On an emotional level, I have to write it.
Over the next few weeks, volumes will be written about the shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My own thoughts will be just a mere drop in a sea of ideas and opinions.
And since I usually write to inform, persuade or sometimes to simply vent, having my voice heard should matter.
But there are times when I write just to get my thoughts in order. This is one of those times.
I, like so many Americans, am overcome with grief and frustration about an event that involved no one I know yet affected everyone I know.
I am also filled with guilt because, initially, I didn’t even take notice of the shootings. I was logging into my email account to send a message about my children’s latest accomplishments when I saw a headline that there had been a shooting at a Connecticut school. Absorbed in my own life, my only thought was, “Here we go again.” And then I forgot about headline until later in the day.
How sad is that?
Shootings have become such common events that I, a person who hates violence, wasn’t initially shocked or curious.
There is something fundamentally wrong with a society in which many of us don’t even pay attention to violence until multiple people are shot to death. We should be upset with every violent word, gesture and action. Instead, we are immune to all but the most heinous of events.
And when such events do occur, we turn to each other and ask, “how could this happen?”
In reality, we already know the reasons. We just fear addressing them because anything we say might turn into a political debate rather than a rational discussion.
The time has come for rational discussion.
We know that too many people suffer from undiagnosed, untreated or mismanaged mental illness. Sometimes the families dealing with such an illness don’t know how to cope or where to get help. Sometimes they can’t get the help anyway. Services are expensive, and waiting lists far exceed the need. Often, mental health services aren’t even integrated with other health and social services. And then there are the people complaining about their tax dollars being used to pay for services for people who can’t hold down a job. Guess what? People with mental health issues often have a very difficult time maintaining employment, and, as a society, we lack a comprehensive system to deal with the complicated issues. Time and time again, the warning signs are obvious, but we either don’t know what to do, don’t know where to turn or realize there simply is no place to turn.
We know that too many people who should never have access to guns obtain them anyway. Yes, sometimes people will find ways to access guns even when barriers are in place to prevent it. Sometimes, there is no way of determining who will use guns inappropriately. And sometimes guns can be used to prevent, rather than commit, a crime. But that doesn’t excuse us from identifying more effective ways to better prevent gun violence.
The bottom line is that gun violence involves two things: people and guns.
Guns are material possessions that can be manufactured, sold and replaced.
People can’t be manufactured, shouldn’t be sold and can never be replaced.
Americans need to make a choice about our priorities and how to balance them. Only then can genuine discussion about preventing future tragedies realistically begin.
If we don’t have those discussions, we won’t develop effective solutions and will continue to believe that our only common ground is providing prayer and support for victims, their families and first responders.
If we continue down the path we are on, we might as well start praying right now for all the future victims who could have been protected.