I have to write this, because I have to write something.
The facts are well-known by now: a seriously disturbed individual walked into Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT and opened fire with two handguns, killing about 30 people—and 20 of them were children. English is a versatile language, but it falls way short in having adequate words to describe something like this. Maybe every language on Earth does. But that doesn’t stop the information from flowing constantly, on the best of days as well as the worst.
Social Media is a funny thing. It is, simultaneously, all of these: annoying and inspirational, informative and misleading, shocking and totally predictable. I read dozens of “reports” throughout the morning on various reputable news websites and their Twitter feeds that turned out to be partially or completely false; too many times, being first trumps being right. But the gist was easy to grasp, and the horrible realities sunk in quickly. Many people spoke out about the gun violence problem in this country; their opposition promptly swatted them back with either “this is not the time” or “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Others took the stance that more guns were needed, or they hoped their guns would not be taken away as a result of this nutjob’s actions; their opposition knocked them down with labels like “heartless” and, again, “this is not the time.” And probably the majority stuck to the middle of the road, offering something to the effect of “please don’t politicize this tragedy, this is not the time, let us all grieve and help the victims and their families.” I don’t have a problem with that in principle, but don’t trivialize the issues at hand by calling them political. Gun violence, like all violence, is a societal issue. We have a problem with violence in this country. This is not news. It is also, apparently, “not the time.” Well when the hell is the time, then?
Where I sit on this issue is what I would call “medium-left.” I’m not really anti-gun, because I just don’t care that much about them to have that stance. Frankly, I don’t get the fetish—and believe me, that’s the correct term to use in too many cases. I’m generally not a fan of concealed carry, simply because I don’t think the vast majority of Americans are skilled enough, smart enough, or stable enough to safely carry a loaded gun around all the time. It’s not the gun that scares me; it’s the fuckup that’s carrying it around trying to pass judgment on who might be a thug and who might be just a person wearing a hoodie. You want to talk about freedom? I happen to like walking around town without worrying about being accidentally shot by an untrained citizen who thinks his or her wallet is going to be lifted because they were looked at funny. That’s true freedom to me. Now I know the 2nd Amendment humpers will either be getting ready to click over to another website right about now, or are simply readying their vitriolic (yet patriotic, I’m sure) reply for the comments section below. But before you go, let me say I too believe in the 2nd Amendment—especially the part that says “well regulated” at the very beginning. We are not well regulated when it comes to gun laws, not by a longshot. But we need to be.
One of the favorite arguments in debates like this is “Well, how many people kill other people with their car? We gonna ban cars now too?” Listen, Gomer—that’s not exactly apples to apples, and you know it. But even if it was, think about what it takes to legally become a driver: months of driver’s ed, written tests, road tests, eye tests, registering and ID’ing the driver, registering a vehicle, re-registration of the vehicle yearly, re-registration and ID’ing the driver every five years max, retesting, etc. Is that even close to what a citizen has to go through to legally own and carry a gun in most states? It is far too easy for the wrong people to obtain weaponry and equipment that should be reserved for police and the military: automatic and semi-automatic weapons; extended magazines; thousands of rounds of ammunition; body armor…and on and on. Self-defense? With that? Give me a break.
But I digress—back to social media, and something specific I saw on Twitter that really grabbed me. The same basic idea was tweeted by many in slightly different ways, and I failed to note where I first saw it so I cannot properly attribute this quote. My apologies to whomever said it first. But trying to sift through the more guns/less guns/gun control/CCW for all/let’s not talk about it now hullabaloo, I found this simple statement to be the most telling:
Only in America can gun ownership be a right and healthcare be a privilege.
Try to not let your biases cloud your vision while you read that sentence—look at it as just a general statement of fact. Kind of seems like skewed priorities, no? Imagine a society where the reverse of that statement was reality. What if gun ownership was a privilege—not illegal, but tested, registered, retested, the whole lot—and healthcare (including mental healthcare) was a right protected by the Constitution? I know, I know…there’s a money issue. Ignore that; just evaluate this idea on principle. Would we as a society—We The People—really be worse off? After all, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Then why aren’t we taking better care of our people–body, mind, and soul? And save your “Obamacare” diatribes; this isn’t about that. Bob Costas raised a stink recently after the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide by going on TV and saying they’d both still be alive if he didn’t own a gun. Well, here’s my stink to raise: would six adults and 20 children in Newtown, CT still be alive if Adam Lanza had no access to his mother’s guns? Maybe. Would they all still be alive if he had unimpeded access to mental health professionals who could evaluate, diagnose, and maybe treat him for some of the impulses that led him to commit this unconscionable act? Maybe. If the U.S. had a better handle on both sides of the equation, could this tragedy—along with the numerous others that have occurred in recent years—have been prevented? Yes, I believe so.
Again, this is not just a gun issue. It’s not just a healthcare issue. It’s not just a political issue, and it’s not just a rights issue. It’s a society issue, and a priorities issue. Only across-the-board changes will truly prevent things like this from happening again. And it may cost some money, and it may result in uncomfortable nuisances we aren’t used to. But the longer we bicker about it without taking action, that prevention will never come. This is something worth working towards. Now really is the time. You know why? Because prior to 12/14/12 should have been the time, but we missed it. We cannot continue to miss it again and again and again.