I have had many, many conflicting thoughts rolling around in my head since last Friday and the news that 26 innocent people, including 20 beautiful children, were callously executed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.
Some say that the problem is gun control.
Some say that the problem is in providing care to the mentally ill.
Some say that their god is no longer allowed in school and this is the result.
Some say that the problem is in media glorification of people who commit heinous crimes.
But very few are saying that it is all of the above, which is what I believe.
Gun control: I cannot fathom for what purpose an average citizen needs a semi-automatic assault weapon. These are weapons designed to push out maximum firepower over a minimum time frame. They are designed for warfare and are used to strafe bullets over a large area as quickly as possible. The only animals that these weapons are designed to hunt are humans.
What civilian needs a military-grade weapon, especially one designed for the person firing it to not have to focus on the target, to really see what they are shooting? This weapon is designed to be pointed in a general direction and waved around, spraying ammunition everywhere. You don’t have to be a great shot or even a competent shot to kill something with weapons like this.
Compare guns to automobiles: Any citizen with the proper licensure can drive one, but very few people get to drive the cars that go 200 miles per hour. If a shotgun is a Ford and a handgun is a Lexus, a semi-automatic assault weapon is a race car which is only driven under very controlled circumstances – on tracks and under strict regulation. You wanna drive a race car? Go to the track and drive it, but not on city streets and not through playgrounds.
Mental health: The options for families dealing with the violently mentally ill are appalling. People are begging for help, pleading with doctors and hospitals and getting nowhere. Getting help for a family member for a medical reason should be stigma-free and should be available to all who need it. There needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of our mental health programs, one designed to help patients and their families so that they aren’t living in fear.
I am not in favor of sterilizing or lobotomizing patients with mental illness. I don’t suggest that we confine them in medieval insane asylums. But there should be safe residential options for people who require more care than their families can provide safely. And I don’t want to suggest that every person who suffers a bout of depression or struggles with anxiety needs to be confined – that is ludicrous. But the ones who have unpredictable violent tendencies? There needs to be options to keep them safe while undergoing treatment. And there needs to be many, many more facilities equipped to deal with the mentally ill who have demonstrated a capability for violence.
On god(s) in schools: As I understand it, if you are faithful to any religion or deity, then that faith goes with you everywhere you go, whether or not you speak it aloud. If your faith is always with you, then so is/are your god(s). If you have been taught to take comfort in an omni-present being, to you that being is always omni-present, whether or not your beliefs are spoken aloud or internally. Whether or not prayer is allowed in public schools seems to be a moot point if one lives life with a prayerful heart.
The media: I get that the world turns to the media to learn about what is going on, that we frame our very lives through the context of “Where were you when?” but forever elevating the perpetrator of crimes over the significant loss of the victims, their families, and their community is inexcusable. It is a sad, sad thing to know that there are teens out there who can more readily name gunmen from mass shootings and serial killers than they can name the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States. Perhaps J.K. Rowling got it right when she wrote that nearly everyone who had lived through the first reign of Voldemort refused to name him. Don’t let a name have that kind of power; don’t let a crime define a generation.
We cannot be silent on any of these issues any longer. As a nation, our capability for resiliency is large, but it just shouldn’t have to be large enough to bear the weight of these 26 souls.