Demanding a Change

This morning, I woke and learned the tragic news of the shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. Along with this news swirled words about gun control, the appropriate and inappropriate reaction to such a tragedy, and a lot of different opinions about all of the above.

As for myself, I reserve my right to be utterly and unapologetically infuriated by the slaughter of 20 innocent children. I agree, we need to hug our kids today. I also think that we need to be angry that something this heinous was able to happen, and demand that something change to prevent it from happening again. Now, not once the shock has begun to fade and we can twist the facts of the case to explain why gun regulation wouldn’t have prevented this. Mental illness is an awful thing, and difficult to diagnose and control. I agree that more should be done to help those who are losing grasp with reality, sanity, and a sense of right and wrong. But until we have a foolproof system in place to do so, it should not be this easy for someone to obtain a weapon, an instrument designed to kill.

Solving this problem by arming more Americans is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Yes, I would LOVE to send my children to a school where a gun in each classroom is necessary. Sounds like a brilliant plan! A bunch of 5, 8, 12, 16 year olds and a gun in the same room. The fact that a society would need to have a gun for protection in a classroom full of five year olds should be proof enough that something in our country is seriously, deeply fucked. There are disturbed individuals in every country, all over the world. But many of them don’t have the means and ability to inflict the kind of harm American psychos can inflict.

You can try to squarely blame the root causes of a person’s break with reality instead of the tool he uses to massacre others. You can blame poor family structure, abuse, and mental illness. I wouldn’t disagree that those are problems. Many of those things are things we can’t change on a grand scale, not without parenting every poorly-parented child ourselves. What we can change is the ease of accessing guns. I believe in the right to bear arms – I’ve invoked the right myself. But I also believe that this right should be earned, not given. I think the definition of “arms” needs to be more stringently defined. I think that just being American is not a license to own a weapon that is primarily designed to kill en masse.

A man stormed into a school in China today and stabbed schoolchildren there. Stabbed, because access to guns in China is strictly regulated. Guess how many children died? Not. One. That doesn’t change the fact that this man did a heinous and ugly thing, just as the American man in Connecticut did. But the result is so drastically different. There are 22 children in China who will likely never be the same. But they will heal, have their lives, the opportunity to grow old, get married, have their own children. There are 20 children in the US who no longer have that opportunity, because a sick man with a deluded mind was able to get his hands on a gun.

So you can sit there and try to reason why tighter gun laws wouldn’t have prevented this. You can try to blame everything except the tool that allows such efficient execution of innocents. You can choose to focus on the sadness of the situation instead of the solutions. But try to imagine being a terrified six-year-old child, flinching with your hands over your ears while a grown man fires bullets into your friends. Imagine being a seven-year-old, instructed to hold hands and walk single file, but to close your eyes so you don’t see your principal lying a pool of her own blood. Imagine running for your life on your skinny little five-year-old legs. I do not want to return to a nation where the innocence of children is a willing sacrifice to make so we can cling to an ancient interpretation of a constitutional amendment. I don’t want to return to a nation where outrage and a demand for a solution isn’t the immediate response to such an event as what occurred today in Connecticut. I don’t want to return to a nation where I need to fear movie theaters, shopping malls, and school campuses because our government isn’t willing to protect us from mentally unstable citizens. We’re so concerned with terrorists invading from foreign lands that we’ve utterly failed to thwart the ones from within.

It’s time to change that.

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