“How many children have to die before you start to care?”
That’s what Jamiee Roeschke, who survived a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, wants to ask the National Rifle Association. In 2019, two of her fellow students died after a gunman opened fire on the school’s quad. She and her sister survived.
“Almost 2,000 kids die a year from gun violence. Is that not enough for you? Do you have no sympathy, no empathy, no care for others?” Madison Roeschke said, also speaking directly to the NRA.
The deep-pocketed gun lobby held its annual conference last weekend in Houston, less than 300 miles from the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old with an assault-style rifle and a handgun killed 19 students and two adults just days before.
Rather than cover the NRA’s continued attempts to thwart gun control, VICE News asked school shooting survivors and parents of victims what they wanted to say to the organization. Their pain—and their rage—took over our social feeds last weekend.
Although some politicians pulled out of speaking at the NRA conference—or at least didn’t appear in person, like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott—the event went on as planned, and members used the platform to skirt blame for the shooting.
“People who want to point at the NRA and gun owners and the, quote-unquote "gun lobby" for atrocities like this—we know we didn't do this. We didn't cause this. We have no culpability in it,” Jeff Knox, the director of the Firearms Coalition, said this weekend.
Like many other survivors, Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in his French class during the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, didn’t buy the deflection.
“I have bullets all around my body, slowly leaching lead into my blood,” Goddard said. “The NRA exists today to sell guns, fear, and this fantasy that we’re going to shoot our way out of problems.”
The rhetoric at the conference matched predictable responses from politicians opposed to gun control, much of which trickled out just hours after the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed a lack of mental health services and called the shooter “pure evil.” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz prayed for the families, then straight up walked away when asked about gun control. Others in the state called for even more guns to solve mass shootings, even though heavily-armed police stood by and did nothing for almost an hour in Uvalde.
“To anyone that supports the NRA, you are responsible for the loss of innocence and the childhood of thousands of kids who have to go through school shootings,” said Alex Wind, who survived the 2019 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “And the blood of those shootings are on your hands.”
Although the NRA’s membership and finances have recently taken some hits, the lobbying group remains as embroiled in politics as ever. Just a few months after filing for bankruptcy in January 2021, the NRA dropped the most money it ever had in a single quarter, according to CNBC. And 14 current U.S. senators—all Republicans—have taken more than one million in campaign donations over their careers, according to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.
“I would say to the NRA: We see you, we understand your game, and we’re coming after you,” said Robert Schentrup, the brother of Carmen Schentrup, who was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Watch the rest of the responses below:
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