I just watched an emotional episode of Rachel Maddow in which she interviewed Francine and David Wheeler, parents of Benjamin Wheeler one of the children massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14.
I am a parent, a grandparent and I cannot pretend to know what this family is feeling and what they will be going through for years to come. David told how their mail had to be diverted to a warehouse for two and half weeks because of the tremendous outpouring they received after the shooting. They still have trouble watching television or any news. Benjamin’s sibling Nate expressed concern they had broken their promise that they would ‘protect him and his brother’. These are gut and heart wrenching family conversations and only one of twenty sets of parents that lost first grade children to gun violence in this incident. There are siblings, grandparents, relatives, neighbors and friends of these children and educators that will never have the opportunity to see or speak to them again.
When I hear some of the nonsense excuses for availability of these weapons of mass destruction I shake my head in total amazement at the framing. There has never been a rationalization as ludicrous as the one that guns are for our ‘protection’. Will someone give me a single example of how the presence of a weapon has in any way contributed to ‘safety’ of the individual carrying that weapon? Weapons of any size and caliber from a slingshot, a knife, to a thermonuclear device have been designed and manufactured to destroy life of some kind. Never has any weapon been used to secure the safety of life or property. For every case cited by the gun lobby where a gun ‘saved lives’ there are many more cases where the absence of firearms allowed the situation to de-escalate without loss of life. How many violent domestic situations turn deadly when a firearm is present? Two angry drunks in a bar ‘may’ beat each other to death before someone intervenes, but if they have guns it is nearly inevitable that someone will die. Turn their framing on its head and ask yourself what we did before guns were so readily available. What do other countries do that don’t have our no-questions-asked gun (non) restrictions?
I’ve heard the anecdotes where ‘a crime was stopped’ because someone pulled out their knife, a baseball bat or gun. Yes, it occurs, but I have also seen the aftermath of too many ‘good Samaritans with good intentions’ maiming or killing innocent bystanders with a firearm. The logistics of the gun in the home used for self protection never made sense to me unless you eat, sleep, bath, and, dream with a loaded weapon strapped to your body. Do you mow your lawn packing? Wash your car or cook dinner in a shoulder holster? Are you always sober, well trained, mentally alert and ready for that intruder or mugger when the time comes? Our local police and deputy sheriffs are some of the finest and best trained in the country and I have never heard one proclaiming they were ‘ready’ when their time came to meet deadly force with extreme deadly force. When that time comes for the professional you will have exhausted all other alternatives. Most go through some form of PTSD afterward and all are required to undergo mandatory counseling before going back on active duty. This isn’t the typical scenario in the world of the untrained gun toting cowboy. These occasions result in the death of a teenager washing down Skittles with an ice tea and others playing their music too loud. They escalate from a husband and wife shouting match to lives and families destroyed. When a gun is in the wrong hands at the wrong time things go bad faster than the proverbial speeding bullet.
Yes, there are the Wayne 'Call Me Crazy' LaPierres, Alex Jones’, James Yeagers and Larry Klaymens who imagine a tyrannical boogey man when anyone attempts to have a rational, adult conversation to reign in the actual massacres by firearms in this country. What makes these people care more about their weapons collections than real people I’ll always struggle to understand. We have all seen the statistics on gun related violence here as compared to other ‘developed’ nations worldwide. Honduras has a higher homicide rate per capita as do other parts of South America, directly related to an ongoing drug war. Parts of Africa that have high rates of gun related deaths are countries that have barely functioning government (a.k.a. the Libertarian nirvana).
Rational people worldwide (outside the U.S.) have come to the conclusion that their families are better protected when they acknowledge that an escalating weapons ideology is absolutely the wrong direction for a developed nation to be headed. At what point does it cease to make sense that arming everyone is ridiculous? Should first graders have weapons training as part of their curriculum? Could ‘Carry Permits for Kindergartners’ be the new NRA slogan? Do my mother and grandmother need small arms education to go to the mall? Should this type of training be mandatory before you are allowed to drive an automobile or go to the theater? What will the NRA recommend after we have armed every living, breathing person in America and the next massacre happens?
‘The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun’If this policy is acceptable, then what level of collateral damage are we willing to accept before we ‘just say no’? When do we understand that the ‘discussion’ we need to have about the absurd number of weapons available today in America is monopolized by the NRA, weapons manufacturing and their associated corporations? When does it become obvious more guns in the hands of an untrained, schizophrenic population doesn’t translate to a safer environment for our children? Where is the tipping point? What will need to occur before we realize that we have been victimized by the paranoid gun establishment propaganda and their product? I know where the cost/benefit is for them, but what about the rest of us?