Out of a sense of helplessness after the mass shooting of little children in Connecticut, I posted some links and quotes about gun control on my Facebook wall. I was surprised at how easily I got sucked into the polarizing dialogue about gun control and how often I saw the line “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
I posted a counter quote in one dialogue, “guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people and people without guns generally don’t,” but I think it got taken for a pro-gun statement and got “liked” by people who missed the point.
In the first few hours after I learned about the shootings I had a hard time accessing my full empathy, because, frankly, I was pissed off. But I know that anger pushes us to action and that underneath it is grief.
I was looking for help to channel my shock and outrage and my search wasn’t in vain. I found the best op-ed commentary on gun control that I have seen so far, “Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?” by Nicholas Kristof. It began: “In the harrowing aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, one thought wells in my mind: Why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?” It concluded with an outline of what can be done and what has worked in other countries.
After reading about some middle-ground gun control measures that can be taken and reading headlines like: “After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since,” I was able to let Mr. Rogers’ words sink in:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
And then I was finally able to cry when I read about School teacher Vicki Soto who died shielding her young students from the shootings.
I’ve always embraced the wisdom of Gandhi and Martin Luther King on non-violence, at least for movements and in theory, but I’m not necessarily a pacifist. My husband is a hunter, and I’m happy for the meat he brings home. I’m not proposing a ban on all guns, just the automatic and semi-automatic assault ones meant to kill lots of people at once, and at the very least, I think weapons of mass destruction should be harder to get.
The NRA has lobbied and campaigned hard, so that gun control, like abortion rights, has become almost taboo to talk about. They have made it their business to convince many gun owners of the incorrect notion that gun control advocates want to ban guns all together. Why? As Joshua Holland wrote in a recent commentary for AlterNet, Yes We Can Have Sane Gun Control Without Trampling Gun Owners Rights, “Because fear mongering brings a windfall of fundraising to its organization and expands the market for the arms manufacturers.”
I live in one of the 33 states where anyone – felons, terrorists, or the mentally ill – can go to a gun show and buy a military style AK rifle without showing an ID, never mind a background check. And so, I agree with prominent gun rights advocate Senator Joe Manchin, who had a change of heart after the shootings, when he says it’s time to discuss gun policy and move toward action on gun regulation because “this doesn’t make sense.”
I know that easy access to guns is not the only thing wrong with our society, but curbing the influx of assault weapons is an obvious place to start addressing the problem at hand. Why should guns be exempt from regulatory protections? “American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill,” Kristoff pointd out.
I still can’t look at the faces of the beautiful children who are gone now, and am not ready for the televised memorial tributes, as well intended as they are. All I want to do is look for signs that something will be done. I find some comfort when someone like Joe Scarborough, another gun rights advocate who has had a change of heart on gun control, says “From this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again. We all must begin anew and demand that Washington’s old way of doing business is no longer acceptable.”
If we do nothing, I think the next massacre is just around the corner. In the same way that the next extreme weather event will occur, if we do nothing about global warming. If we can pass stricter gun laws for automatic weapons, shootings will likely still happen. And the next extreme weather event will occur, whether or not we curb our greenhouse gases. But I think in both cases positive action can lessen the degree of carnage. And I’m all for that.
Post Note: Watch THIS video made by Colin Goddard, a former Virginia Tech student who was shot during the Virginia Tech shootings, who, to raise awareness about our country’s lack of gun control, went to gun shows all over the country and was able to buy a military style arsenal (including an AK-47 assault rifle) without any questions asked. Just looking at the guns he bought gives me the horrors.