There was a shooting today. At an elementary school.
A shooting at an elementary school.
It’s jarring on first sight, but then it starts to sink in, like hydrofluoric acid burning its way through glass.
Those are children. Helpless. Defenseless. Children.
I don’t know nearly enough about gun control laws to say that they’re the problem (and know that it’s not for lack of trying – the laws are lengthy, confusing, and full of loopholes), but the fact that a person who cannot think rationally enough to resolve his problems without going to a classroom full of innocents and killing them can get and/or keep a gun is disturbing.
This isn’t a political statement. I’m not being political today. I’m rationally concerned. Why are people who are unstable allowed guns? Why are people allowed to purchase assault weapons? Why do people feel the need to even possess assault weapons? Why does our nation have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world and why do these mass shootings keep happening? These questions keep coming up and I have yet to hear a reasonable answer.
I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe that physical altercations are ever the right way to resolve a problem. I don’t believe that wars are the answer to a nation’s problems. I believe in relationships of choice, and to use another’s phrase, the non-application of force.
I will concede that I struggle with a sense of cognitive dissonance when the concept of the non-application of force is applied to my life in a governed nation, because constituency is a coerced relationship in that I either pay taxes or I pay consequences.
I am also a Humanist. I don’t operate on faith. I operate on evidence and reason. I don’t assume that people are inherently bad or good. I understand that both exist in the world and that neither can be discounted. To that end, I recognize the relevance of law and establishing a kind of order. Law should act as a framework of order for people are unable to self-govern, to independently act morally and rationally. I also understand why people would choose to own guns as a mode of self-defense. Bad people happen. People want security and an absolute defense. I understand the reasoning.
What I don’t understand is how a person is able to come into weaponry when he is so clearly unstable. Why a person would be allowed to own a gun if he cannot control his impulses enough to refrain from slaughtering innocents.
This isn’t right.
And maybe at one point, when he purchased the guns, he was totally fine. Sane, rational, normal. And perhaps there was some trauma that happened between the time he purchased a gun that pushed his sanity over the edge. Then there was, and I apologize for the word choice, a trigger that made him snap. It’s possible. It’s a clinical potential explanation of an irrational, unconscionable act that will never make sense anyway, but it’s also the only explanation that could give a possible reason that this person would be able to possess a gun.
If a person is not stable and sane, if they are not of sound mind and body, why on earth should they be allowed to own a gun? I know there are background checks and screenings for gun licenses. That’s all fine and good, yet awful, selfish people get their hands on guns and are able to massacre people who just happen to be in the line of fire. If a person undergoes some trauma, if they seek some kind of treatment, why should their gun license not be revoked? If a person owns a gun, why should he or she not be subject to regular psychiatric evaluation?
I know, I know, “Because it’s a violation of a person’s privacy.” I think it’s fair to say that if you insist upon owning a tool built for nothing but harm (regardless of whether or not that harm is in the name of self-defense) that certain freedoms are relinquished in the name of responsibilities.
After all, every responsibility we choose to undertake means relinquishing certain freedoms. I’m a mother and I have to pay my bills. I do not have the freedom to party all day and night and take luxurious vacations all the time. I cannot simply run to the store. I have to pack up the universe (read: diaper bag), load up my child, unload him at the store, keep him happy while we’re at the store, and remember everything I needed. There are no 5-10 minute errands. I can’t pop in and out of a store just to grab that stupid thing I forgot last time I was there. Those are freedoms I knew I was relinquishing when I chose to become a parent. Even having a driver’s license comes with responsibilities and I know that gun licenses do come with requirements.
However, gun ownership is a unique responsibility in that it is a license to own a weapon designed to kill. Sure, some people own them for recreational purposes (which is disturbing in and of itself), but it’s still a device that creates a contained explosion and expels a piece of metal at high enough speeds to pierce a large number of materials, including skin, muscle, and bone. They are weapons designed to kill. I can’t say that enough in order to emphasize the importance of keeping them out of the wrong hands.
But there is a secondary problem, which is how people are treated where mental health is concerned, and the problem around mental healthcare is twofold. First, is that, to some, it is inaccessible. Second is that it is stigmatized. Some people do not have access to mental healthcare. Some do not believe that they need it. Some people refuse to seek it. But honestly, I think mental healthcare is for everyone, sane or not, stable or not.
Maybe it’s just a chat a month to sort out the stresses of relationships, personal feelings & goals, social pressures, workplace expectations, everyday life, because living is rarely easy and sometimes it just feels good to let it all out. But maybe it’s a once a week visit fighting the voice that says you’re not sufficient or understanding that switch that, when flipped, creates uncontrollable rage. Maybe it’s regular monitoring to reconcile loss and move forward in life in a productive way. Maybe it’s intensive therapy to prevent a person who shows sociopathic tendencies from going off the deep end and acting on horrific fantasies.
I know. That’s dark. But today is a dark day in a season that is supposed to be merry and bright. There are children who won’t come home tonight. There are parents who won’t get to see the joy on their babies’ faces when they open that present they were so hoping for. And who knows if it was wholly preventable? I can’t. There are things in life that I will never be able to understand or know with certainty. But we can ask questions and demand answers. We can be kind to others, because we can’t be sure of what they may be struggling with within themselves. We can live in the way we want the world to be, because ultimately the only thing we have control over in this world is our own actions as individuals.
So please. Go out. Do good. Be kind. Question everything.