Writer’s note: I wrote this piece immediately following the news of the tragedy in Connecticut today. I want to make one thing very clear before you even begin reading. I wrote this piece first and foremost as a father. A father of a child who would have been in one of those kindergarten classrooms this morning, if we lived in Newtown, CT. Yes, I am writing this as political commentary on my political commentary blog, but all of these things I say first as a parent, second as a concerned human being, and lastly as a commentator on the world around us.
This has to fucking stop now.
Another mass shooting. This time, at an elementary school in Connecticut. Just days after a mall was shot up in Oregon. Obviously as I write this, reports are still coming in, but confirmed body counts right now put the death toll at least twenty. And yes, your worst fears about this kind of story came true…children are among those reported dead. In fact, the story I linked to says that “many” of those shot were children. Many. Many children shot. Just one child lost is a tragedy unto itself. but twenty is a nightmare and a black-eye on this country.
Yes, in case you’re wondering, I am absolutely going to talk about gun control. Right fucking now. The time is now. The time is not when it’s been awhile since we’ve had a shooting and everyone’s feeling generally safe. The time is now, when we all feel a little terrorized and victimized. The time is now, when the feeling of outrage and utter sorrow is so strong you feel you could vomit or cry or both. That’s when we should talk about curbing the prevalence of gun violence in this country. It needs to sting. It needs to feel like we’ve had the rug ripped out from under us. Maybe then we can understand precisely the feeling we’re trying to avoid at all costs.
Kindergartners were shot. I happen to have a kindergartner living under my roof. He’s six years old. He loves “Star Wars,” Lego, and comic book heroes. I can’t even imagine the terror that a six-year-old feels when an armed gunman is mowing down their classmates. These are kids that probably all still believe in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. And now, reality, in its stark and naked pointlessness will have pierced the veil that shrouds all children. Tragedy is an understatement today.
I can hear the voices of dissent now. I can hear them telling me that this shooting doesn’t illustrate a need for gun control, it illustrates a need for better mental health facilities. Fuck that. Yes, it’s true that most normal gun owners don’t do things like this. And I would endorse fully a plan that would build infrastructure around the idea of finding potentially dangerous people before they do these things and keeping guns out of their hands. But let’s not fuck around here. There are multiple children dead, shot in their places of learning. Don’t talk to me about how guns don’t kill people. They do kill people, rather effectively. And unfortunately they do so without regard for the age of their victims.
Imagine the horror parents of the victims are facing right this very second. Their child may be shot, or worse, dead, and in the end there was nothing they could do…nothing. They couldn’t even do the very first thing that any parent does and just comfort their children in their time of need. Yes, the level of depravity that the gunman had sunk to is not to be taken lightly. But as we find out more details, does it really matter what kind of gun he used? Does it really matter whether technically a gun is classified an “assault rifle” or not?
The question has to become this, “If we are unable to even send our children off to school to learn without fear of being mowed down in their tracks, what is the point of having a constitutional right to bear arms?” Intelligent societies evolve. There’s no mention, for instance, of cars or speed limits in the Constitution. And yet, the Feds set up maximum speed zones on our highways for our own safety. I can’t wait for the angry feedback I’ll get comparing speed limit laws to gun laws, but to me as soon as you have a case of over a dozen children being shot dead like so many ducks at a carnival game, fuck semantics. Fuck constitutional pleasantries.
Sensible people don’t mind sensible limitations of their freedoms. Especially when their freedoms have the power to kill twenty kids.
If this story, if twenty or more kids losing their lives in a bloody shooting spree just over a week before Christmas doesn’t get people off their asses and rattle their senses loose, nothing will. The NRA will immediately mobilize to get their message of gun sycophancy out there. They’ll claim that the crazy liberals are out to take away your guns. And you know what? Maybe we fucking should. Maybe we should take away your guns that give you the ability to do this kind of thing. You can keep a gun in your house to protect yourself from the Bogey Man if you want. You can keep a gun in your house to go hunting if you will. But what you should not be able to do is own a firearm that turns you into a walking, talking, bullet dispensary.
Liberals need to be angry. Outrage doesn’t even come close to the kind of public fury that needs to be drummed up over this. Of course we can’t take away every gun everywhere. But we need to stop giving lip service to tired arguments about criminals just being criminals and not paying the price for someone else’s mistake. In civil societies, when a problem is discovered, solutions are found. We have a problem with guns in this country. To deny that is to deny the blue hue in the sky, or the wetness of water. We have a problem with the availability of them, and no amount of mental health testing will do any good when you can still purchase the kinds of weapons that fire hundreds of rounds a minute.
Gun nuts already hate me anyway, so I’m not really concerned about them. I’m concerned about convincing the causal gun owner that he or she can be in favor of tighter regulations on the acquisition of high-powered, multi-shot firearms and still be in favor of our constitutional right to own them. Despite the admittedly incendiary and baiting title of this piece, I’m not advocating for the outright stripping of all firearms from private citizens. But the time is right fucking now to start acting like adults, and more importantly to start discussing things like adults. Twenty children in Connecticut weren’t old enough to participate in the discussion, but goddamnit we all are old enough. We owe it to those who died today, and to all those who were lucky enough to avoid tragedy to agree to psychological testing, agree to waiting periods of a month or more, and to agree to finally treat guns like the killing tools they are, instead of a miracle device that does only altruistic deeds.
What I’m advocating is a tempering of our Second Amendment rights with everyone’s first and most basic right…to not be killed by someone else. Anyone who believes that Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t be in favor of regulating access to truly high-powered weaponry is a fool. This incident in Connecticut would be a wake-up call to anyone, and sadly we can already count on it falling on thousands and thousands of deaf ears.
It’s time to start screaming. Loudly.