Our hearts are broken. Again.
Another horrific, senseless, unspeakable tragedy has all of us asking why. I sit riveted to the news, watching the devastation of others, and a voice inside starts posing much more difficult questions -- difficult because, by acknowledging that voice, I might have to admit I might be wrong, or, at the very least, I might need to consider the possibility that there is more that I can do. Our collective silence keeps real change for the good from happening.
I own guns. They are a necessary part of my job. Let's get that settled; I'm not advocating that you surrender your firearms. I want to talk about personal and collective societal responsibility.
I sat with friends the other night, and this latest horror quite naturally came up in the conversation. But what stunned me was the speed with which the conversation shifted from the tragedy to the assertion of each person's right to own guns and even boasting about how many firearms members of the group owned. That little voice in my head asked: How does one's gun ownership make this any less of a nightmare? And more importantly: Why does a conversation about gun violence immediately trigger a defensive reaction in gun owners like me?
Rather than getting defensive, we should be getting angry. And we need some serious introspection and a willingness to open up to real and constructive debate. The two words "gun control" provoke indignation in gun owners, and it shouldn't. What should anger responsible citizens is the increasing frequency that we are now dealing with tragedies like this. We need to take a look at ourselves.
Maybe violent video games depicting murder and thoughtless shootings, not to mention giving extra points for killing cops, aren't appropriate gifts for kids in my family. Maybe asserting my right to gun ownership should also be tempered with the realization that assault rifles are weapons of war and have no place in our civilian world. While we're on the subject, my legally owned firearm should be properly secured so that it's not stolen and used in a crime, and so that -- God forbid -- a disturbed member of my family can't use it to harm themselves or others. We should be outraged that guns can be purchased with ease on the Internet, that unscrupulous gun dealers trade in illicit arms with near impunity and that "straw purchases" are commonplace in licensed gun shops (that's when a person who can buy a weapon knowingly purchases one for an individual who cannot lawfully purchase a weapon). And lastly, let's stop pretending that the mind-boggling number of guns available in this country isn't any part of the problem. It is.
As responsible citizens, we must commit to having an open and honest debate about how to deal with this violence. Can't we agree that something concrete has to be done? This all-or-nothing approach to firearm rights is ludicrous. With extreme irony, my brain is juxtaposing two Florida newspaper headlines from this week: "Agriculture Commissioner touts 1 million concealed weapons permits," and, "Gunman massacres 20 children at school in Connecticut." I know the NRA tells me there is no correlation, but my conviction slips a bit as I wipe away tears yet again, contemplating the senseless deaths. Let me say again: I am a gun owner. I also think we need to step back from the NRA's fear mongering ledge a bit. Nobody has tried to take my gun or even suggested it. But this country has a problem, and we need to talk about how to fix it. There are many ways to start dealing with these issues in a holistic way, I think. What I've talked about here are just a few questions my wife and I grapple with internally, like many Americans, I'm sure. I don't pretend to have all the answers. One thing is for certain: We can't keep turning away from this problem.
What we're doing now isn't really working for us.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think. Peace.