When I was a child, my first exposure to guns was through cartoons that depicted guns as props in a silly story, where nobody actually was harmed or died, at least not permanently. My knowledge of guns only slightly expanded thanks to reruns of shows, like The Rifleman, or 70s classics, such as Adam 12 or Charlie’s Angels. In those shows, guns were used by good people to protect themselves and others from criminals. In my little world, guns were relegated to the small or big screen and only used by characters. Then, guns became a bit more real to me.
The first time I ever saw the harm that guns can cause was when my t-ball coach, who became a friend of our family, had an accident while cleaning his gun. I cannot recall the specific details of his accident, only that he nearly blew off his hand and had to be hospitalized. I remember his hand being tightly wrapped in layers of bandages and the long healing process he had to undergo to regain mobility in his hand. I also remember being afraid of being anywhere in the general vicinity of a gun after his incident.
Somewhere along the way, though, that initial fear that I had dissipated. Starting in my late teens, I occasionally tagged along to the local gun range with others, as both an observer and as a participant. I learned about, and practiced, gun safety, and I enjoyed the challenge of hitting targets, despite still being slightly scared of guns. That has been the extent of my firsthand experience with guns, as I am not a hunter, an avid marksperson, or a gun owner. I also am not one to judge others who fall into any one of those categories, and because of being raised in an environment that was insulated form gun violence, I did not give guns much thought at all.
I share this, because I want to make clear that I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, nor am I am a member of an organization that seeks to ban all guns. I am, however, a human being who is a firm believer that we have a moral and ethical obligation to find a solution to the violence that is its own epidemic in our country.
As mass shootings became more of the norm, rather than the horrific exception, I have thought about guns a lot. I have listened to the passionate debates on both sides of the gun regulation arguments, the pontification of politicians on both sides of the aisle, the scholarly social commentaries about what is wrong in the world today, and the anguished cries of the loved ones of those who were killed and of those who survived. It is the latter that I cannot shake and the voices that matter the most.
In less than ninety minutes, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, the last day of school honors and celebrations at Robb Elementary School morphed into yet another massacre of innocent lives, makeshift memorials, and shattered lives. There were more screams and cries from the newest community marked by the carnage of a school shooting.
With this latest shooting, fresh on the heels of the mass shooting in Buffalo, it is a stark reminder, not that we really needed one, that we are not safe anywhere. At school. At the grocery store. At places of worship. At movie theaters. At a concert. At a spa. And everywhere else that a mass shooting has occurred. There have been so many, that it is easy to lose count.
After each incident, there is a great deal of talk about how what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and how it can never happen again. Yet, it does happen again. And again. And again. And again.
While we frantically point the finger to blame someone or something for the latest tragedy, the next shooters prepare to take aim and pull the trigger on the next unsuspecting group in another place in another city. What we are doing as a country is not working. Let me say that louder for the people in the back. WHAT WE ARE DOING AS A COUNTRY IS NOT WORKING!
I wish that I could follow up that statement with a grand plan to eliminate mass shootings and violence across the board, but obviously, I can’t. But I want to desperately believe that as a country, we can do better. There has to be a way to improve safety measures and regulations around the sale, purchase, and ownership of guns in this country, along with the ban of certain weapons that serve no purpose other than to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. There also has to be ways to improve access to, and affordability of, mental healthcare and to address socioeconomic issues that put people and communities at risk. The solutions are out there, as demonstrated by countries where mass shootings are unheard of and crime rates are low, but we have to be willing to stop doing what we have always done and to invest our money and resources in our greatest assets, our people, not corporations, special interest groups, and political machines.
We are running out of time to resolve this, while people are running for their lives. What we are doing is not working, and until we all become part of the solution, the problem of mass shootings and increased violence will continue and worsen. I apologize to the survivors and loved ones who are mourning their family members and friends that we did not figure it out sooner. Much sooner.
If you are wondering how to help, or if you need help, check out these resources:
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story