I dropped off my daughter at the mall to do some Christmas shopping. "Watch out for random gunmen" I said in all seriousness.
"I know," she said and grabbed my hand.
When she didn't answer her phone after five calls two hours later, I dropped my other plans and rushed to the mall. She was fine. The phone was in the bottom of her purse and she didn't hear it.
When I went to the mall at her age, the fear was about being raped. So we went in groups--at least there was safety in numbers. Now, those same numbers just up the targets.
After I had dropped her off, my very own precious first-grader asked me why the flag at the Perkins Restaurant we passed wasn't up all the way. So I explained to her about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. (She knows what death is. One of her best friends was just tragically killed in a car accident. Accidents happen.)
I am a liberal. But I also support the right to bear arms and the Second Amendment. I grew up in gun clubs and around hunters. I am not afraid of the idea of guns and don't believe they should be banned--although the best hunters I know prefer bow and arrow (and there is no need for assault rifles when hunting).
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean guns shouldn't be more strictly controlled. And I believe that certain guns, such as assault rifles, should be banned unless one is completely certified and vetted--including vetting family members, since most violence starts in a family and between family members.
I've read the thousands of arguments about mental illness being the problem, not guns. And I agree that when a crime is committed by a mentally ill person, trying to make sense of or seek justice for a situation becomes very complex. But cases in which the mentally ill have access to guns, often within their own homes, create a deeper level of confusion. And to me, the larger crime is that the same people who viciously oppose any gun controls also vehemently want to deny the people who need it most support of health care and government aid. Or worse, they may have health insurance and money but are too ashamed to admit that someone in their family, or they themselves, might need help.
Those are the type of people who confound me most. Let me put it this way: It often seems that the biggest, the strongest, and the most powerful men are the ones who believe they need guns. Lots of guns. To protect themselves? To protect others?
I know one man who is tall, strong, and fierce yet won't go into Allentown unless he's "packing." Me? I'll walk down those same streets with a smile and get hellos and how ya' doins. But I don't watch scary movies or believe in the gun culture that makes people watch shoot-'em-up movies and play violent video games for fun.
What this tells me is that there is something deeper going on. A deep fear, hate, hurt, and rage, combined with a lack of ability to communicate with words, that leads to lashing out. It could also be associated with the toxins in our environment that seem to be causing more disturbed boys and men. We DO need more research. Because it seems to be getting worse, not better. But research takes time. Lots of time. I have never read a study that doesn't conclude with "we need to do more research." And the truth is we all can find lots of studies that will support ANY view. Science is far from objective, as much as people like to believe that it is. Whatever the research says, we do NEED to reform our mental health care system, for sure!
In the meantime, little innocent children are being murdered.
THAT is not acceptable.
So NRA supporters and people who believe that any gun should be allowed anywhere (or believe that it's time to arm teachers, for God's sake! Which is like regressing back to some Wild West fantasy), it's time to stop freaking out. It's time to calm down. It's time to do what is right and responsible for us to be a civilized, humane society, and that means getting better control of guns in our country. That, my friends, is what our forefathers fought for most of all! Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. You may not like the outcome all the time, but voting is still our most powerful weapon. That is the gift we have been given by our forefathers and foremothers and must protect through the law and by the law.
And ask yourselves this: What are you really afraid of? If you need help finding the answer to that question, please open up the conversation. Talk to friends, talk to family, do some research, find a therapist. Trust me, it helps. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to asking questions and seeking help if you need it.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com