(WARNING: After the break this posting contains descriptions that may be too visceral and too fresh for readers who have lost loved ones due to gun violence. I urge you to read the remainder of this post with that caution in mind.)
There is one picture from the Sandy Hook massacre I just can’t shake. I see it when I put my head on the pillow at night. I see it when I wake up in the morning. I saw it dance before my eyes as I drove to the office the other day.
It’s not a picture of one of the dead children, those beautiful, smiling kids whose lives were snuffed in the blink of an eye. I can’t forget those images, either, but they don’t haunt me in quite the same way. If God is truly as merciful as He promises, then I must believe they are with Him in paradise.
No, the image seared in my memory is the picture of a chain of children being led from the Sandy Hook Elementary school. I think the third girl in the chain is the one whose face I can’t shake. It’s the face of innocence lost, of adult horrors bestowed on too young a child. Her mouth is gaping, her eyes clamped shut. She is clearly sobbing. The trajectory of her life has been altered permanently by actions of unspeakable evil.
I don’t know what that little girl saw in that school. Was it another one of her Kindergarten or 1st Grade schoolmates lying bleeding on the floor? Was it a teacher in the hallway, gunned down by a semi-automatic-wielding sociopath? Was it blood on the walls or spattered body parts on the ceiling? Was it a hole in a heart or an explosive exit wound in a back? Or was it simply the sounds of screaming children and adults over the school PA, or the metallic-sounding “pop-pop-pop-pop-pop” of an assault rifle, the sole purpose of which is swift, merciless extinction of life?
I’ll never know.
But I must know.
You must know.
We all must know.
If I am even 50% of the Christian I claim to be, I must know and I must LIVE the horror that child experienced. I must take her terror into my heart and I must let it move me to compassionate action.
Of course, I’m a weakling when it comes to stuff like this. I really don’t know what action to take. Will I propose legislation? Probably not. I’m not plugged in enough to make that happen. Will I drive up there to Connecticut, as did a trio of women from Georgia, and just give people hugs? I doubt it. I’m just not that selfless.
But I must do something. I can’t let this happen to another child, or another teacher, or another high school student, or another unsuspecting patron at a movie theater, or another office worker caught in domestic crossfire, or another person attending a public event with a politician in Arizona, or another college campus.
I must do something to stop the carnage.
If we are truly a civilized society, we must do something to stop the carnage.
If we are truly a “Christian” nation, we must do something to stop the carnage.
Whether it’s better mental health services, better controls on assault weapons, better school security, or better anything, WE must do whatever it takes to protect our citizens from this kind of bloodshed. We must citizen-up and solve this problem. NOW.
If you are a gun owner, remember this…
I don’t begrudge you your right to keep and bear arms. I will NEVER again put my hand to a gun, but I do not begrudge you your right.
I understand the visceral fear that drives people to own guns. The parking lot of our college’s downtown campus has offered up occasional shell casings. It’s located in a tough section of town. The thought that a gang-banger might come around the corner when I least expect it terrifies me. The parking lot across from our building has been the scene of previous domestic violence. I worry that I might stroll into it some night and stumble into people working out their disagreements at the point of a gun.
I get that fear, the fear that you have no control over your own destiny and someone else might.
I understand the fear that drives a person who has personally experienced violence to never want to experience it ever again, to protect themselves and their family from the threat of unseen madmen in the night. You never know who might have a gun, so you get yourself a gun to even the playing field.
Back in the early 80’s I used to hop the Market-Frankford El in Philly at the 30th and Market subway station. 8pm at night. N’ere do wells lurking in the shadows. I was in fear for my life every time I stood on that platform waiting for a train. I imagined some psycho pushing me into the path of an oncoming train. I remembered the stories of muggings on that very platform. I bought a billy club at a local army and navy store and I kept it in my briefcase, “Just in case.”
But even though I understand the fear that drives people to arm themselves for purposes of protection, I can’t begin to understand why gun owners and the gun lobby won’t stand up and police the industry’s excesses. Semi-automatic weapons serve one purpose and one purpose only.
Killing as quickly, decisively, and thoughtlessly as possible.
Killing without stopping to think that the next bullet you squeeze off might hit an innocent.
Killing without a bolt action to slow down the process.
Killing with a magazine holding enough bullets to keep shooting until the job is more than done.
Now we have these killers showing up at schools and shopping malls and movie theaters in body armor.
Body armor, for God’s sake.
I don’t have answers. I don’t know how to come up with laws or policies the gun lobby will embrace. I don’t know how to come up with ways to cut down on the potential for carnage without gun owners thinking I’m trying to take away Constitutional rights.
So the answer is simple…
The gun lobby has to do a better job of policing its own. The Newtown Connecticut massacre just told us that there aren’t enough police in the world to do that job for the gun lobby. The police are out-manned, often out-gunned, and always playing catch-up.
And no, I reject the notion that the answer is arming teachers. Dear God, what kind of insanity drives people like Larry Platt to make such an absurd suggestion. The answer to gun violence is to simply add MORE guns to schools? This is a man who clearly has never been around the hustle, bustle, and challenges of a public school before. Teachers must be free to teach, not heighten the fear level of their students.
The gun lobby must come up with ideas we can ALL live with, solutions that protect those of us who REFUSE to carry a gun as well as those who choose to. They clearly do not want new rules imposed upon them. It is time for gun owners across this country to impose those rules upon themselves.