Thoughts on Newtown + Song of Saturday #17

Yesterday I was horrified to learn of the events of Newtown, CT. The idea that anyone could do such a terrible, horrific thing shocks me and literally makes me want to vomit. I don’t think I need to emphasize the tragedy of 20 kids–small, elementary-school age children–and several others being shot in front of their peers, classmates, and students. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. They have been in my thoughts constantly for the past two days and remind me how grateful I am for my family, my friends, and my life. Such events trivialize my daily struggles and cause me to stop and reflect on what’s really important in this world.

Something that’s occurred to me is that this is the second time in a year I’ve sat down to write about a tragic shooting. You know what? That’s not okay. It’s not that it’s not okay I’m ranting about something like this. It’s that it’s not okay that such an event has happened multiple times. I think it’s yet another example of how blatantly America needs to get on its feet and talk about what can be done to prevent another one. After these shootings, people say, No, we can’t politicize this. We need to stay quiet and honor the victims before we can talk about gun laws or anything of the sort.

When is it okay then? These children’s families are never going to ever fully get over their children’s deaths. They may find closure eventually, and I sincerely hope they do. I’m not going to pretend I have the faintest idea of what they’re going through, but I sincerely hope they can make it through the initial blinding grief and at least make some peace. So how long must we wait before the discussion opens up? Is it going to take until another mass shooting like this, another horrific tragedy, happens? I don’t think we can wait that long.

Let’s not jump down each other’s throats. Let’s not point fingers across the aisle; this is not a partisan issue. Instead, let’s get together and talk. Let’s make it harder to get a gun. Maybe let’s make it easier to get access to mental healthcare, as usual political satirist Andy Borowitz said. Was there any reason his mother had to keep five guns in the house? I’m all for a small handgun stored somewhere in the home for self-defense in the event of a break-in. But explain to me why you need a gun in a mall, a movie theatre, a church. Explain to me why anyone needs to keep an assault rifle. Explain to me why some people think the solution might be more guns. I understand that even without guns there can still be attacks and murders. I understand the point people try to make with the saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I understand that our Second Amendment rights allow us to keep guns and firearms in our possession. I can’t say, however, that I necessarily agree with any of it.

Guns facilitate violence. Yes, it’s a human finger that pulls the trigger. Yes, it’s the people that snap and go on rampages, not the weapon itself. But how likely is it that any of these events–Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Portland, Newtown, and, most recently, Chicago–could have happened with, say, a knife instead? Why do we need to rely on our firearms so much? They allow for so much more random killing or injuring of innocent bystanders. And how much harder is it to stop a shooter than a knife-wielder?

To everyone, I’m not trying to politicize anything or be overly preachy. I’ve never been directly affected by a tragedy like this, so I cannot pretend like I know what it’s like. But I do know that every time I hear about a horror like this, my heart breaks a little for everyone who has been affected. I’m saddened, I’m hurt, and I’m enraged that people continue to stand by and make excuses for no reason. They’ll tweet or update their Facebook statuses with verses and prayers and sympathies, and yet, some continue to support these gun laws (or lack thereof). Preventing the incomprehensible slaying of innocent children or anyone else does not seem like taking rights away to me. Rather, it seems like we’re giving them rights–the right to experience life, the right to go through each day without being afraid they might be shot down at any second, the right to live in peace.

So here’s my proposal: Let’s compromise. Let’s craft laws still within the Second Amendment that might allow better peace of mind and prevent future violence. “The right to keep and bear arms” doesn’t have to mean “keep and carry an assault rifle.” It doesn’t have to mean that just anyone can obtain a deadly, scary weapon like that. And I honestly don’t think our society would be any worse off in the least if we limited gun access to people with history of mental illness or criminal records of any sort. I think we could still get on with our lives all right–even better, maybe.

Maybe I’m unrealistic about all of this. Maybe I sound too naive or idealistic. But I would like to think there’s hope and a solution to this madness and violence. I’d like to think that nothing like this ever has to happen again, and maybe restricting gun laws is the first step to that kind of peaceful American society.

In honor of the victims of all recent and past tragedies, I offer the classic John Lennon song “Imagine” for today. May the families and friends of these victims find peace and closure in their lives, and may the memories of the victims live on forever. I will be keeping you all in my thoughts, and I send love and peace your way.