Two caveats before I even say anything else.
1. I wasn’t going to write this post. Occasionally on Twitter I’ll say something political, but on the blog I try not to. This is a blog for writers and readers of all stripes.
But here’s the thing: gun violence isn’t a political issue. It’s an issue about society and what amount of bloodshed all of us are willing to stomach before we do something for the collective good. I get that no one gives a shit what I think about this issue, but if enough individuals the thoughts of whom no one gives a shit about individually put their voices together, suddenly those voices become more relevant and people do listen. So here I am.
Also, to the argument that now is not the time to talk about guns out of “respect” for victims, I say when the hell is the right time? Tomorrow? Next year? The NEXT time a bunch of kids die? The best way to honor the dead is to immediately get to work figuring out how to prevent more death.
2. I originally titled this post “Guns”, but then changed it to “Gun Violence.” Why? Because all these attacks by gunmen aren’t just about there being a lot of guns floating around out there. It’s about the people who use them and about how we spend so much time fretting over the laws to regulate the things – the guns – while ignoring the person doing the shooting. How do people get to a point where they think mowing down kids in a school is the only option? How do we let people get to that point?
Trust me, I’m not a “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” guy. A lunatic can rant all he wants about wanting to kill someone, but until he gets a gun in his hand, it’s just talk. So I’ve got plenty to say about that (and will down below).
But when government at all levels – local, state, federal – wants to save money they hammer certain programs first: law enforcement, judicial, firefighters education, and MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES. All these groups, whose sole purpose is to protect and educate and secure us, get their budgets slashed first. What the hell? There is a healthy debate to be had about what the role of government should be in society, but these are things (along with food and water safety) that governments can do WAY better for everyone than private corporations if they choose to do so. But they don’t. It boggles my mind.
In times like this, after a tragedy, there are some who always want to downplay it. One of the arguments floating around Twitter right now is something like this: “Well, a lot more kids die in car accidents every year than are killed by guns so that’s what we should be regulating.” Seriously? Car ACCIDENTS are simply that, not the work of a mentally ill individual with death on his mind.
Also, we do regulate the SHIT out of car safety and drivers. Vehicle inspections. Seatbelts. Air bags. License requirements. Drunk driving laws. Speeding laws. Reckless driving laws. When’s the last time someone got pulled over by a cop for a concealed weapon inspection? When’s the last time a gun owner was asked to renew a license? Take an annual safety course? We make drivers do breathalyzer tests if they might be drunk, what about making gun owners or wannabe gun owners submit to psychological evaluations?
Cars, when used correctly, by sober, licensed drivers are intended for transportation and don’t typically kill people. Guns on the other hand, serve only one purpose: to kill. You can shoot cans and paper targets with a gun, but that’s not what it was made for. You can admire the craftsmanship, the history, whatever, but it’s still an instrument for taking a life. Even if we’re not going to ban guns, we should respect that power. But we don’t.
I don’t own guns. I don’t understand hunting, but I get that there are sportsmen who do and I respect that only because MOST sportsmen are responsible gun owners. I don’t like that those guns are out there to begin with, but if they are, I at least want responsible people to have them. However, I think a lot of sportsmen would agree that handguns and assault weapons can and should be curtailed if not outlawed. There’s no sport in gunning down a bunny with an Uzi. Handguns, I’m told, are really hard to shoot accurately (and, I suspect, not much good for hunting) If we could get some of these off the market so that criminals and the mentally ill can’t get them, that would be a good start.
Until recently, I thought the thing I wanted Obama to do most in his second term was to get more health care to more people for less money. I still want that. But sitting here today watching my kids who are still happy and alive while a lot of parents don’t get to do that, I think what I really want is for Obama to tell the NRA to suck it. If the NRA doesn’t want to help fix this problem, they need to get out of the way.
I’ve gone on too long here, probably pissed off a few readers. Not a good choice for a writer. But I have little kids about the age of these latest gun victims. Saying these words is a good choice as a dad. Right now, today, that’s the important thing.