I am outraged. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly. Livid is a more accurate sentiment of my mood right now. I’m dead furious and extremely upset. I’m upset because this happens way too often in my country, and it shouldn’t anymore. I get nauseous just thinking about it, and not even the occurrence itself, but our reactions to it as an American society.
I remember the very first time I heard about a school shooting and was old enough to grasp the gravity of it. The date was April 20, 1999, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold—two young boys whose names are so burnt into my memory now that I didn’t even have to Google them—had just shot and killed 13 people and wounded 24 others before killing themselves.
I was twelve years old at the time, and I was honestly horrified. I began to wonder what it would be like if that ever happened at my school. I was scared to go back. I just kept envisioning my school every time I heard about it. When I walked through the halls, it didn’t feel the same anymore. I found myself scoping out areas I would be able to hide if such a thing ever occurred. I was more scared of the boys who bullied me than ever before. What if one of them was plotting to kill me?
For a child growing up in a country where firearms are glorified, that’s not a fear that ever really goes away once you experience the reality of it. You can bury it as far down as you want. You can make jokes about it, play violent video games to relieve stress, because as long as it exists in some fictional or not-so-serious way, it doesn’t feel like the concrete reality that it truly is. It’s something that maybe happened in another part of the world, far from the shores of a country which only about 250 years ago was conquered and claimed and founded by the use of such weapons. America was built by firearms. It’s ingrained in our collective psyche, we feel safe and secure so long as we only use them for a good purpose (though that purpose does change and is justified in any manner of ways depending on who you’re talking to).
But once it happens in your own country, on your own soil, in a town not too dissimilar from your own? That’s when it gets all too painfully real, and firearms suddenly turn from a measure of solace, security, and protection into a dark, malicious saboteur.
An infiltrator. An enemy. A time bomb ticking down. And that’s largely the problem.
We as Americans have failed to respect such power. We have deluded ourselves into believing we all want guns for a good and justified purpose. But in that endeavor, we have failed each other, we have failed ourselves, we have lied, and worst of all, we have failed and lied to our own children.
The real enemy here is not the firearm itself, but the pervasive, utterly shocking, blatant disrespect for the power these objects hold. They are death machines plain and simple, and it’s ludicrous to call them anything else. That is what they are, that is the only purpose they were built to serve and the only instruction they will ever carry out. Their endgame is destruction no matter where they’re pointed, that’s all.
And at the very core of my being, I am disgusted and appalled at the way we as Americans have evolved to deal with scenarios like this. We are shocked for a while, people talk about it a few days, impassioned rants are exchanged between gun rights lobbyists and gun control proponents alike. Then, in failing to generate any sort of logical compromise that would pave the way for enacting policy to deal with our gun problem, the aforementioned tragedy is promptly swiped under the carpet and everyone goes on with their lives with a “never forget” and a “sure hope this never happens again”.
Then a month later, we find blood leaking out from under that same carpet and swipe a few fresh corpses beneath its fraying threads and weave another statistic.
What we should be asking ourselves is how many more deaths does it take? How much more disrespect, lack of proper safety training and education, how much longer will we justify the use of these weapons as a means of protection no matter how many times that intention backfires before we do something? We owe it to our children and to our fellow citizens. Most of all, we owe it to the victims of these tragedies and their families.
The Newtown massacre should have been the END OF THE LINE, NO EXCEPTIONS.
And it’s completely baffling that even that—the senseless slaying of 20 innocent kindergarten students and 6 school staff members—that was not enough to push tighter gun control legislation. Really?
Excuse my language here, as I try to abstain from the use of obscenities on my author blog, but…ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. How can we, as Americans, continue to live with ourselves as we do nothing to make our schools and other public places safer in the wake of such horrible tragedies? Especially Newtown. How can we even be so selfish as to think about protecting firearms rights for ourselves when our children are being shot at on a monthly basis? Do those rights trump the rights of the victims and their families to feel safe just going to school, malls, or the movie theater?
I’m sorry, but the old adage in this case holds true; the road to hell is definitely paved with good intentions. I understand people’s motives for owning firearms when it comes to protection, but I must respectfully disagree to that end. Guns are used far more for attack than they are ever used for defense, they cause more problems than they solve, and sadly there are never any concealed or open-carry heroes to come save the day when mass shootings do occur.
We are already a culture bred and molded by fear, and that fear is what is crippling us as a country in a web of so many interconnected issues that we’re beginning to implode from the pressure (I may talk more about that later, but this post is primarily about gun violence). In my opinion, fear is what has directly contributed to the vast majority firearms sales over the last 25 years, and thusly, to gun violence itself.
The fact that school shootings are such a common occurrence in the United States is horrifyingly poignant.
Just the other day, a friend of mine was shocked to find out what her son was learning:
We should not have to drill kids on how best to hide from an intruder with a gun in their school, ever! Should they even have to grow up and live with that fear? Should any parent, just because gun organizations and lobbyists seek to place their firearms rights on a pedestal far above human life (and most disgustingly of all, above the human lives of innocent children no more than 6 or 7 years of age)? You are advocating for your continued right to possess and operate deadly weapons. It is your responsibility to make sure you respect those devices and any manner of harm and destruction that may come as a result of their use.
If gun organizations such as the overwhelmingly loud National Rifle Association and their lobbyists want to fight for the freedom to own guns, the very least they can do is campaign for firearm safety and education, and help to enact new legislation that would keep our schools and public campuses safe from those who would abuse their power. Who else will step up to the plate, if not responsible gun owners? And how about if they say “that’s not my job”, then say goodbye to your firearms license. Because you cannot ethically campaign for gun ownership without also affording the same dedication to fighting for the rights and safety of those whose lives such weapons have impacted, because that would show you have no respect for a right you clearly do not deserve, to say nothing of respect for basic human rights.
And that blatant disregard for life itself is what angers and enrages me most of all as an American citizen. People have succumbed to their fear in the worst ways possible. This is most evident in our films and media culture. Guns and gun violence are viewed as toys and a means to an end, rarely promoted as a defensive tool, but as something which is meant to kill what we don’t like or what we are most afraid of, and what we are most afraid of is that which we do not or even outright refuse to understand—ourselves and each other.
It’s time for this epidemic to end. It’s time for us to open our eyes, before the dead force them open for us. It’s time we listen to the voice of reason. It’s time we start showing respect, even if it does cause a bit of inconvenience. Because for God’s sake, these are human lives and if you respect nothing else, you should respect both the power in your hands as well as the rights of others to live in a country where they are free from fear, and where they don’t have to worry about being killed in school because of your inaction.
I’ll leave you with President Obama’s poignant speech on the matter.