The horrific shootings last weekend in Santa Barbara, which claimed the lives of six young people, have left many of us shaken, confused, and feeling incredibly sad for the innocent victims and their families and peers. The shooter, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, reportedly showed signs of being unhinged for some time before he drove around Isla Vista and randomly shot and killed people around the UC Santa Barbara campus. He posted several videos in which he unleashed his rage at women for not wanting him sexually. And still, despite his family's efforts to intervene, Elliot was unable to be stopped from committing mass murder.
One of the shooting victims' fathers recently spoke in public about his son's senseless death. And his tearful and heartbreaking message is a reminder to all parents that it's our duty to do something.
Richard Martinez opened up to reporters about the killing of his 20-year-old son Christopher and the five other victims in this tragedy. While weeping uncontrollably, Martinez railed against lobbyists who fight the move to enforce stricter gun laws. He questioned, and rightfully so, why gun rights are considered more important by some than his son's right to live.
Martinez pulled out a photo of his only child and shared that he was planning to travel to London next year and attend law school after graduation because he wanted to be an attorney like his dad. He also said something that many -- maybe all -- parents who have had something tragic happen to their child have likely said: "You don't think it'll happen to your child until it does."
How many times have we witnessed something horrible happen to somebody else's kid and think, That's really sad ... but what can I do? I know I do it all the time. After learning about Sandy Hook, I couldn't help but bawl every time I thought about one of those sweet babies dying at the hands of killer Adam Lanza. He had no right to strip them of their lives -- to rip their parents' hearts out and change their worlds forever.
But what was I doing to help prevent it from happening again? Absolutely nothing. I believe in stricter gun laws, but was I making an effort to become politically involved in a way that could make a difference? No. I wasn't even aware of which politicians believed in enforcing stricter gun laws, so what help was I?
What happened in Santa Barbara and Newtown -- what happened 15 years ago in Columbine -- is not a problem that only a specific group of unlucky parents should have to deal with. It's a social problem. It's a problem we all share, whether we know it or not. Because, as Martinez reminded us, something like this could happen to any one of us, and neither good health nor economic fortune can shield us.
And the problems that affect our kids aren't limited to shootings and tragedies that make headlines. The moment we find out someone we love has a child who is suffering from a disease, it changes our entire outlook on life. If we weren't those people before -- the amazing ones who will happily run, walk, or show up at 5 a.m. somewhere in order to raise awareness and money for an illness -- we become them.
But those of us who have been fortunate enough not to have to deal with sickness should also keep in mind that doing something -- anything, no matter how small -- is doing something for ALL children.
This video of Martinez speaking about his son's death is difficult but also incredibly important to watch:
What do you think we can do to help prevent incidents like the mass shooting in Santa Barbara from happening again?
Image via Jae C. Hong/AP/Corbis