This is an area where I claim no expert knowledge, nor do I profess to have any of the answers, even if the Diary does throw out a few suggestions worth discussing. No, like the rest of humanity I was shocked to the core by the events in Connecticut, as I was by the previous similar instances. I have read some of the outpouring of grief on the site and simply wanted to add my voice to the very necessary debate ... twigg
On Friday morning I went through the same, commonplace routine that happens every school day in the Bracken household.
The two older kids leave at 7.15 am and I am left alone to rouse the cute nine-year-old and help her get ready for school. She has breakfast, usually DynoBites, sometimes toast and butter. She adores the home made bread, toasted, then she will busy herself getting ready.
We usually get to chatter aimlessly for ten minutes while we wait for the bus. This morning was no different. Tonight she is having her first sleepover, and she is anxious about it. I asked her what she would like for supper, and she rattled through about four fast-food options wondering all the while what her friend would like.
This is a bit of a ritual dance. Ask Natalie what she wants for supper, and it is always fast-food. So I suggested that I might make pizza. Nat wasn't sure about that so I countered with home-made chicken tenders and English fries.
Well to see her face you would think I just offered her the Earth, and all that is in it.
Then the bus came and she went off with a smile.
If we lived not in Oklahoma, but in Newtown, Connecticut, then that might very well have been the last time I saw her alive. Indeed, I am all too well aware that it could happen here too.
Here in this quiet town where nothing happens, ever. Our town is just like that other town, the one where death visited and that was brought sharply home an hour or so later when I turned on the TV. I spent the next hour texting with Jodie (Mrs Twigg), herself a teacher in the local high school. All I wanted to do was get in the car and go bring our children home.
Home to our house which is safe. Home to their parents who love them. Removed from the dangers of our modern world in a way that the parents of twenty children will no longer be able to do. I cried for those parents, lives shattered by the latest in a never-ending series of avoidable tragedies. Parents who will never hug their grade-schoolers again. Adults ripped from their families and even the killer ... whatever his story it is just another life wasted, another death that has to be put down to our abject failure as a society, to protect each other from harm.
It is salutory to think that the Christmas presents for those children have already been bought. Some may even be under trees in the living room. Others will be in closets waiting to be wrapped. Joyful gifts for children who will never open them, now serving only as a stark reminder of the joyless lives of their families.
In the minutes and hours following this horrific event, the schools went on "lock-down". This is something schools all over the country practise in an attempt to minimize the potential for harm. While I can be thankful that schools make these arrangements, what I cannot accept is that we put up with even the idea that schools need to consider "lock-down" at all. This is neither normal or healthy. What kind of society have we built that our grade-schoolers have to practice "lock-down"?
Yet that is the reality of the society we live in. A country where the killings are so frequent that it is "never the right time to talk about it". Either it is too soon, or the next one is already upon us. A country where we all know that gun violence is running out of control, where mental health services are non-existent or difficult to obtain, yet there seems to be a gun store on every corner. A country where, Rachel Maddow informs us, there have been one hundred and eighty one similar instances since Columbine, and all that has happened in our attempts to address the problem is that gun laws have been relaxed.
That is the society we live in. We built that!
We are desperate for a change. I am way past caring about the rights of gun-owners, when those same owners will do nothing to keep my children safe from harm. As a parent, keeping my children safe is my only priority, and you are getting in the way. We make suggestions. Proposals that do nothing to stop lawful gun ownership, yet even here, even on this site the supporters of gun ownership reject every suggestion or proposal coming their way.
Assault weapons ban ... "It won't work"
Limiting clip size ... "It won't work"
Registration .... "It only punishes lawful owners"
Traceability ... "It won't stop illegal guns".
I'm sick of hearing what will not work. It's excuses, and those excuses are enabling the NRA, and they are killing our children. When did it become the accepted position that, unless a proposed solution is a total solution, it should be rejected out of hand?
The problem we have here is that, for some completely inexplicable reason, we apparently should not make laws because the criminals will not obey them. I wonder, when I hear that, why we bother having laws at all. Laws define criminality. If we determine that there should be regulation, and even some bans, then everyone failing to obey those laws is a criminal and we can treat them as such. Just like we do for all the other laws. This is not complicated.
We need to send a message which is only partly to do with the law. We need eventually to make guns completely unacceptable in open society. What you do within the confines of your own property can, by and large, be left to your discretion; but what you do when you step outside those boundaries is very much the business of us all. I have rights too, and one of them is the right to live free from fear, and the right for my children to go to school and come home again, alive and happy. If I have to piss you off to achieve that, then get out your crayons and color me bothered.
It doesn't have to be this way. The gun owners I have had conversations with generally keep weapons for self-protection. Self protection from what? From other people with guns. Bad guys. They point me to the viscous circle complaining that I don't understand. If they give up their guns, or accept background checks before EVERY transfer, or close loopholes, or add traceability to ammunition, and guns .... or comply with registration and training ... then only the criminals will have guns.
If we limit assault rifles or the size of clips and magazines then we have problems with definitions and existing inventory. Well I call bullshit on all of that because we have to start somewhere, and accepting the excuses means that we do nothing, and next Christmas there will be more unopened presents.
I ask you ... all the gun owners out there ... Are you prepared to do nothing and next year have it be the grade school your child attends that goes through this?
If the answer to that is no, then where do we start?
I'd be happy to begin anywhere. Re-instate the assault weapons ban, however imperfect. Limit the magazine and clip capacities. Register all guns and make sure both they, and the ammunition are traceable. Background checks for everyone and mandated training. Strict rules about the conditions under which guns are kept and an end to both concealed and open carry. A complete rollback of "Stand Your Ground" and a return to "Backs to the Wall". Waiting periods that mean something would help too. I am fully aware that ending concealed carry will not sit well with some of you :: shrug ::
The only real price legal owners will face for any of that is a little inconvenience. You may have the Constitutional Right to keep and bear arms. You have no such protections outwith your own property, Heller notwithstanding, and laws can be changed even if the constitution is currently in the hands of madmen.
If we change laws, and y'all bring a reasonable case that some parts could be improved, then we will listen. If, however, we have to do it without you, then eventually we will do just that, and if you do not have a seat at that table then rules will simply be imposed by those who do.
It defies all logic and reason to suggest that the answer to gun violence in society is more guns. The answer is not that, not even close. It is less guns, period. Dramatically less in the wrong hands, and simply less overall. If the guns are not there then there is little to be scared of, and no reason to carry a gun. If criminals don't get it, then they are criminals and they will be treated accordingly.
If we can restrict the access to legal guns, then we proportionately reduce the supply of illegal guns. It won't be quick and it won't be without problems. There may even be people who are killed because they didn't have their gun handy. We have to balance that with the absolute certainty that many will die if we do nothing.
You can pick apart any suggestions made by me or by anyone else. You can parse the words and stand on your rights. You can do all of that but if it is not balanced by reasonable and workable solutions that reduce the problems we are facing, then you are part of the problem.
Before you go down that road I simply ask you to do one thing.
Take a good, hard look at the presents you have just bought for your children or grandchildren. Think back to all those years that have gone, and the happy and excited faces as those gifts, lovingly given, were opened in a flurry of arms and a shower of paper. Then think of those families in Newtown, and the presents now frozen in the agony of eternity.
I know this is an unabashed emotional appeal, I make no apology for that.
My children, your children and the twenty children now gone .... and all the other children who become statistics on a daily basis because gun-owners are not responsible. They all demand our protection and we are failing them.