I’ve been sick all day since waking up this morning to hear about the murders of children and teachers in Connecticut yesterday. Usually stories like this sadden me but then I become preoccupied by something in my daily life and it moves into the background noise of my day, before exiting my mind more or less completely.
This one however, like many other people I suspect, has really hit home, casting a pall over everything I did today. Was it the age of the victims? Probably. Going to the gym this morning I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful weather, parents walking by me hand in hand with their kids. This was a beautiful day that those murdered boys and girls will never get to experience. They also won’t get to play in the sunshine tomorrow. They will never have another Christmas. Or birthday. It sounds asinine to say this in our jaded age, but it isn’t fair.
Online, many have been calling for stricter gun control laws. Predictably, others have taken up the banner for the second amendment. Here are a few tweets that captured my attention, from a Yahoo! news story:
SamEwinks (@SamEwinks), for instance, wrote, “The only gun reform we need is to allow people the ability to defend themselves, not provide nut jobs with easy targets #nra.”
josefsmith2011 (@josefsmith2011) posted, “Guns don’t kill people people do! Practice the 2nd amendment—keep your gun loaded with you at all times—the younger you are the better.”
And Cutty (@LilCutty) tweeted, “Changing the 2nd Amendment wont stop ppl from doin foolishness.”
Josefsmith2011’s tweet really got to me. His argument, that more guns in responsible hands would save lives in these situations, is a 2nd amendment fundamentalist’s go-to response to these situations. However, the logic escapes me, especially in this instance. Is josefsmith2011 actually advocating that 5 year olds and kindergarten teachers pack heat on a daily basis? Surely that’s one of the craziest things you’ve ever heard, regardless of your political beliefs. I can’t recall offhand a single instance of gun ownership stopping this kind of random violent act. Since these shooting sprees are by definition perpetrated by the insane, making them impossible to prepare for or predict, even carrying around your own AK-47 and dressing your kids up in Kevlar every day wouldn’t be effective as a preventative.
Do I think that gun control is the answer? No, not by itself. America is in love with guns. It is a part of our culture, like driving on the right and saying the pledge of allegiance in school. Many say that just changing the laws will do nothing. That is true. The American government must have the will to enforce those laws. Think back at all the most negative episodes in our history. Many said that slavery could never be eradicated, because laws wouldn’t change human nature. Admittedly, a war was fought over the issue, but I’d say that the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, both laws, had quite a bit to do with changing the situation. Segregation in our schools and other Civil Rights abuses against African Americans also changed, thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Laws must be enacted before effective cultural change can take place. All that is missing to end the ease psychopaths have of finding guns in the US is the political will to act.
Some countries, China and Japan both spring to mind, have strict gun control laws, yet still occasionally have attacks on children and the general public perpetrated by the insane. One attack on Chinese children happened recently in Hunan. However, those gun control laws mean that these attacks necessarily involved knives, not guns, so the casualties were relatively few. In the Hunan attack, four children were killed, 12 children and 4 teachers were injured. (Source: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-10/07/content_380142.htm) Most experts chalk up these attacks to a failure by the Chinese and Japanese health systems to care for their dangerous mentally ill. Looking at what happened yesterday, though, I think America’s track record of containing and caring for the mentally unhinged is in even greater need of improvement than the Chinese and Japanese systems. But that is an issue for another post.
Frankly, all I want is to not have to wake up in the morning and not have my heart broken. As a teacher of young children myself, I can’t imagine what the boys, girls and teachers at that school went through in their final moments, nor what the survivors are experiencing in its aftermath. Not to mention the mothers and fathers who have lost the most precious things in their lives. I’ve always considered myself a libertarian. Live and let live. Freedoms inviolate excepting when they impinge on the liberties of others. However, I can’t reconcile the right to gun ownership to what transpired in Newton 30 odd hours ago. I don’t think the right to bear arms is worth another human life. Especially not the lives of twenty five- and six-year olds. It’s got to stop. We have to change.