I go to the gym several days a week, obviously to work out my body. Some days, though, I go to alleviate, through sweat and elevated heart rate, the anxiety and frustration caused by things beyond my control. My mother’s illness. Taxes. Climate Change.

The Florida school shooting.

On Valentine’s Day, 17 students left home, possibly after opening a card from their parents and stashing some chocolate hearts in their lunch boxes. They said goodbye and left the house. “See you later!” And then they went to school and got shot and killed along with a couple of their teachers.

How my heart broke when I learned of the shooting in a Ballard sushi restaurant as the “Breaking News” flashed across the television screen. Several customers and staff members gathered silently around the television. “The United States has too many guns,” said one of the servers as we watched. “No other country has this problem.”

She’s right. The New York Times ran an article (How To Reduce Shootings, by Nicholas Kristof) on Feb. 15, the day after the shooting, which included staggering graphics showing disproportionately high numbers of gun ownership and gun murders in the U.S. as compared with other countries.

The U.S., by a long shot, has the highest incidence of deaths by guns. School shootings are, I cringe to write this, becoming a little less shocking because of their frequency. The Feb. 14 shooting was the 18th gun incident on school grounds in 2018. Eighteenth! And it was only a month and a half into the year.

After working out on the 15th, I walked past a row of treadmills with televisions. One caption caught my eye: “Liberals Use Shooting to Push Gun Laws.”

In another punch to the gut, less than 24 hours after the shooting, this tragedy was being politicized. Later I read that Tomi Lahren, a conservative political commentator who works for an advocacy organization that supports Trump tweeted: “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gun owner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #Florida Shooting.”

A girl who hid in a closet for two hours while the carnage was being carried out responded to Lahren’s Tweet, “I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

I’m guessing there are both liberals and conservatives among the families of the victims. I don’t know for sure. But stay with me. Do you think any of those families, or any of the survivors, are worried about politics right now? Do you think anyone is “on the fence” about gun control after losing their baby? About the ability of a 19 year old to legally obtain an AR-15? A semi-automatic gun that is deadlier than a hand gun, yet easier to obtain? And is the weapon of choice for mass shootings?

Would that the headline had read: “Politicians use latest shooting to dramatically restrict gun laws.”

By wording headlines with political verbiage, reporters help to create a dichotomy. And by refusing to tighten gun laws, politicians elected to protect us exacerbate the problem.

What could possibly motivate anyone, conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican to look the other way when it comes to passing such laws, I wondered. When I got home from the gym I did a little research and was shocked to learn that the very politicians who could be helping to prevent such tragedies are receiving obscene amounts of money from the NRA and gun lobbies.

The top five senators who received between $3.88 and $7.74 million dollars from the NRA are John McCain, Richard Burr, Roy Blunt, Thom Tillis and Cory Gardner.  (Former Presidential contender Marco Rubio is in sixth place.)

Representatives who received between $344,630 and $1.09 million from the NRA are French Hill, Ken Buck, David Young, Mike Simpson, and Greg Gianforte. Again, these are only the top five who have the NRA in their back pocket and are therefore unmotivated to make any changes.

The NRA paid more than $30 million to get Trump elected and defeat Clinton.

It is no small wonder, then, that this has become political. If you are curious about which party these particular recipients belong to I urge you to look them up. And know this: There are more.

Are the benefits worth it? Really? Are the lives of other people’s kids worth the payoffs? How can these people be so greedy, so callous? I blame them, not mental illness as some are trying to convince us, for these deaths. I blame them, because the FBI was alerted — twice — about last week’s shooter, and they did nothing. I blame any of them who have taken even a penny from a gun lobbyist and then looked the other way when something like this happens. They reek of guilt and greed. They have blood on their hands. They should be ashamed, but I am afraid that is not something they are capable of.

IRENE PANKE HOPKINS is a freelance essayist, blogger and writer. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.