It’s now been a week since the Connecticut shooting. I’ve been wanting to write about it but even writing now, my words seem hollow and pointless. They can’t stop anything, they can’t awake those poor dead children, they can’t stop terrible people from doing violent things. It’s been an awful week for me. It started actually with the aftertaste of the shopping center shooting a few days before that. I have a sister in Portland and it was just too close for comfort.
The Sandy Hook shooting hit close and hard. When you have a child the same age as the victims, you think, “This could have been my child.” You know how innocent and helpless they are. You picture the same thing happening to your child’s classroom. I spent a few days crying, and angry. I asked myself why this happened. Then I started researching.
The complexities of violence are not easily understood. In the past week I have had my eyes opened about how much violence happens in the United States, especially with guns. I have started looking into the complexities of mental health issues and how people lack support there.
Something has happened that has never happened before. I am actually motivated to get involved politically. The election in November was a bit of a wake up call. I wanted to vote informed and realized I didn’t know much about politics to even have an opinion on most things. I made a goal then to know more about how politics work, and to be an informed voter and citizen. So, with the shootings, I am seeking to be be more informed.
What it comes down to is that a sense of security I had was proven to be false. I can no longer trust that shootings happen to other people. Every day we risk our lives by walking out in public, going to school, shopping, etc. The sensationalist news coverage of the shootings has already spurned others to try for violence themselves. With everyone going crazy, I must try to learn more about this, and advocate for peaceful measures.
I am so thankful that in the midst of the craziness, my children are able to be children. They can play and talk and eat and not have knowledge of the terrible things that happening. They can simply enjoy life, while I sit and look out the window or read articles and know that we belong to a people who are sick and twisted. However, there is a school full of children who have had a terrible exposure to the horror. They will live with that fear for the rest of their lives, the memories of the sounds and sights that no child should ever have to see and hear. There are twenty children who not only saw and heard those things, but had their lives ended in the midst of the terror.
Their parents had to experience the terror of that phone call, the dread of the terrible hours not knowing, and the shock of the news. How could you really believe somebody telling you your child had been shot in their classroom? You did everything right as a parent, loved and cared for them, had them go to an excellent school with a wonderful teacher, and despite you doing everything right, your child was slain. The child that lived in your body, that you spent thousands of hours loving and teaching and giving to, is now gone. You would have thrown yourself in front of your child to protect them, but nobody even gave you the chance. You must now go home and stare at an empty bed, at a Christmas tree that can bring you no joy. If there are other children you have to somehow explain to them that their sibling is gone forever (because a psycho with a gun did the most hateful thing imaginable. But how could you even explain that part to a child, so you probably don’t tell them that exactly). Those parents are living a nightmare right now, and nobody on this earth would want to be in their shoes.
This week I actually had to have a conversation with my oldest two about what happened, simplified, and I had to tell them what to do in case they were ever in a situation like that. It was awful. But as much as I’d like to believe that sort of thing would never happen, it just did.
Another completely awful thing was watching how people reacted to the shootings. I saw people blaming the tragedy on the fact that public schools don’t lead prayer. I saw people blaming the tragedy on the fact that homosexuality and abortions are present in America. I saw people ripping each other up over gun control debates. I saw fear and anger and people being foolish and hurtful to others. One thing I have learned from this tragedy is that some people store hurt, anger, pride, and deceit in their hearts, and let it out on other people. Not just twisted sickos who shoot children, but people who appear decent and even go to church.
Here we are, America. We are so obsessed with violence. I read an article about how on TV and in movies, people were delaying and canceling shows left and right, because they all had violence in them that would be insensitive due to the tragedy. How many movies have been in theaters this year that feature people using guns to deal with their problems? How many movies in the past few years? What about games? With as much entertainment as Americans are exposed to, all in which gun violence serves as a necessary means, is it any wonder we have so many people shooting each other?
Then I found out how easy it is for any person to get a gun. I have never looked into this, I’ve always had zero interest in guns for any reason. But it became blatantly obvious to me that lots of people have guns, lots of people have semi-automatic assault weapons that are, essentially, designed to kill people very efficiently. I was creeped out. I didn’t even know what a semi-automatic gun was (versus any other kind of gun). But having easy access to this kind of gun and high-capacity ammunition clips made it very easy for the killer to mow down a classroom of children in a matter of minutes. Most Americans can very easily purchase these weapons, and there just aren’t very many restrictions with weapons altogether.
I understand that there are many “good” people who have guns as a hobby. By good I mean, they’d never do anything to try to kill anybody. They like hunting, or target shooting, etc. I understand that people want to be able to defend themselves. But for something that is so incredibly dangerous and deadly, why aren’t there more laws regarding how people acquire, store, and use guns? Background check loopholes exist and are exploited. It seems to me, if you have to be trained and licensed to use something like a car, or electrically wire people’s houses, or operate heavy equipment, or other dangerous things that are benign in nature when used correctly, why not for guns, which when used correctly kill things?
I took a hunter training class with a friend when I was a young teen. I did it to give moral support to her, I never actually wound up hunting. The class did not really discus the hows, it really was focused on the safety aspect, and took hunting very seriously, talking about various risks and how to avoid them. Most of it was about gun use, because guns are the riskiest aspect of hunting and need to be regarded with great care. While reading up on gun violence this week, it was very, very obvious, that there is a lot of stupidity and irresponsible behavior by gun owners, and the results are deadly. I know lots of people are trained and responsible. But why can’t we make it a requirement that before somebody brings guns and ammo home, that they know how to store and use them properly? That they are aware of how to avoid accidents by improper gun storage and handling? Many Americans lack common sense.
I also don’t see why the general public need to own highly deadly assault weapons in general.
Will adding more laws prevent gun violence completely? Of course not. But will it prevent some of it? Yes, I believe it will. That’s why we pass laws. As long as they are enforced at the various levels of gun purchasing options, we can make sure that more people who own guns know more about them. We can help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We pass laws about all sorts of things, from speeding to drug use. I don’t understand why guns should be any different. By making violence harder to accomplish, less violence will happen. By educating people more, we raise awareness and help them avoid stupidity, like letting your mentally ill children have access to weapons. I know many people who own and use guns responsibly. I don’t think more laws will hurt people who have good motivations. It may slow down the gun acquiring process, but there’s little significantly detrimentally about that, especially if the tradeoff is making it harder for risky people to acquire deadly weapons, or helping somebody wise up about how they store their weapons. Perhaps training for people who already have weapons wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
And of course, guns are not the only issue here. Like I said before, mental health services and access needs a hard look at, and I’ve been trying to look into it. It’s tricky because it’s not something cut and dry. For the acts of mass gun violence committed over the past years, there hasn’t been a lot of obvious signals ahead of time for other people to recognize and treat.This is something that needs a lot more research. Mental health access is something I am studying as well.
Parents need to look at what sort of mindsets they are presenting to their children, or exposing them to through entertainment, when it comes to things about problem solving, and working through life. I really think this sort of violence is really out of grasp to most people, and that’s a good thing. However, hurting others in general is not. I really think as humans we need to work hard to promote peace. It seems to be many people’s default to hurt other people to get what they want. To change that, we need to start with love and peace with the youngest of us, and keep it up through their lives. Managing conflict, compromise, and prioritizing are very hard skills to acquire, so we need to stay strong in teaching and learning as people.
It’s very alarming how the the media sensationalized the killing. I understand people need information, but hours-long, and days-long coverage of every single detail? I believe this serves to glorify this in everyone’s mind. There has been rumors of more school shootings flying about like crazy.
So, in regards to my many thoughts regarding certain issue, I did things this week I have never done before. I sent emails to my governor, my Congress Representative Peter Defazio, and President Obama. I also signed some petitions on the White House website. Yesterday I received an email back from Rep. Defazio, and today I received one from the White House. It really encouraged me that even though I am one small voice, there are people listening. There is a meeting of Congress in January, and issues will come up.
I am continuing to research this issue. Why? My children are walking around out in the world. I cannot put a force field around them to protect them from whackos. But I can fight to make this country a safer place for them to be. I can encourage them to be peaceful people, and hopefully encourage others as well. There are many ways of solving problems.
Unfortunately, none of them can bring back those precious lives lost a week ago. We mourn the 20 children, the six adults, and the shooter himself. Yes, he did an awful thing. We cannot imagine the sickness of the inside of his head. It’s something to mourn that he could not live a life of peace. We don’t mourn it in the same way we mourn the people he killed, but it’s sobering nonetheless, and we all wished he had chosen a different path.
So if I can take anything good out of this week, it’s more awareness. It’s a determination to change things for the better. It’s an appreciation for every moment with my children, and how precious and beautiful life is.
DISCLAIMER: I understand you may disagree with some of my stances. I am not going to debate about it. You are welcome to your own opinions, as I am. I have purposely not been posting things about it on facebook due to the fact that I believe heated arguments about things I feel strongly about are a very bad idea right now and could lead to personal conflict. It’s not worth it. It won’t really change anybody’s mind. The best way to learn is not a heated argument with somebody. If you disagree, that’s fine. But keep in mind that people are taking things very personally and freaking out a lot on every side of every debate right now, so if you disagree with them, go tell somebody who can do something about it rather than just trashing a relationship. I talk about it here, because this is my blog, my thoughts, my experience.