It's not too early to start talking about gun control, it's too late
By Trish Sammer on December 15, 2012
I saw several variations of that headline yesterday in other places. I agree wholeheartedly (and I apologize for any plagiarism I'm committing here -- can't recall where I saw it).
The idea is that whenever these massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary happen, people go, "It's too soon to talk about gun control! Give people time to grieve! Don't play politics with a tragedy!"
But if we've got a school full of dead children and teachers, maybe it's not too soon to talk about gun control, it's too late.
It happened to all of us
One of my Facebook friends yesterday put up a status update that said "I just can't stop crying." I think a lot of us are feeling that way. It's 8:05 AM and I've already cried at least twice this morning. I woke up thinking, "Those poor people are waking up to this again -- if they slept all. It didn't all go away overnight."
Like many parents, in my head, this thing didn't happen at some elementary school in Connecticut, it happened at my daughter's elementary school. In my head, I was the one getting the robocall that there had been a shooting. I was the one rushing to the school, barely able to contain my panic, desperate to see her scared little face among all the other scared little faces. Praying, begging, please God, let my baby be OK. Let me see her face.
I know I'm not alone in this.
This event yesterday in Connecticut didn't just happen to one community, it happened to all of us.
Good night, little children
CNN reported late last night that all the bodies were still in the school because it was an active crime scene. The authorities hoped to be able to remove them today.
How could those children's parents stand that news? That their children were going to pass the cold, dark night in their former school, which had been transformed into a tomb. If it were me, I would've wanted to stay in the parking lot all night. I would've wanted to be close. I would've wanted her to know that if I couldn't come inside and find her and scoop her into my arms, I was going to be as close as I could.
It is entirely unbearable. All of it.
It's well past time
So, as I mentioned above, there's a lot of talk going around that boils down to "HEY! Was this gruesome enough for everybody? Can we talk about gun control NOW?"
I'm not well-versed enough on gun laws to have an intelligent conversation about them. But here are some of my thoughts on guns:
I don't mind hunters having guns.
If people want to go to shooting ranges and blow things to bits in controlled environments, have at it.
The 2nd Amendment says: 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.
Seems to me that people are blowing past the phrase "well-regulated."
Is it too much to ask for some stronger controls? I'm not saying we need to go take everyone's guns, but I am asking that we be a little smarter about who can buy -- and what they're allowed to own.
My reality is not everyone's reality
I know that there are people in this country right now who believe that President Obama is going to knock on their doors, take their guns and their Bibles, do some sort of oogedy-boogedy ritual of Muslim origin in their living rooms and then sodomize their dogs on his way out.
While I have a hard time fathoming that train of thought, I understand that to these people, the threat of the government encroaching on their lives like this is REAL. It is their reality. And to these people, regulating guns seems like just more evidence that the government has some secret plans to oppress and control all of us.
I get that. They want the right to be prepared ... just in case.
Perhaps it's because I grew up hearing stories of WWII Germany and Poland, but I respect the fact that the status quo never stays in place for long. Shit happens. Things get dangerous. In those cases, you should have the right to protect your family.
But how can we allow people to do what they need to do to feel safe, while drawing a very definite line that keeps assault weapons out of the hands of people who are bent on killing?
The argument that makes me nuts
I don't have those answers. But there's one argument that I would really like people to carefully consider before they start rolling it out. And I heard a lot of this yesterday, on Facebok and on TV:
If more people had guns, then they could stop these crazed maniacs when they start killing people.
People, please. Please, please, please.
Let's get rid of the idea that there will be a cadre of well-trained, virtuous superheroes living among us who will jump in and save the day when the shooting starts. It's pretty unlikely.
Think of who you're saying should have guns -- the people around you everyday:
The dude who can't manage to drive through a four-way stop sign without hosing up traffic.
The lady who still tries to pay with checks at the grocery store.
Your idiot coworker who always manages to explode his lunch in the microwave and then doesn't clean it up.
Your annoying neighbor who still has Easter decorations out in December and whose dog poops all over your lawn.
All the people whose photos appear on the "People of Wal-Mart" Facebook page.
Not everyone is super smart, super skilled, or super heroic.
Giving more people guns is a recipe for more Trayvon Martin situations, where some overblown "citizen soldier" takes matters into his own hands, makes a bad assumption, and innocent people get killed.
I call bullshit on that.
When I was a teenager, I worked with a girl whose boyfriend was shot in the leg and killed right in front of her. It wasn't on a street corner. It wasn't over a drug deal.
They were at a party. Someone brought out a gun and the kids started passing it around to check it out. It went off. It hit an artery in the kid's leg and, if memory serves, he bled to death before emergency responders arrived.
More guns seems like a bad idea. A crazy bad idea.
This is a huge, complicated issue but it's one we have to sort out. Have to.
There's no way to adequately convey my sympathy for the people involved in the events at Sandy Hook Elementary. I wish them all some measure of peace as they move through this time.
As a writer, I believe in the power of words. But sometimes there just aren't any.
Trish Sammer Johnston
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