It’s been a while since I’ve last written, my mind bogged down by several massive projects that require both my time and my brain power. So why did I decide to write now? If you guessed “another mass shooting,” survey says, “YOU’RE RIGHT!”
It hasn’t even been 24 hours since another school, the 18th in 2018 (yes, it’s still only mid-February) was under siege by a firestorm of bullets killing 17 and injuring 14. Facebook and Twitter naturally erupted in “Thoughts and Prayers,” “#GunControlNow,” and “2nd Amendment rights.” But really America? Are we going to solve this in posts between friends and followers?
I was 18 years old when the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred and all we could think was this was a rare occurrence and with stricter fertilizer (?) laws, it won’t happen again. And it hasn’t. I was 22 when Columbine occurred and all we could think was “this will never happen again.” But it has, over and over and over again. It’s been 19 years since the first mass school shooting and it’s only gotten worse because NOTHING has been done to modify the system. Our children practice lockdown drills, houses of worship are trained on what to do if there’s an active shooter, you can’t go practically anywhere where there’s a large gathering of people without going through some kind of metal detector or having your bag checked. Yet, somehow are schools still remain unprotected.
We treat our basketball players with better care (arena have metal detectors.) We treat our amusement parks with better care (bags are searched and places like Universal Studios have metal detectors.) Museums are treated with better care (bags are checked, some even have metal detectors.) But our children; our most precious commodity, are sent to schools every day not knowing if they will make it back home for dinner.
I honestly don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat, if you’re conservative or liberal, if you own a gun or hate them. We ALL need to do better. We ALL need to find a middle ground. Not for the sake of ourselves but for our kids.
So how do we get there? How do we END this back-and-forth dialogue and put something into motion. Well for starters, let’s stop blaming. Period. Don’t blame “mental illness” unless you’re going to fight for the improvement of mental health services in schools and for our youth. Did you know that it can take up to 6 MONTHS to get an appointment for a child WITH INSURANCE to be evaluated or seen by a pediatric mental health professional? This is with SCHOOL support and their recommendation, not just the parent. Think about that…if a child is struggling they can have all sorts of severe and troubling challenges before they are even initially seen. Please don’t even suggest taking them to the ER. That only guarantees a 24 – 72 hour stay with zero follow-up.
Don’t blame “parenting.” Many parents of shooters tend to be ordinary, law abiding citizens who try their best with what they have. Yes, we absolutely need to be actively involved in our children’s social, educational and mental lives but what happens when that isn’t enough? It occurs more often than you think. We ALL need to play an active role in our communities. Don’t turn a blind eye to the “strange kid down the block.” Instead, invite that kid for a playdate. Invite his mom for coffee. Make people feel welcome and wanted. Say “hi” or wave when you see them walking or driving down the street.” What do all of these shooters have in common? They were “loners.” Isolation and exclusion are some of the worst kinds of damage one can inflict on another.
Don’t blame “guns” or “people kill people, not guns” or “if a person wants to hurt another, they will find a way to do it.” That’s such a cop out. I’m a supporter of gun ownership and have written about it multiple times. I don’t want to take away your guns. But something needs to be done about access to them, particularly semi-automatic assault rifles. If you are a former member of our military and purchase an AK-15 to shoot empty cans in your backyard, that’s fine by me. However, you should need to go through intense background checks and training to make sure that you are responsible. That’s all. It shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re not planning on breaking the law. I tried to buy Sudafed for a sinus infection and wasn’t allowed because I didn’t have my license (it was in the car.) When we can’t get cold medicine but can get a military rifle, perhaps we need to re-evaluate a few things. Honestly gun people. I’m talking to you. What’s more important? Keeping your gun ownership in tact or having to fill out a little bit more paperwork in order to lessen the chances of our children being hurt or killed in the one place where they go to learn?
Like all of you, I’m still trying to process all of this. I will admit, I didn’t cry at all. I thought about the victims. I prayed for no fatalities and that the shooter would be caught. Other than that, I kind of feel immune to it. Now that’s a scary feeling. When we replace our feelings of shock and sadness with “here we go again” then something is very wrong. We can’t afford to become that type of society.