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Yes, We Need to Talk About Gun Control

October 2, 2015|Posted in: Parenting, Random Observations, Uncategorized

Every morning, I drop my 5-year-old daughter off at kindergarten.

And every morning – every single morning, as I watch her run down the sidewalk into the school, her blue Elsa backpack bouncing with her every step – I pray that she comes back to me, safely.

This, tragically, is the America that we live in today.

I don’t care what gun proponents I enrage with this post. Really, I don’t. Because I am one pissed-off mama. Because once again, young people have lost their lives because some asshole thought he would what – become famous? A hero? A martyr? – by going on a killing spree.

Ten students lost their lives in Oregon yesterday. Many others have been injured. Their lives, irrevocably torn apart by some sick lunatic with a gun or two or four. Over the next few days, we’ll learn about these college students, just starting out in this world, whose dreams will never be fulfilled. We’ll hear about the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, whose entire lives have been shredded.

As a mom, I cannot even begin to fathom the level of anguish these families are feeling. It physically sickens me. I can’t imagine how this reignites the pain of those families who lost a child in Columbine, or at Sandy Hook, or at Virginia Tech – or at any of the other 30-plus school shootings that have taken place over the past few years.

Yes, you read that right. There have been at least 30 school shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. Let me say it again. There have been at least 30 school shootings since Sandy Hook. In under three years. While different sources disagree on what “exactly” constitutes a school shooting – some sources don’t count suicides or shootings that occur outside of the school building — the number cited most often is around 34. The HuffPost claims almost 100. But whether it’s one or five or 10 or 20 or 34 or 50, does it matter? It’s all gun violence, and it’s all preventable.

Look, I’m a pretty open-minded person. I am good at recognizing and respecting both sides of an issue, even if I don’t agree with your opinion. And no, I’m not against the 2nd Amendment. If you are a responsible, reasonably intelligent, mentally stable and law-abiding citizen and want to own a handgun, so be it. If it makes you feel safer, even though statistics prove otherwise, then fine. Like to hunt? Great. Awesome. Go for it. But for the love of God, keep your guns and ammunition locked up when they’re not being used.

I don’t have the answer for what will prevent these types of mass shootings, but it’s obvious that the current system is broken. Our country comprises only 5 percent of the world’s population, and yet we own half of all civilian guns — and our gun murder rate is nearly 20 times higher than any other developed nation.

Does the answer come in tighter regulations when it comes to purchasing and owning a gun? Does it come in more stringent background checks?  After all, some states don’t even require background checks if you purchase a gun at a gun show. The “21 and older” law only applies to licensed firearm dealers. Eighteen-year-olds – and remember, 18-year-olds are still in high school – can walk into a gun show and walk out with a gun, which is how the Columbine shooters got their hands on the guns they used to massacre 13 people. Regulations for keeping weapons locked up in the home, and stringent penalties for adults if minors get their hands of them, would help. If parents knew that they would be fined $5,000 or serve jail time if their gun got into the hands of a young person, who then used that gun to kill others, maybe they’d be more cautious about leaving them unlocked. Then again, maybe not.

Then there’s the whole debate over assault-style weapons. Does the average American citizen need a sawed-off shotgun? No. If you think you do, you’ve been watching too many episodes of The Walking Dead. Do you need to walk into Chipotle with your assault rifle swinging from your shoulder? No. You do not. Do you need an arsenal of military-style assault weapons in your home? No. You do not. What are you preparing for? A White Walker invasion? Give me a break.

Go ahead, tell me it’s your right to own and carry these types of weapons in public. Tell me that the regulations in place are enough, and that they’re working. Tell me that you shouldn’t be told what to do in your own home. Tell me that the laws don’t need to change. And then, when you’re done telling me how right you are, call up a mother whose child was senselessly killed in a school shooting and tell HER how right you are.

Mad yet? Good. You should be. I am, too. My daughter came home one day during the first week of school and told me that they had practiced “hiding in the closet in case a monster comes into the school.” She was quite unnerved by this experience. She’s five. She still thinks monsters are real. She won’t even watch Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” because she thinks the Beast is too scary.

So when this argument bleeds into my daughter coming home from school scared that someone may enter her school and hurt her in any way, well, then, I lose all of my objectivity. Poof. Gone.

In his speech after the Oregon shooting, a visibly angry President Obama said, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it … We have become numb to this.”

He was speaking the truth. School shootings are no longer shocking to us as a nation, and they should be. Just the other day, there was a shooting at a high school in South Dakota. Nearly all of the people I mentioned this to hadn’t heard a word about it. It barely got a mention on my local news station. We live in a country where principals are shot by students, and – what? It’s not even worth mentioning. Have we become, as Obama said, this numb?

Arming teachers is not the answer. Don’t even go there. I spent nearly a decade in a high school classroom, and I can tell you – it’s not the answer. If the teacher is highly trained to use a firearm, is carrying at all times, and has the muscle memory to know how to react instinctively when firing a gun under a high-pressure situation, then maybe, theoretically, it could help.

But think about it – would you want your child’s teacher carrying a weapon at all times? What if a mentally unstable student overpowered the teacher and managed to wrestle the gun off of him or her? And if the gun is locked up in a safe inside the classroom somewhere, and a shooter enters the building, the teacher would need to get the keys to the safe, unlock the safe, get the gun, and hide – all the while directing and protecting a classroom full of students. What if the teacher wasn’t in the classroom at the time? There are just too many variables to make this a plausible solution.

And if a mass shooting can kill people at a place like Fort Hood, which is a military base, where the shooter was surrounded by armed soldiers — it can happen anywhere. And according to data compiled by Mother Jones, not one of the more than 60 mass shootings that have occurred over the past 30 years have been stopped by an armed civilian. Not one.

Now instead of bickering over who’s right and who’s wrong, let’s figure out a way to make these senseless tragedies stop. Let’s work together, as a country, to prevent this from happening again. If tighter gun control means that I’m going to be a little less anxious when I drop off my daughter at school, then I, for one, am all for it.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:

Stand with MomsRising.org to demand that Congress acts to advance gun safety and community safety immediately. Sign the pledge, and share it on social media. Click here for more information.

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photo credit: praying angel via photopin (license)

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