Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Nation Weeps, Again

The shooting today in Newtown, Connecticut, has left the nation shocked, stunned, and, in some cases, speechless.  What do the parents of the surviving children in Adam Lanza's rampage at an elementary school say to the parents who have lost a child to a bullet fired from a semi-automatic weapon?  It is all too horrible.  An entire small town in New England is scarred from this.  And the only thing most of us know to do now is to offer up prayers for the parents, children, community and the Lanza family, as they enter into this new version of reality.

But once we have turned our minds to God, and made our petitions for healing for those affected by this tragedy, we must, as a nation, turn the mirror and look at ourselves to that burning question, "Why did this happen?"  

We are country obsessed with our guns, and we have been told by the National Rifle Association that our second amendment grants us the right to have as many guns of whatever fire power we want.  Some places may have waiting periods, but what's that to someone who is plotting to murder his mother and then shoot the children in her class? (BTW,  I don't know if CT has a waiting period for purchasing guns.)  In this case, Adam Lanza didn't have to wait.  The guns, all three semi-automatic weapons, were readily available in his home that he shared with his mother.  And all three were registered to his mom, who then fell victim in her own home to her own gun.  Which begs the question, "Why did a kindergarten teacher own two semi-automatic, multiple-shooter, pistols and a semi-automatic assault rifle?"   These are weapons that are used by the Secret Service and SWAT teams.  Where is the need for this kind of in-the-home weaponry?

We look to our leaders to do something at times like these, but they are often silent, or preferring to label this sort of thing a "random act of a deranged person."  This is a convenient side-step of the burning issue of gun obsession: say that the shooter was mentally ill, and make much noise about how now is not the time for gun control.  Well, pardon me, but I believe now is the time. Actually, the time was at the shooting of Lincoln.  Or perhaps it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or Bobby Kennedy, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or the kids at Columbine High School, or the Luby's massacre in Texas, or the Virginia Tech shooting, or at the Gabrielle Giffords event in Tuscon, or the mosque in Milwaukee, or the movie theater in Aurora, or the mall in Portland, Oregon, and the list can go on and on.  

Here in this city, a group called "Leadership Tallahassee", which seems aimed at the up-and-coming and well-connected in our community, does an outing to the Leon County Sheriff's Department.  There, the group gets to go to the shooting range and do target practice.  One friend I knew who participated in this program was delighted with the opportunity and the feeling of firing a gun. It was "exciting".   In Hawaii, there are several shooting galleries on the main streets in Honolulu, catering to Japanese tourists, so that they, too, can experience that thrill of being like an American and taking aim at targets.  Nothing says America like a gun, right.

It's because of all of these things that I somehow doubt anything is really going to change in the wake of this horror show in Newtown, CT.  There is no will to change.  There is no desire to restrict who may own a semi-automatic weapon.  People will continue to point to mental illness as the real culprit, but strangely, it's the same folks who oppose stricter regulation of guns that also don't want to spend money on any health care reform, let alone mental health care.  The statistics that show that other industrial countries with stricter gun laws have less gun violence will be ignored.   And the tired mantra of the NRA ("Guns don't kill people; people kill people") will get trotted out to protect that endangered species, the firearm, from extinction in the United States.

In order for us to get a handle on this kind of mass shooting violence, our political leaders must turn down the campaign contributions from the NRA, and get serious about re-enacting the ban on assault weapons, and no longer allowing ordinary citizens to have access to semi-automatic pistols and rifles.  Nobody needs a gun like that to go hunting for duck and deer.  There needs to be stricter regulations on licenses as to who may have a gun.   And there should be a mechanism to prevent people from stockpiling weapons like what happened in Aurora.

These are the should happens.  What will happen?  I'm afraid it will simply be more tears, more funerals, and more expressions of outrage at a senseless tragedy.  I hope I'm proven wrong. 


Anonymous said...

I think the President tonight made a statement that says I think he is finally going to make a stand, Susan. I hope so. By the way, this unfortunate young man shot his Mother in the face to kill her, nice, right. I have shot a small rifle a 22 and it wasn't thrilling. Let's hope we can stop the NRA and get things right for a change.


SCG said...

I hope we can put the NRA in its place, but it is going to take a coalition of other interests to make that happen. As for shooting guns, I hate them. I don't want them. And I don't think any citizen, save for a sworn law enforcement officer, needs to have a gun of such magnitude in their home. Gun collectors can learn to take up a new hobby: stamps, coins, lint balls. Sorry. I'm done with protecting a right to own an assault rifle.