Please ask questions

Yesterday my young coworker asked me if I had heard the news of another school shooting. She said eight people were dead. It’s not the first time that she has told me about a school shooting while we are at work. In a few years, she’s going to send her baby off to school. How does it feel to be a parent and know that your kids are not safe at school?

I got my phone and looked for news on Facebook. One of my classmates wrote “I. Am. Pissed.” It makes her sick to hear about another school shooting. She said that we as a nation need to get a grip on this…

I am numb. Why am I numb? Why am I not shocked? Because this keeps happening. Because I have been carrying around the grief and sadness and feeling of hopelessness about school shootings for 19 years and one month. Why am I marking the anniversary of Columbine? Because it turned my world upside down. Because people are still hurting. Because we as a nation did not learn from this.

Why am I writing at 2 am instead of sleeping? Because I am not numb. Because I woke up asking myself questions.

How can a man sit there in the White House and listen to the stories of children who survived the Parkland, Florida shooting and not be moved to do something about assault style weapons? That day, with notes in hand, I saw him reach out a hand of comfort as if he felt some empathy. What do jotted talking points say about his empathy? “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” “What can we do to help you feel safe?”

How could he then go speak at an NRA convention and tell the gun lovers that their “second amendment rights are under siege”? Why do people care more about their man-made right to own tools designed to kill people than about people?

How can people keep saying that this wouldn’t happen if we let God back in our schools? I went to school in the 60’s and 70’s and I sure don’t remember learning about God in school. I learned my love and fear of God at home and at church.

Why do young men keep doing this? What was going through this 17-year old’s mind when he saw news coverage of the last school shooting?

How can I keep watching news coverage of this when I know that nothing is going to change? When is this nation going to stop living in denial? When are we going to get a grip on this problem?

Assaying the Gun Culture

via Daily Prompt: Assay

The word assay is not part of my everyday vocabulary; it is usually used in fields related to chemistry like the pharmaceutical or metallurgy industries. To assay something is to analyze its components. On, I learned that “when you assay a situation, you look at all the elements that created the problem in order to come up with a solution.” With that definition and the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in mind, I can think of a huge situation in need of assaying: America’s gun culture.

Gun violence is a hot button issue that has long divided this country. On one side are those who believe that the second amendment guarantees the right of all citizens to own any kind of weapon because the amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

However, the second amendment refers to a “well-regulated militia.” Those three words are very important to those of us on the other side of the issue. For the safety and security of all citizens, we believe that there should be sensible restrictions on the ownership of weapons.

I am not writing this short little essay to assay the problem of gun violence myself. I can’t claim that I know all of the elements that created the problem, as some people do. (For example, some people blame the problem on taking God out of schools. The issue is way more complex than that). Since I admittedly haven’t identified all of the elements that created the problem, I won’t pretend to have the solutions to the problem.

Having said that, I will not deny that there is a problem begging for reasoned solutions. Statistics prove otherwise:

So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.

The scope of the gun violence problem is not limited to school shootings or shootings that are considered “mass shootings.” According to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, nearly two-thirds of deaths from guns are suicides.

I will not put all the blame for the problem on the other side, though I won’t absolve them of blame either. There are reasons that people cling to their guns even if I do not understand their reasons.

I will never stop wanting a solution to the problem of gun violence.

I will never say there is nothing we can do.

I will never stop grieving the senseless loss of life.

I will never blame the problem on the mentally ill.

When you have a huge problem, you need assayers to analyze the problem from all angles. You need problem solvers. You need people who are not afraid to ask questions. You need people who are not beholden to a special interest group. You need people who will not give up until they get the answers.

Dare I hope that the young people of America will assay this problem?