First, the obvious: thoughts, prayers, hugs, feelings and tears are all pouring out to the residents of Newtown, Connecticut. With this many victims in such a small town, everyone will know someone that is affected.
(Before I proceed, I gotta warn you: there is some “language” included in this post. Raw emotions in people bring it out…)
Second, while visiting Twitter as the heavy news was breaking in the 1:00 hour today, I was just stunned at the blatant and lightning-quick politicization of this tragedy. Just take a look at some of the tweets I saved:
Folks, this is just nuts. People that love guns and people that hate guns should just give it a rest today… and these tweets were captured just hours after the shooting, just minutes after news began to break. But it’s not surprising… the same thing happens after every tragedy like this. As Rahm Emanual proclaimed, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Luckily, the White House quickly tamped down any of their own posturing on the issue of guns in America:
As did a few smart people on Twitter, including this one:
I’ve never shot a gun. I don’t own a gun. There’s a huge number of people in my family that hunt— and I’d love to join them some time, I really would. I’ve just never been invited.
A friend of mine’s mother is the most liberal person you’d ever meet. And she owns a gun. She feels it is her right— and it is. She feels it makes her safer— any maybe it does. The neighborhood in which we both live has steadily declined over the years and I often think about going to get some protection of my own.
Yet there is a difference in handguns used for protection, rifles used for hunting deer… and assault weapons, which are used for, as the name applies, assault.
So where do we draw the line on gun control? What do all of those Twitterers above want to do? Take away all the guns? I’ve seen some folks talking about actually arming our teachers, like they have done in some middle eastern countries. I just don’t know if that’s the answer, either.
And as my mind was reeling on gun control, after being bombarded with all those tweets, I thought of my own experiences in visiting schools… wondering if this whole thing comes down to school security? As you may know, I finished a National Tour of elementary schools this fall. Every day, I would visit two or more schools to read my book, Pete the Popcorn. I’m not an expert on school safety, but after visiting so many schools, I do have a particular insight on the varying levels of security. This afternoon, I posted on Facebook:
And then one of my friends replied something that I found to be very insightful and got me thinking more than I had all day today:
She’s right: kids shouldn’t be at risk. Period. End of story. Our society needs to be examined to its core.
So is this about guns? No. If somebody wants a gun to hurt someone, they’re going to get a gun to hurt someone.
Is this about security in our schools? No. This lunatic in Connecticut would have gotten past security with the weaponry he was carrying.
So what is this about? I think it boils down to mental health. Of the top 12 (ranked by number of lives lost…) shootings in this country, 6 have now happened since 2007. 6 of the deadliest massacres have happened in the last five years… There is some sort of shift happening where people are being immersed in a culture of violence.
Is it the wars that we’ve lived with for the past decade? The raging violence in video games and music? A feeling of pure desperation gripping people, with the economy stagnant?
There is something telling about those 6 deadliest massacres:
Gunman was 24 Gunman was 20.
Virginia Tech, Virgina- Gunman was 23.
Binghamton, New York- Gunman was 41.
Fort Hood, Texas- Gunman was 39, though I still believe this is to be considered an act of terrorism– not a “typical” shooting.
Aurora, Colorado- Gunman was 24.
Geneva County, Alabama- Gunman was 28.
In 4 of these, the responsible nutcase was a male under the age of 30. People under the age of 30 really have grown up in a culture of pure violence– I’m 30, I should know. When I was in high school, the “culture wars” of the 1990’s were raging. As a teenager, I heard about it all the time: the violence in movies, the blood seen every night on television and news, rap songs about murder and rape. As a kid, of course I believed that none of this mattered.
Well, maybe it did matter— and we are now seeing the results— a deterioration of mental health among younger men in this country. This seems like a viable answer to me… but how do solve it? Not through gun laws. Not through enhanced school security measures. Not through the arming of our teachers. To fix this problem, it will take a huge reflection by this country as a whole— a reflection on who we are as a nation and what we believe in and what we will tolerate. This isn’t an easy answer. Passing a big bunch of new laws would be a whole hell of a lot easier for politicians… but new laws will not help. They seldom do. You can’t legislate crazy.
But today is not the day to be thinking about any of this. Today, we need to stop, breathe and reflect on young children in our lives. And say a prayer… really say a prayer… for those parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends that have a huge hole in their world this evening.
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