The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut is every parent's worst nightmare. Like everyone else in this country, I spent yesterday glued to my television, heartbroken, sobbing intermittently. What monster does this to children?
And then another question, a darker one, one that every parent and citizen of the United States should be asking: Are we to blame?
When James Holmes finished shooting up a movie theater during a premiere of the film Dark Knight Rises last July, 12 people were dead and dozens more injured and we were told: now is not the time to talk about gun control. We listened then. Stunned and stupid. And then it kept happening.
In 2012 alone, there was the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin, another in a coffee bar in Seattle, another in a college in California, and then, just a few days ago a gunman shot up a mall in Oregon. It all begs the question: When IS the time? One of the three days a year there isn't a mass shooting?
Like many parents, I hugged my children a little longer last night. After they fell asleep, I went into their room. I looked at my own Kindergartner, safe in her bed, thumb in mouth, blanket wound around her little head like a towel. She was soft and warm. She was safe. Thank God. But then I thought of those other Kindergartners who never came home.
I thought of them still lying in a cold classroom. I thought of parents who could not even hold the broken bodies of their babies. All the times my daughter has been sick I have held her, rocked her, and wiped her tears. I have kissed boo boos and applied bandages and held her body in all its many forms from babyhood to now. It was all gone in a second for those parents. One flick of a finger and all those years of nurturing mean nothing. Just like that.
I wept for them. I prayed. I asked why. But I want to do more. I want to finally -- FINALLY! -- take a stand.
I want to give my children a better country than the one in which we currently reside. It was not enough to shoot up a movie theater. There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine and no one has done a damn thing to enact change. The death of children is just the continued price we pay for our fear around this issue. Why is this the third rail of politics? Why is it NEVER the time to talk about it?
Let's not upset the gun lobby. They have guns, after all. In case you are wondering, the National Rifle Association's "official" comment was not to have a comment yesterday. There were not even condolences for those innocent lives lost at the end of a gun. There was nothing. Only silence. And that is what they expect from us, too. They expect us to roll right over and be silent as usual.
But we won't be this time. We can't be. It is too dangerous. The NRA is a powerful lobby and their allies have given us the best language to deal with these issues. "Gun control" has become "gun rights." "Respect" for the victims means "not politicizing" it. And yet, we must. We must lift the veil on guns and the way people value their "right to bear arms" over the rights of school children to attend school safely and without harm.
There is so much misinformation swirling around about guns, it's maddening. But let's clear a few things up right now:
The facts are plain and simple, but the gun lobby has distorted them for years. We need to stand up for them and stop allowing lies and distortions to permeate our conversation about guns. A knife-wielding man in China stabbed 22 school children yesterday. It was tragic, devastating, and terrifying for all those parents, I am sure. But those kids lived. They survived. Guns make it easier to perpetuate killing on a massive scale. Anyone who says a madman will find a way to kill if he can't get guns is right. But our lax gun laws make it a hell of a lot easier. Is this really the world we want to pass on to our beautiful babies?
If we can't change our society for the innocent shoppers in a crowded mall or the weakened and ill patients in an Alabama hospital (because, yes, there was another shooting TODAY), let's do it for our kids. Let's do it for those of us who are too young to lobby or fight and whose only knowledge of insanity and weaponry is tinged with bits of magic and heroism. Their worlds are simple. And this should be simple, too: Make guns harder to obtain. Let's ban assault weapons and stop permitting this ridiculous love of guns and violence to permeate our culture and harm our children without repercussion.
Obviously, guns are not the only culprits here. We also need to look at how mental health is handled in this country. But it's a pretty excellent place to start.
Let's all agree this is not a partisan issue, but a righteous one. Let's do this for the many kids who should never have to know the horror of a gun in their face, who should never miss this Christmas and every one after it because a troubled young man had access to his mother's legally obtained guns.
Please President Obama, do something. Do it now. Don't speak to us as a father. Speak to us as a President and get it done. Let's do it now because if not right now, then when? How many more of these must we endure?
Do you support better gun control laws?
Image via sidewalk flying/Flickr