Normally this blog would be dedicated to my take on the writing craft, but the senseless and horrifying tragedy that unfolded yesterday in Newtown, CT left me angered. Among the dead were 20 school children, between the ages of 5 and 10. My daughter is 5. One of those victims, hypothetically speaking, could have been my daughter.
Last night, at a holiday party, the topic of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary came up, in hushed tones. One person did pipe up. “All the Governor wants to talk about is gun control. We need to be talking about those helpless children.” My wife countered, you’d be having that conversation about gun control if it were your children who got shot.
“Now’s not the time,” she replied. Clearly, she didn’t like having her opinion challenged.
But when is the time? Wasn’t Columbine, 1999, supposed to have been the time? virginia Tech, 2007? Tucson, 2011? Aurora, last July?
Is it going to take 20 dead children to finally have a serious, thoughtful, and legitimate conversation about gun control?
I grew up around gun violence. Too many people, teenagers, really, had access to illegal guns. Guns made them feel like kings, and who will challenge the will of the king when the king wields a gun? I’d seen too many instances where turf battles ended with someone getting shot. Too many gangbangers ending up either in wheelchairs, or dead. Remember, this was New York City in the late 70s and much of the 1980s. It was a dangerous place to live. Things have changed, thankfully.
Where I live, out in the boonies, you can often times hear gunshots. This isn’t gun violence taking place. It’s just a few locals shooting off a few rounds in the nearby woods, but the sounds of gun fire unnerve me. The gunfire isn’t close enough to harm me or my family in any way, but it’s unnerving nonetheless.
You would think I’d be anti-gun, but I’m not. I’m all for your right to own a gun, as long as you own it for the right reasons, and use it and store it in a responsible fashion. I’m a Constitutionalist at heart. For me to be anti-gun would be contrary to my strong support for the Constitution. But sometimes we have to question whether the right to own a gun is the same thing as the responsibility towards owning a gun.
It’s become too easy in our country to settle our differences through the use of guns. Case in point, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher. At what point did Belcher think resolving an argument with his girlfriend over her staying out late against his wishes (which is another story for another day) meant shooting her dead, then committing suicide?
The common thread here, however, is that the guns that were used by Adam Lanza to perpetrate his massacre were obtained legally, including the AR-15 Bushmaster. Which begs the question, why is it that a semi-automatic assault rifle like the AR-15, designed for usage by the military and law enforcement, is readily available for ownership by anyone that has a gun permit? Because it’s the law, that’s why, not the Second Amendment. The AR-15 is designated as a “rifle,” just like your grandfather’s Remington. As long as it’s legal, anyone can own an AR-15. Anyone can own a gun, as long as they obtain it legally. Javon Belcher obtained his legally. So did the Aurora shooter. So did the Columbine shooters. So did the VIrginia Tech shooter. And so on and so on.
Still, that doesn’t answer the why. Why did this tragedy have to happen in the first place?
Banning guns is not the answer. It’s a right provided to us by the Second Amendment, and by rights, we are entitled to bear arms, plain and simple. However, the Second Amendment does call for “well-regulated” gun control, which pro-gun advocates seem too often too willing to ignore. The gun lobby’s justifications aren’t the answer either. This is not the time for gun lobbyists and enthusiasts to use this tragedy to pound the “THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE MY GUNS AWAY!” drumbeats. It’s a canard based on fear and nothing else, and they know it works. Keep the citizenry frightened, it seems.
Affirmation, not information, right?
The Second Amendment has been and always will be the Gordian Knot of the conversation. Yes, owning guns is a right granted to us by the Constitution. We can argue until the end of time what our founding fathers intended when they recommended this right be granted to the citizenry. But owning a gun has in itself a far greater responsibility that, say, owning a car. My right to own a car is a privilege, but in order for me to drive that car, I have to take driving lessons, undergo several driving safety courses, and pass a driving test. Not quite the most rigourous test, but these steps have to be taken in order for me to drive my car. The Constitution grants me the right to own a gun. In order for me to possess a gun, I have to fill out some paperwork and await a vetting process. There’s no safety class. No proper shooting technique. And why is that? Is it because we in the United States worship guns? In a word, yes. We fetishize violence. But we have to ask ourselves why. Why are we a people that believe our right to bear arms means unfettered access to semi-automatic assault weapons? Why is it that we require anyone who wants to drive a car to undergo a series of tests to earn a driver’s license, but anyone can fill out the required paperwork and await word on whether or not they can own a gun?
But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
Now is not the time for hysteria and finger-pointing. There are 20 dead children to be buried, 20 pairs of parents whose grief cannot possibly be measured. Not to mention the grief and confusion the father of the shooted and the husband of the shooter’s mother must be feeling right now. Now is not the time for empty rhetoric and false promises. But the time will come, and it’s incumbent upon all of us, parents and spouses, voters and elected officials, lobbyists and concerned citizens, to have a measured, intelligent, and MATURE conversation about what gun control means, without compromise, without the taint of lobbying and money.
We will have that conversation, one way or another, because we owe it to 20 defenseless children, 6 adults, and their families, to have that conversation. And for the sake of the thousands who have needlessly been killed by gun violence.