Within my three-part posting titled 'Massacre' earlier this year, I made reference to the massacre at Columbine High School thirteen years ago and how someone at my church could tell how deeply troubled I was about it just by my facial expressions. Just five months ago, I wrote the three-part 'Massacre' posting regarding the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Just five months ago! Now, I am writing about another school shooting, only this time the vast majority of those murdered (twenty out of twenty-seven) were children just six or seven years old.
Early on here, let me state that am as heartbroken as I am fed up with events like the one that took place this past Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Massachusetts. I have never had children, but I am stunned at this news. I am also finding a passionate fire welling up in me, more than ever before, in terms of those in power MUST take appropriate steps in response.
One of my questions for those in power is What is it going to take for you to do the right thing for those you are supposed to serve, the American citizens? What, indeed!
Many references in the news and on political pundit shows have been to the massacres at the Aurora movie theater and at Columbine High School. To any of you who have been keeping up with the news, those markings of time -- April 1999 (Columbine), July 2012 (Aurora), and December 2012 (Sandy Hook) -- are not the only sadly significant moments of such tragedies. Here is an incomplete list of some of them:
April 20, 1999 -- Columbine High School (deadliest U.S. shooting at a high school)
March 21, 2005 -- Red Lake Senior High School
October 2, 2006 -- A one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania
April 16, 2007 -- Virginia Tech (deadliest U.S. school shooting of all time)
January 8, 2011 -- Former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and others
July 20, 2012 -- Aurora movie theater shooting
August 5, 2012 -- Oak Creek Sikh temple in Wisconsin
December 11, 2012 -- Clackamas Town Center shopping mall
December 14, 2012 -- Sandy Hook Elementary School (deadliest U.S. shooting at an elementary school)
As I said, that is only a partial list. Is that sad enough, disgusting enough, angering enough yet?
School shootings are not a phenomenon beginning at the end of the twentieth century C.E. (In fact, the first attack on a school, which was with bombs, not firearms, took place eighty-five years ago.) You could probably trace non-school-related public shootings and massacres back to the gangster era in this country...further back, a few centuries back, if you include the U.S. Civil War and the murders of Native Americans.
Face it, part of the identity of the United States of America, current culture and historic past included, is not an attention to weapons and murder, but a regard for and an obsession with weapons and murder. The idea of "frontier mentality" is not misplaced here, and feelings about the right to bear arms (the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment) within the borders of this very country differ from region to region.
Personally, I would prefer no one had weapons. That includes not only individuals, but governments and other leaders of state around the world. That is my preference. On a practical level, however, I cannot see removing all weapons as feasible, just to follow my preference. (The U.S. government, military, and police forces would keep theirs, anyway.) Since the Second Amendment guarantees the right for individuals to bear arms, I feel that anyone who is SANE, CAUTIOUS, and RESPONSIBLE should be allowed to do so. SANE, CAUTIOUS, and RESPONSIBLE are unequivocally vital!
Freedom inextricably includes responsibility, and rights include the same. Strike responsibility from the equation in any way, shape, or form, and you are no longer discussing freedoms or rights...you are declaring open season on the citizenry.
To the issue of safety, it is true that no one can be safe 100% of the time. Injury, sickness, or death can happen to anyone at any time. Parents will always try to keep their children as safe as possible. For your own lives, staying home all the time wouldn't protect you 100%, either. You might be safer than most, granted, but something can happen to you at home as well. "100% safe" is a fallacy. As President Obama said at his address at the interfaith vigil held in Newtown this past Sunday, "No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society...but that can't be an excuse for inaction." I would add that it can't be an excuse to do too little (a band-aid on a broken leg), either. Something must be done, something significant, something measurable, something far-reaching.
Far-reaching should not and must not include an undermining of the rights of the those who are sane, cautious, and responsible gun holders -- which, by the way, includes the vast majority of gun holders in this country. Punish the many for the few never has settled with me, and it won't in regard to gun control, either. To those legal and responsible owners who are afraid of such an undermining, I get it. Washington, however, better get it, too. This problem is not just guns and rifles. It includes mental health, which has been steadily given less and less necessary attention year after year for some time now. It does not include media (i.e. films, video games, etc.), as many like to place the blame, but it does on the involvement of parents telling their kids over and over again that those same movies and games are fantasy, not reality. They are escapism, not realism. I've seen hundreds of movies and television shows with violence and they have never inspired me to commit any acts of violence on another person, and I believe that the vast majority of others who see violence act in the same manner.
It also includes political structure, which means that politicians need to sever ties with gun manufacturers for their own and those companies' profits, for such is the influence of destruction. It also displays an evil distortion of "U.S. citizens" as only them and not the population at large.
The Second Amendment states: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free
state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be
infringed." What this meant at that time and for several generations after related to enforcement of laws, insurrections, invasions, national defense, self-defense, and tyrannical government. In any of the shootings I mentioned above, or any mass shooting, for that matter, tell me how the shooters are enforcing any law, protecting against insurrections or invasions, defending the country, defending themselves, or fighting a tyrannical government. The instances where any of those points were somehow reasons (and distorted reasons) for the murderers to do what they did would be few and far-between. They would be too few and far-between to do little to nothing in response.
If the conversations that lead to progress include law enforcement, gun manufacturers, the mental health community, citizen groups, and victims, then true change for the better can be had. It will be to our peril if not. On that note, I'd like to address the National Rifle Association (NRA). I have read lately that majorities of the members of the NRA would like to see changes in gun laws. However, the members do not run the NRA gun lobby; the NRA leadership does. So, the leadership needs to address this. Why hasn't the NRA publicly denounced, in no uncertain terms, these acts of violence? Why hasn't the NRA publicly stated, again in no uncertain terms, that they are for gun owners' rights, not the rights of anyone to get his/her hand on firearms? In other words, why don't they just come out and demand that the right to bear arms is not synonymous with the right to unload reason? Are they so narrow-minded that they really believe reasonability is in direct opposition to a Constitutionally-guaranteed right?
The NRA recently released a statement saying it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and
senseless murders in Newtown". It explained its silence regarding the massacre in the following way: "Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we
have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the
facts before commenting." Yes, common decency is good, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that, when NRA rallies are many times held in or near the towns in which such tragedies occur. (Note to the NRA: The mourning, prayers, and the full investigation have not ended yet. I'm just saying.) They also want to make "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
Pardon my cynicism, but I'll believe that when I see it.
It is not just those who are insane who commit these horrific acts of violence, but the state of how things are in this country that is insane. The U.S. has the highest number of gun owners in the modern, civilized world along with the highest numbers of deaths via firearms in the modern, civilized world. I have never heard any gun owner, and I know a few, give any reason why an individual MUST have weapons (and even gear) of war -- not hunting or self-defense, but war -- in their possession. I haven't heard one reasonable justification yet because there is no reasonable justification to be found. None.
Are we, as a society, sad enough, disgusted enough, angered enough yet to make the necessary changes to stop (or at least to greatly curb) this insanity? We better be.