I'm sitting in the public library as I write, and I'm looking around for the exits. There were not one but two public shootings* yesterday in our nation, and I'm getting scared. I recently read an article a friend posted on Facebook, detailing the response most likely to save your life in the event of a mass shooting. So now I'm sitting in the public library, and I'm looking around for the exits.
The room I'm in is a stupid choice. Only one entrance. No way to run in a zig zag shape to dodge maniacal bullets. But I stay here, because what are the odds? If my children were with me, though, I would move. The thought of navigating two small children to an exit with bullets flying is enough to make me piss my pants. The thought of them being at school without me if it happened, well I can't even mentally stay there for long.
I hate that I have to think about this. (Don't try to convince me I don't have to think about it... there have been more public shootings in our nation than calendar days this year.) I hate, hate, hate that this is becoming a bizarre kind of normal that America is beginning to accept. You hate it too, I know you do.
The worst of it is that the weakest among us- our children, our disabled- are being sacrificed on the altar of political division. Surely we can do better than this. Surely we learned something in elementary school about the necessity of compromise.
Not long ago I mentioned this post by a mental health professional suggesting highly rational changes we could make to keep guns out of the hands of sociopaths without taking them out of everyone's hands. (By the way, I hear a lot of fear-mongering about liberals wanting to take away the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms but I don't hear a lot of liberals actually proposing that as legislation, even if it would be their own personal preference.) Most of the suggestions we hear surrounding gun control is in regards to background checks, which are good but insufficient in and of themselves. We are a nation of brilliant minds, surely we can be more creative than that. Among Howerton's suggestions in the post above are requiring a psychological evaluation, three references, gun violence education, and limiting the types of firearms and amount of ammo that can be purchased.
I have yet to hear a convincing argument against implementing any of these ideas. The argument that I overwhelmingly most often hear is that "criminals will get their hands on guns one way or another" so these legislative changes are not worth the effort.
Can we think through that stance for a minute?
"If I get in a bad enough car wreck I'll die one way or another, so I never wear my seat belt."
"If a thief really wanted to break into my house he would find a way to do it, so I don't go to the trouble of locking my doors at night."
"If a sexual predator really wanted to kidnap my child they could eventually succeed, so I'm not going to teach my child how to respond to strangers."
I think most of us would agree that these are not rational trains of thought. Obviously we will never be in complete control of our own safety or the safety of those we love, but we all take every precaution that we can anyway. Wearing seat belts, locking our doors, and teaching stranger danger are certainly no guarantees of anything, but we do them anyway because they might just save a life. Why would we not take the same type of precautions on a broader social scale?
To be honest, I think it's because we don't believe a shooting will ever affect us. Not only is that a wretched mentality, but that's probably what they all thought. And now their families are buried in grief.
Do I want to see reform in mental health care in our country? Absolutely. But it doesn't have to be either/or. Don't be fooled by loud outcries on social media or politicians gunning (smirk) for a seat on one side or the other. Gun control and mental health reform do not have to be either/or choices. You can be an advocate for both without being a traitor to your party.
If this makes sense to you, take a few minutes to contact your state representatives and tell them so. It's hard for us to not feel like our hands are tied, but we so often forget that our government is structured to listen to us! Write a quick letter or make a quick phone call. The beauty of our country is that our voices matter. Let's use them.
*To be clear: I recognize that the San Bernadino shootings are still being investigated as an act of terrorism. But with 370ish mass shootings this year, that's a bit irrelevant.