this that can cause so much death and destruction? I mean, look at the pictures of those victims, is that right more important? I don’t think so, so I’m gonna make sure that will never happen with my weapon.”
“People have always said, ‘There’s so many of them out there’ - well, now, there’s one less.
“And I know a lot of people are gonna say I’m stupid for doing that, but this was a personal choice. I can’t live knowing that my gun’s out there and it could one day possibly commit an horrific act like the other day in Florida. And I’m not saying that this is for everyone, and this isn’t the answer to solve all the problems, and quite frankly there is no answer, no one thing is gonna change it, and there’ll always be people that want to kill and will do it, one way or another, but they’re not gonna do it with this gun, and I’m hoping maybe someone will see it and say ‘maybe I’ll do the same thing’.
“And for all you haters out there, that think I’m very stupid for doing this, I hope and I pray that it doesn’t take the barrel of one of these guns pointed at your child’s head to change your mind.”