Out of Control

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of Tori’s death, caused by something we couldn’t stop or control.

Yesterday, three sets of parents lost their children to something they couldn’t stop or control.

The difference in these situations is that the deaths yesterday COULD have been stopped/prevented but few in power are willing to take action.

Despite the fact that I identified with the Republican Party for most of my life until recent years, I never agreed with their infatuation with guns. I didn’t grow up in a family that used them much (and even then it was only for hunting), my parents didn’t own any, and I didn’t (don’t) see a need for them.

So now that we’ve had more mass shootings in 2023 than days, I’ve been thinking through it all again. I already lost a child to something I couldn’t control, and as we prepare to send our boys to kindergarten in the fall, I am nervous.

(And I’m going to be bold because I usually stay quiet about guns because of the strong opinions around me. It’s no longer okay to fear what others will think when it’s something as serious as this. Try to listen to understand even when you don’t want to.)

I haven’t been able to fully articulate this yet, but I can’t help but see a connection between all of this:

  • School/mass shootings happen (sometimes because of mental health issues) which lead to fear and trauma and mental health issues for those involved but also society collectively
  • People cling to their guns out of fear disguised as “Constitutional rights” despite there being NO need for assault rifles
  • That fear (also of losing elections and NRA funding) leads to a stunning lack of action and dismissal of ideas which leads to more school shootings, mental health issues, etc.

Fear is the common denominator.

This may not be ground-breaking but it’s the first time I’ve really thought through it.

Columbine happened during my sophomore year of high school so I remember the beginning of active shooter drills. We were used to fire drills and earthquake drills, but this was different. I specifically remember not being able to tell the difference in sound between fire and active shooter alarms and wondering if we were supposed to run or hide.

It was stressful as teens; I cannot imagine the impact that has on little kids. 😞

Sure, we have a mental health problem here. But two things can be true at the same time: we have mental health issues, AND we have a gun problem. It’s also noteworthy that Republicans recently rejected federal legislation to increase mental health services in schools despite that being their go-to argument against gun reform.

All of this is made worse by the hyperpartisanship I’ve talked about for years now – how dare we admit that the other party just might have a good solution to a major problem? Why would we want to work together when that doesn’t rile people up and bring in donations? Look at how much Trump has raised since he claimed he was going to be arrested? FEAR SELLS, working together for the common good doesn’t.

What solutions do I see?

First, I look to the experts on this because I am not one (and likely you aren’t, either). Groups like EveryTown, Moms Demand Action, violence epidemiologists, The Violence Project, etc. have all studied this and made common-sense suggestions. Look to the experts, not the arm-chair activists who only want what serves their interests.

Campaign Finance Reform would certainly help politicians be more willing to do what’s right instead of what keeps them elected. Reducing funds from groups like the NRA would help – there’s certainly a conflict of interest there.

We’ve got to stop making gun ownership part of one’s identity. It wasn’t like this thirty years ago. There were deliberate marketing efforts to make gun culture a thing.

I firmly support an assault weapons ban. No one needs them. Our children are more important than a gun. Let’s offer a voluntary, no-strings-attached buy-back of those weapons. Let’s do SOMETHING because what we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working.

And I don’t want to hear the usual sentiments that remove any responsibility from us (criminals will get guns if they want them, it’s our Second Amendment right, etc.): we owe it to ourselves and our children to do the right thing and TRY. If laws didn’t work for anything, we wouldn’t pass and enact them. We need firm, common-sense gun reform that makes it more difficult to obtain a gun. And there should be restrictions on what kind of gun can be purchased. Just because you’re a “good person” or a “law-abiding citizen” doesn’t mean you should be able to own a weapon meant for mass destruction.

I do not understand the Republican (and evangelical) obsession with assault rifles and the Second Amendment. It’s so contradictory to me: Love your neighbor but everyone should be allowed to have a gun that can kill dozens in a matter of seconds just in case you need to kill an intruder in your home. Let’s ban books and make up imaginary problems to solve so that we can ignore the ACTUAL issues at hand, like the fact that children are more likely to die from guns than anything else. And, let’s put more pressure/responsibility on underpaid and overworked teachers – maybe even arm them – even though conservatives don’t trust them with what books are in the classroom. I just don’t get it.

This may be out of control, but it isn’t outside of our collective control. We NEED firmer gun laws, NOW. Call your senators and congresspeople and make your opinion known – they are supposed to REPRESENT US, not control us.

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