As we still recover from Sandy, we hear of horror hitting another town not too far away. A shooting in a school. Or I should say, another shooting in a school. It seems at times as if the whole world has gone mad.
Of course with tragedy comes debate. Guns, not people become our enemy. Parents hoping to find ways that it could never be their kid cry out for stronger safety measures in the schools. Others talk about what they’d like to do if they could be alone in a room with the killer, that is if he weren’t already dead.
I know when I heard the news, I was happy my kids were within hugging distance. Suddenly that pile of wash on the floor didn’t seem as important as it had a few minutes earlier. My sons were going out and I looked at them and said a silent prayer in my head that this would not be the last time I was telling them I loved them because who ever sends their kids off anywhere thinking some unthinkable horror is about to happen.
Social media was lit up just a couple of nights before with people watching rock stars raise money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. For a few hours we all chatted online about different acts. Our debates were about the performances, which were the best. Our horror that night was Kanye wearing a leather skirt. It was a chance to forget and to come together as a group of people who had shared loss, a loss that had consumed us. Until there was something more horrendous.
And now we come together again. It didn’t happen in our town, but it is still our loss. It is an act that erodes our sense of security. There is no explanation that could make it just Newton’s loss. There is no reasoning that comforts us to know that it could never happen here. Because it could happen here. It is something we see in the news more often and no matter what we try to find in the killers or the victims, there is nothing that would make us say, oh, no wonder! We don’t have to worry about that in our town!
I don’t believe this is really a gun control debate and I say that as a person who has never owned a gun and who doesn’t like guns. As much as I hate guns, I know too many responsible gun owners who are not out shooting up malls or schools.
Many comments after the shouts about gun control were people asking what a kindergarten teacher needed all those guns for. Well, we can’t ask her now can we? And really, aren’t we missing the bigger issue? What would make anyone think that taking guns and killing their parent and then going and killing kids is the solution to anything? That is not the behavior of a normal person. If he didn’t have a gun, does anyone think he wouldn’t have found other ways to accomplish his mission. Let’s not forget how as a nation we all were horrified when we learned how easy it was for the Columbine killers to go on the internet and learn how to build bombs.
I’m not saying, let’s just shrug our shoulders and be done with it. What I am saying is that maybe its time to have a different conversation. Let’s start talking about mental illness and earlier intervention for people who have forms of mental illness. Too often we hear that these killers are socially awkward. The common phrase typically heard is we always knew there was something a little off. Now grant it, we can’t just sweep up all of the socially awkward kids that are a little weird or a little off. But can’t we start programs in the schools that reach out to kids like that? Can’t we as a community look at those kids and try to get the help for them that could prevent future tragedies? And not just tragedies that affect us but the tragedy that is a life spent as one of those people who don’t know how to deal with people or cope with life? Isn’t that ultimately something that benefits society?
It is too soon to blame this on bad parenting or easy access to guns. But it isn’t too soon to recognize that we have a larger problem in our country. Columbine was so tragic because it was something we had never dealt with. It was new to us. What is more tragic is how often we hear Columbine-like stories. There’s a root to the problem. I don’t think the root of the problem is taking guns away from responsible gun owners or locking up classrooms. Hopefully after those debates die down, we can look at the issue in a different way. We have a problem here in America. Let’s face it.