Open Letter To My Fellow Americans: Stop focusing on party lines and start focusing on human lives.
I should preface this with "Trigger Warning". You may (or may not) have noticed I haven't blogged in a few week. I've sat down to write several times and I just haven't been able to find the words. Not funny or smart ones any way. Just angry ones. And I didn't want to post an angry rant. I wasn't even sure I wanted to write about Uvalde at all. I didn't write about Buffalo after all and that was only 10 days prior. But I fear how quickly we forget and move on in this country and I just feel compelled to remind everyone that families have just buried babies who were shot to death. Children who survived are waking up screaming, visions of bullets tearing through their friends, blood splattered clothes and backpacks filling their dreams. When a door slams they jump, having PTSD similar to that of our military members who have been in war zones...at 9 and 10 years old. And something has to change.
Matthew McConaughey recently gave a speech at the White House that says a lot of what I've been feeling. Maybe it will move you to reach out to your elected officials and demand change if my words don't. But I think I need to say my piece just the same. If you're so inclined, read on.
I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened. It was a little scary, but honestly, I was young and naive then. I believed this was a rare instance that likely wouldn't happen again. Our leaders would address the issues that led to Columbine and make sure something that it didn't happen again. They would put policies and procedures in place to prevent it. That is their job after all right? To learn from the bad things that happen and make sure they don't happen again? Nothing much changed legislatively, more mass shootings occurred, and then another one at a school. And more and more, I won't drag you through each one, but you can read about them here if you so desire. 169 people, mostly children, dead from mass school shootings since April 1999. Not to mention all of the wounded. Some physically, all mentally. Have you ever experienced trauma as a child? As an adult? If you have you know, some wounds never completely heal.
And not all shootings are mass shootings. I used to live in a town called Anderson, SC. One day in September 2016 a 14 year old boy took his father's bedside handgun. He shot and killed his father. Then stole his truck and drove to a nearby elementary school. While a group of first graders, played gleefully on the playground outside this 14 year old walked up, un obstructed, and began shooting. Murdering a 6 year old and wounding others, including a teacher who was trying to protect her students. His goal had been 50 or more, but his gun jammed. That incident didn't make as much news. After all, only one kid was murdered. You can read more about it here and about the recent trial for the 14 year old (also a child) who murdered a 6 year old here.
What blows my mind the most is how much we regulate everything in this country and yet guns are somehow untouchable. This is the part where I really want to rant, but I feel that Representative Katie Porter says what I want to say, but much more articulately. So I highly recommend you watch this clip, either whole or starting at 3:20. Why are there so many people afraid of regulations regarding guns? Our military members who are highly trained are required to undergo annual trainings and decertifications and sometimes more frequent depending on the weapon. We have to receive training and re-certification to drive cars. Even more trainings for larger vehicles like buses and large trucks or motorcycles. If a child accidentally dies from misuse of a toy that toy gets recalled immediately. But if a child is murdered from misuse of a weapon, well that's just a shame? A person can't sit alone in their home and do certain drugs without the potential for jail time, but anyone can buy a weapon that can kill dozens of people in seconds without any question as to why they want it in the first place?
I know, this is far longer than my typically blogs and I appreciate it if you've gotten this far. I guess, at the end of the day, my point is, why are we allowing this to continue? I don't know that there is a perfect solution out there, but we know the basics of what needs to be done. Contributing factors to gun violence are access to weapons, ammunition, and lack of access to mental health. And yes, I left out fortifying schools as a solution because that is a bandaid not a cure. We have tried the "good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns" and no, they don't. Sure, some of the "bad guys" have been shot by the good guys, but not before they had a chance to end a few lives. and often if the "bad guy" ends up dead it's by his own hand, not the "good guy's". So maybe we could try improving mental health access and services. Strengthening gun regulations, age limits, waiting periods, and recertifications. And please don't come at me with "bad guys will find a way". Yes, some of them will, but they will have to work harder and longer and be more dedicated and also have higher odds of getting caught BEFORE they are able to carry out their plans. If we operated with the "bad guys will find a way" then why have any laws at all? I mean, they'll find a way right? So why bother? Nothing is 100% in this world, but we should still try.
Anyway, I do truly believe we're more on the same page than not in this regard. There are extremes on both ends, but in general no one is saying take all the guns away (although what a lovely world it would be without them!). But we need to be more attentive to what guns are available and to whom and what is required to obtain them. And we seriously need to acknowledge and address mental health. I know it scares people, it's not exactly tangible like drug abuse, but it is just as real and just as damaging, if not more so. But we need to convince our elected officials of that. Please write and/or call your elected officials and demand they stop focusing on party lines and start focusing and human lives. If you don't know how you reach your officials, you can find information here. They work for us. Let's get them to work.