We spend our bedtimes telling our young children there are no such things as monsters. I only wish that sentiment were true. Whether twisted by loneliness, illness or evil, that boy in Connecticut was a monster. A scarier monster than you'll find under any bed. As I've thought about the tragic events of last Friday, I have had trouble sorting through my feelings. And even more difficulty putting my feelings into words. Journalists are taught to nail down the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and How. Perhaps that's the simplest way for me to sort.
Sadly, the What, Where and When of this case are all too obvious. The Who is, of course, the saddest piece. Innocent children and their brave protectors senselessly struck down. Lives ended nearly before they'd begun. Too heartbreaking to think about, I don't want to hear the stories of these beautiful little children. I pray for their peace and for the comfort of their families. Grief is a helluva thing; a burden that we all bear at some point, just not always in the way this community is forced to endure it.
The Why is an important piece of the puzzle. I do not care to know much about the darkness that resided inside this punk, but somebody must learn what made him do what he did. With that knowledge, perhaps the next Newtown/Columbine/Virginia Tech can be thwarted. If there were less of a stigma attached to mental illness, if there were more understanding of just what can be helped, perhaps these kids would still be alive. Mental illness is a tricky business involving many complex layers. There are questions of access, health care and arguments I don't want to make here.
The How of this event is an argument I am ready to take up tonight. Twenty-seven people were slaughtered last Friday, murdered at close range by gunfire. Before I wade any further into a debate about gun laws, gun control and gun ownership let me make clear three things: 1. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but a debate in this country about this issue is more than overdue. 2.In theory, I believe anybody should be able to own anything, but something must change because I believe the ease of access to weapons makes these incidents more frequent. 3. I'm not an idiot, nor am I an inflexible partisan sheep unwilling to have my ideas challenged. So if all you want to do is call me a liberal weenie or a left wing pu**y instead of talking about the issue then please stow it.
The short version of my argument is that I personally hate guns but think you have the right to own them. (Well, certain kinds.) I hate guns because they exist for the sole purpose of destroying things. I also know that if I owned one I would Barney Fife my way into blowing off a toe or would have it taken from me and used against me in a confrontation. I don't believe guns are as big a deterrent as people think. A gun can escalate a situation from dangerous to deadly in an instant. Then there are the sad stories like the recent tragedy outside Pittsburgh. A father, by all accounts a trained hunter, killed his own son because he got into his truck with a round still in the chamber. The gun accidentally fired, hitting the boy. That's why I don't want to own a gun.
So let's talk about you. I don't care if you own guns. I simply wish you would own fewer guns. I know many responsible, highly-trained gun owners. With their guns they feed their families and friends all winter long. I would never advocate taking away that right. I do, however, think there should be limits on the types of weapons available for purchase by Joe Citizen. Why does anyone outside the military or police need something like an AK-47? Seriously? Please don't talk to me about the zombie apocalypse or that the government might come for your stuff. News flash: If the government wants your stuff, they've got bigger guns/missiles/nukes than you do.
Over the last week I have read three bumper-sticker-style arguments over and over again:
-Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
I don't even understand this one. Yes, people kill people. But sometimes it is with something at the end of their arm called a gun. Therefore, guns do kill people.
-Criminals will always be able to get guns. Besides there are many ways to kill people. I guess we should just ban beer,knives and toasters that can be thrown into bath tubs.
I agree criminals will have ways to get guns. I also understand that there are many ways to kill a person. I too played the board game Clue as a child. But by reducing the availability of weapons maybe we could limit opportunities.
-Teachers should be armed.
I'm sorry, maybe I am completely naive, but I think this is a really bad idea. Law enforcement professionals and military personnel are trained, well-practiced individuals who will tell you it is still difficult when the shit goes down. Are we to believe that teachers, trying to wrangle a room of children, are going to disarm someone bent on destruction and chaos like these previous school shooters? To me it is an unlikely deterrent at best and a tragedy waiting to happen at worst. Now if you want to talk to me about posting an officer in every school, I'm listening. I'm not sure how we'll pay for it, but I'm listening. Someone had the idea of using military veterans as professional security in schools. Again, I'm listening.
I like to think our kids don't have to learn their ABCs in bunkers to guarantee their safety, but, as I said, I don't have all the answers. Tragedies such as Sandy Hook are all too common. Only through the considerate, reasoned exchange of ideas can we begin to take steps to make them a thing of the past.