Time for the Conversation is Now

I drove home from my job as a teacher yesterday with a twisted, sick, knot in my stomach and vision blurred through cascading tears. I drove home after trying desperately to keep it together for my final class at school. I drove home in despair and shock, with the heaviest of heavy hearts. I drove home with almost the same sense of dread and anger and disbelief as the day  planes hit the Twin Towers. I also drove home knowing that I could hug my daughter, just home from college. I could…and would…hug her so very tightly. I thanked God, the one that I often question, that I could.

The town of Newton, Connecticut is now etched into the history books in mass murder lore. I’ve been conflicted since yesterday afternoon, alternately trying not to turn on the tv and then desperately needing to find out all that is happening. I have a sense of deep despair and feel almost guilty that I, at least for today, can enjoy my life, my family, my friends. I feel guilty knowing that there are mothers and fathers who have the unthinkable task of living without their babies. I selfishly want avoid my own pain, but in the end I cannot ignore the events of yesterday. I need to feel the enormity of the loss, but more than that, I feel compelled to do something in my power to prevent this type of evil event from ever happening again. Enter Facebook.

As I logged onto my Facebook account, I saw the gamut of all of the usual reactions and the humanity that binds us together in times like these. I made my feelings known as is my want to do. Rightly or wrongly, Facebook is an outlet for moments like these. It is an open diary for many. Some play it close to the vest. Others let it all hang out. Include me in the latter…for better or worse.

But what amazes me is the intractable–almost defiant— reactions from those who think that guns should never be on the table when it comes to solutions to gun violence. In no uncertain terms, I was told that how dare anyone use this as a time to promote gun control. How dare anyone blame guns for gun deaths. Why, if all the teachers were packing guns, they could have stopped the maniac! We might as well outlaw cars and knives since they kill people as well! Let’s outlaw spoons because they make people fat! People kill people. Period. End of discussion.

Well, no.

Sorry. This isn’t the end of the discussion about guns. Not by a long-shot.

This is a discussion about guns. This is also a discussion about mental health. This is also a discussion about keeping our kids safe in school. Maybe violent video games and movies should be thrown into the mix. I’m just spit-balling here. But what I do know is that everything should be on the table at this point because we are obviously doing something very, very, wrong here in America. We had two mass shootings in a week. We  have close to 11,000 deaths a year due to guns. No other industrialized country in the world with gun control or without gun control rivals us in that dubious distinction. We clearly have a problem, Houston.

The very same people who are so insanely outraged that many are calling for a re-evaluation of  gun safety laws, including the ability to purchase semi-automatic weapons, magazine clip capacity, closing the gun-show loopholes, mental health evaluations before owning a gun, or any of the myriad of issues that involve guns, are always the very first to spout off when there is a terrorist attack or some other tragedy or injustice in the news. If an illegal alien commits a crime you see those very same folks scream for deportation of the bastards here illegally. Stop allowing immigrants from terrorist countries in our country. I can only imagine the outcry from those same people if a Muslim walked into that school and fired off round after round. I guess it’s a good time to discuss “solutions” to a problem the second after an event that stirs the pot for them, but never a good time to discuss solutions if it means bringing gun safety into the mix. Gotcha.

I have read some interesting points on the internet addressing and questioning the concerns of “Second Amendment” stalwarts. These are some that I find intriguing:

  • When the Second Amendment was written, it referred to single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles, with a firing range somewhere around 50 yards. Why is it that people cannot see that technology is the reason that so many more people are able to be killed with one-pull of a trigger, and that perhaps we need to regulate their use so as to avoid mass killings even before a 9-11 call can be placed? Seriously, should shoulder-fired missiles be allowed? Personal bazooka guns? Really?
  • Additionally, there is a little part of the Second Amendment that says “well-regulated…” We regulate many things in this country without “banning” them. Cars, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc. Have we “banned” cars because we regulate who can drive them, how fast they can drive them, and how people are licensed? Have we “banned” prescription drugs even as we regulate who can dispense them and how they are to be dispensed? Have we “banned” alcohol, even as we regulate when, where, and how it is to be bought, distributed, and consumed? Of course not. Let’s not be silly.
  • When 9-11 happened, we went into immediate “preventative” mode. We couldn’t get laws on the books fast enough that allowed the government to snoop into our bank accounts, emails, and overhear our phone calls, all in the name of preventing another terrorist attack. People who travel must now be subjected to long and invasive TSA searches in order to “prevent” a tragedy like that ever again. Why are you okay with that, but not so with gun safety? Remember, planes don’t kill people, people who hijack planes kill people.

But make no mistake, this atrocity may still have happened in spite of stricter gun laws. From what I understand, Connecticut has stricter gun laws than many states. The weapons that the killer’s mother owned were grandfathered in (semi-automatic) and were legally registered. I do wonder though, how her son was able to gain access to them. I also wonder, why this woman thought she needed these weapons at all in her home. Evidently, she loved guns. But for them being there, but for her son who was able to gain access to them, this may have never happened. You see, if you take some time to actually look at the statistics in reference to gun deaths and violence, you will notice that very often suicidal people who have easy access to guns use them in this way. They use them on others, and then themselves. Guns are made for one reason, and one reason only. They are used to kill. Period. And that they do today with alarming ease of use and in record time.

That brings me to another important component of this tragedy, which is the mental health of these mass murderers. Again, when you look at crimes like these, there is a strong correlation between severe psychological issues and the lashing out in this violent and extreme manner. There is simply no question that our country has a mental health crisis. There is a stigma attached to the mental suffering that so many of us endure. There are those fortunate ones that are able to seek help, either of their own volition, or through the prodding of family or friends. There are those who may want to seek help, but cannot afford to do so. Then there are those who slip through the cracks, who have no family or support system able or willing to get them the proper help. Without addressing this spoke in the wheel, we will fall entirely short of ever “fixing” this torment. Of this, I have no illusions.

Finally, how can we ignore the last line of defense as far as school safety is concerned?  Look, we are in a time of obvious budget constraints. The cost of placing a trained professional in every school (yes, armed, as much as it pains me) and metal detectors is probably prohibitive. However, if we place a high priority on school safety, perhaps each community could figure out a way to bolster the safety of their schools in real and consequential ways. Could these companies who make metal detectors become partners with our schools? Could PTA’s in each school focus on fund-raising efforts for safety officers? As much as I abhor the notion that our schools are increasingly becoming closed-off fortresses against evil-doers, I am resigned to the need for it. If it saves one life, it is worth it.

Will better gun safety laws, easier and more affordable access to mental health care, and cops in every school stop every hideous, murderous rampage from taking place? No. Will taking no action stop every heinous crime from taking place? No. Will your angry ramblings on Facebook about “Second Amendment” rights, and your ideas about when it is a good time to talk about preventing this tragedy from ever happening again trump a sane, thoughtful, honest, and difficult “conversation” about how to unknowingly stop a future mass murderer? It had better not.

The beautiful and innocent lives lost in a little elementary school in Newton, Connecticut deserve not only answers, but solutions. Now. Yup, right now.

About Blithering Idiot

I am a teacher and I love my job.
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3 Responses to Time for the Conversation is Now

  1. nikkij827 says:

    I sometimes think you are me.

    Sent from my iPad

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