Saturday, December 15, 2012

‘Who Would Do This to Our Poor Little Babies’

Checked my phone when I woke up this morning and saw that my brother had sent me 3 texts with suggested presents for his little boys. I smiled as the items expressed each of the boys' unique personalities. Then I checked my Twitter feed and remembered.

I was in training yesterday, scanning my iPad for news stories and other articles relevant to my profession, when the first news flash about yet another school shooting popped up. Within an hour the confirmation came through - 20 elementary school children murdered.

The rest of the day the story followed the same predictable script: cable news channels playing the same footage over and over, while the same roster of pundits gave the same old opinions about how something like this could happen. It didn't take long for liberals to cry out once again for gun control, while gun rights folks quickly retorted with the same tired quips about how "guns don't kill people, bad guys kill people" and "if the teacher had been armed, this wouldn't have happened." Blah, blah, blah.

Our President addressed the nation, weary and, understandably, weepy. Once again the duty of his office demands that he visit the community and offer comfort to loved ones facing unimaginable grief, just as he did in Tucson and Aurora. This time will be different. The victims are so, so young.

Anderson Cooper did his usual "we are not going to say the shooter's name so we don't encourage others to do something like this." As if life is a Harry Potter book, and evil can be kept away as long as you just don't say his name.

Later in the day, Tweets and Facebook posts chastised us: "Stop talking politics. It's too soon to talk about this!" Ok, if it's too soon, then lets talk about the  Happy Valley Mall. Still too soon for that? How about Minneapolis? Still too soon? How about Oak Creek? Aurora? Oakland? Norcross, Georgia? That's just 2012. How about we go all the way back to 2011 and talk about Tucson?

Because we need to talk.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Omaha. Northern Illinois University. San Diego. Ft. Hood. Santa Clara. Covina. The list of mass shooting sites is rapidly expanding. Soon the list will exceed the list of Civil War battle sites.

And we do nothing.

Just talking about solutions provokes a knee-jerk defensiveness from gun owners. Let's get this straight, no reasonable person wants to take away your guns. Ninety-nine percent of lawful gun owners are responsible and are not committing mass shootings or other crimes. But what does that mean? Police in Connecticut have told us that the guns used to murder children yesterday were all legally bought and registered to the shooter's mother.

I am reminded of a tragic shooting here in Las Cruces five years ago. New Mexico State Police Officer Susan Kuchma, a good cop and delightful person, was gunned down by her mentally ill son. He used Susan's own, lawfully owned, gun to do the deed.

In the days and weeks to come, we will learn more about the shooter. We will find out that there were warning signs, strange behaviors and incidents. We will all wonder why something wasn't done - how come nobody intervened? Pundits will point out that well-meaning liberals who have made it very difficult to institutionalize the mentally ill, combined with Reagan-era budget cuts, have left our nation's mental health system a woeful mess.

I don't know what the answers are. I know I am growing weary of supporting gun rights, as news tragedy after tragedy arrives in waves. I know the Second Amendment contains the phrase "well-regulated." I know that a mentally ill person, determined to cause destruction, will find a way to achieve it. I know we don't want a world where our children's teachers are issued sidearms along with the keys to their classrooms.

Whatever the answers are, it's not too soon to talk about them. It's already too late for the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary.

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