“No legislative body shall enact any measure that pertains to inhibiting or in any way impeding the ability of the citizenship to protect itself from threat, foreign nor domestic.” – John Quincy Adams.
He didn’t actually say this, I made it up. I made it up but were I to make it into a meme and share it across social media most wouldn’t care about that. Judging by my Facebook feed over the past week it seems that half of you would give it a “like”, happy in the knowledge that our founding fathers agreed that if the Good Lord didn’t want us to be able to possess any and all types of weaponry that we wanted, well, He wouldn’t have made them. The other half would insult my penis size and accuse me of not caring about children.
This too, is untrue, at least I hope it is. I hope that there is a large group of you, a quieter group, that thinks that there should be a way to make us all safer without impinging on anyone’s rights or starting a second Civil War. A group that doesn’t think that this is a “mental health problem” or a “gun problem” and wonders why it needs a label, why there seems to be such a need to automatically divide into two factions and make this an argument. There are problems that need to be addressed with the way that this country identifies and treats those with psychological issues. There are problems that need to be addressed about the ease in which an individual can massacre large numbers of people in a shockingly short amount of time.
Why does it have to be one or the other? Why does this have to be so hard?
Maybe the answer is that it is hard, that there is no one solution that would have prevented all of these tragedies, that the answer isn’t as simple as less guns or more guns. That this is both a mental health issue, a gun access issue, and in many cases a parenting issue.
The Sandy Hook shooter was seen at Yale University’s Child Study Center and was diagnosed with multiple psychological disorders, concerns and treatment options voiced to his parents at numerous schools and by numerous mental health workers. His parents resisted all treatment, insisting that their son was gifted and misunderstood. He walked into that school with ten thirty round magazines, allowing him to fire 159 bullets in approximately four minutes. Do you fault the lack of follow up by those concerned that he was a danger to himself and others, the parents, or the access to an AR-15 and extended ammo clips? All three?
The Parkland shooter also had concerns about him documented by social workers, school administrators, mental health counselors, the local police and even the FBI. After a home visit by the Henderson Behavioral Health Department it was determined that he wasn’t a risk to harm himself or others. The investigation into his weapons purchases are still forthcoming as of this writing, but it appears that he was still able to pass the state of Florida background checks necessary to buy ten rifles in the past year, including the AR-15 used in the shooting. The family that he was living with since the death of his mother said they knew he was depressed, knew that he had rifles that he had brought to their house. The father stated that “I knew he had assault rifle, but I knew he used it out hunting.” When asked if he thought it was fine for a 19 year old to have an AR-15, he responded “It’s his right to have it.”
When asked if he felt differently now : “No, nope.”
A number I’ve seen passed around quite a bit this week is that there have been 18 school shootings so far this year, as of this writing February 21st. This is somewhat misleading, as this number refers to the amount of times that a firearm was discharged on a school property. Of those two were suicides, three were accidental firings, and several more were the results of arguments or attempted robberies in school parking lots. In one case the school was no longer in use. I hate to use the word “only” to say that only three cases met the criteria of a “mass shooting” because that is still three too many, but statistically it’s still safer for my daughter once she gets to school than it is for her as I’m driving her there.
On that drive there are laws that have been put in place for her protection and the protection of others. No matter how warm it was today or how much she would enjoy it, I can’t let her ride in the back of my pickup. I can’t drink mimosas with breakfast and no matter how long it takes us to pick out her outfit I can’t drive as fast as I want. I need to pass several tests before I’m allowed to drive and if I want to drive certain types of vehicles I need a separate license. If I decided not to follow these rules I run the risk of losing that privilege. I’m not allowed to drive a tank.
Ask one hundred people for their ideas on how to make our schools safer and you’ll get a hundred different answers ranging from the completely asinine to the immediately actionable but somehow nothing ever gets done.
Nothing gets done because the solution isn’t just hard, it’s impossible. No one measure is going to work, nothing will ever stop a motivated individual from slaughter.
But we can make things better, make things safer. It will take compromise and sacrifice, an end to finger pointing and name calling. It will take more than meme sharing and thoughts and prayers. It will take admitting that the task is as impossible as ending any other sort of crime but acknowledging that we owe it to our children to try.
That’s all any of us really want in the end. To see our leadership try, to fucking do something other than count their campaign donations and bow to those that pull their strings.
It shouldn’t be this hard.