Yesterday, twenty-seven people were shot in Connecticut. Yesterday morning, twenty children were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. At approximately 9:40 AM, twenty children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a .223-caliber rifle. Twenty children had their right to life ruthlessly stolen from them. Twenty perfectly innocent children. It takes a while to process these things.
I saw the news but I couldn’t comprehend what had occurred for a few hours. After I walked around campus, turned in my final math homework, chatted with some friends at the UA airport shuttle table, and came back to my room, I read a little bit more about what happened. I saw President Obama break down as he addressed the nation. I read a Slate columnist call for us to finally politicize the issue. The Onion did the best job summing up how we all feel: “Report: It Okay To Spend Rest of Day Curled Up in Fetal Position.” Of course it’s The Onion that gets it right. There are some serious conversations to come. I fear none of them will really address what needs to change.
Gun control is the obvious rallying call, and I agree that something needs to be done on this front. It shouldn’t be as easy as it is to get a hold of a gun. There is no sane reason for any civilian to possess an automatic weapon. There is no sane reason for any civilan to possess a semi-automatic weapon. It is unbelievably selfish to believe that anybody’s personal protection, which is where a lot of gun rights arguments originate, outweighs the personal protection of people in Connecticut, or Oregon, or Wisconsin, or Colorado, or Arizona. And it is irresponsible to endanger children for the right to own an obviously unnecessary tool of death.
The underlying discussion that needs to happen – but probably will not – is one of mental health. At what point do we realize that the people who have committed these crimes tend to be mentally ill? And at what point do we decide to do something about that? It is entirely unacceptable that in a nation that calls itself the best and most advanced in the world, we have had five of the twelve most deadly shootings in our history in the last 1,425 days. We refuse to provide health care coverage to the people who need it most and then act surprised when their untreated mental instability takes its predictable turn for the worse.
Maybe if the people who are most likely to abuse guns are treated, we won’t have to worry about the consequences of gun control laws: a black market for illegal arms and a still-viable path to armament. But Washington refuses to do anything on both fronts, and President Obama has dropped an assault weapons ban from his 2008 campaign platform, refusing to touch it in the past three-plus years. It’s tempting to point the finger of blame at the Republicans as the party of the Second Amendment, yet it’s not the people, it’s the system. Hopefully, with this last unnecessary and needless massacre, Washington will see the need for change. I know I’ll be writing to my congresswoman and senator in the hopes they consider this more carefully.
Forever the realist, I take this view: the Republicans will say that now is not the time to politicize a tragedy, Democrats will talk about gun control, the President will wait for the legislature to do something, and nothing will happen. And that is a shame. Let me know when it’s ok to leave my bed; until then, I’ll be lying in the fetal position.