It's been a year. One year ago Saturday, a crazed teenager tore holes in the town of Newtown, Connecticut when he sprayed bullets inside a local elementary school felling 26 innocent people including 20 small children and 6 adults. We mourned the senseless loss of life a year ago and we remember it somberly today.
So what's different today from a year ago? I would argue not much and, I would further argue, it's not for a lack of trying but rather focusing on the wrong thing.
26 families and the town surrounding them are still working to heal the holes in their hearts that, truth be told, will likely never fully heal. It'll just hurt a little bit less each day. For some, it's easier than others. Some have turned to activism while others work to keep their children's memory alive. Either way, they're brave people, I'll give them that.
When a nation mourns with you, and the situation you're mourning becomes a political football, it's oft a blessing and a curse. A curse because you're getting attention you never wanted for asked for for all the wrong reasons, a blessing because in theory people care and want it to never happen to someone else.
However, when guns are involved, a tragedy and a loss as personal as that of a child become a focal point for a political discussion. The elementary school was still a crime scene when the calls for stricter gun control laws started coming from the usual suspects.
Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. That's a fact. The shooter's mother lawfully obtained and stored her firearms. That's also a fact. Sadly, her son knew where she kept the key for her gun safe. She ignored obvious signs that her child had issues, which proved to be her own undoing. The laws that well-intentioned politicians proposed would not have affected the outcome of this situation.
Sadly, guns don't shoot themselves. The gun, regardless of type or style, isn't the problem. I would argue that the problem is the state of mind of the person brandishing the gun. Guns can no more injure a person all by themselves than a spoon can make you fat.
This past Friday, a disgruntled teenager shot a fellow student before taking his own life at Araphoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. Ironically, and again, in a state with some of the country's toughest gun control laws.
Further, I would argue that we focus on gun control because it's "sexy". It's an easy political get with gun control advocates thinking that if we just get every gun off the streets and out of our homes and communities, the problem is solved. Chicago is allegedly gun-free and yet, there have been 1,715 shootings, 351 of which resulted in death. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Germany was 'gun-free', among the citizenry, too. We all know how that turned out.
Guns, like knives and fists, cannot and do not cause harm by themselves. It's the person wielding the weapon that causes the pain. The gun is simply a tool.
I would argue that rather than focusing on gun control, we should focus on reaching out, and getting tot the root of the problem. Stripping away anger and resolving the issues that cause anger to fester and become rage that ends in a hail of gun fire would eliminate the circumstances that separate people and cause the trauma that leaves young men with no other choice, in their minds, but to take up arms. That's far more logical than additional gun control regulations and while it's less glam and probably won't get politicians many votes, it's far more effective than the alternative that we've seen work so well.
It would be a far more effective means of creating a peaceful world than disarming the citizenry. As an aside, if well-intentioned, trained, law-abiding citizens are disarmed, what then happens to the crazed gunman? Who protects innocents from him?
But I digress. I realize that delving into mental health issues means listening and getting involved. It means asking questions and speaking up if something seems amiss. Years ago, before we were all terrified of offending someone or getting in their business, adults asked kids questions.
Today, "See something? Say something" only seems applicable in airports. Would we not be better served if it applied in most situations? If a kid is withdrawn, socially awkward or instinct tells you something is amiss, getting them help just might save lives. In our PC society, people are so scared to offend but I would argue for "offending" if it might save lives. No apologies to would-be terrorists, thank you!
Yes, it's harder to deal with when kids and parents alike are in denial, as was apparently the case with the mother of the Newtown shooter, but not reaching out at all because we don't want to get involved or offend can have deadly consequences as we learned a year ago in Newtown.
I find it ironic that politicians and anti-gun activists want to rid every home, car and community of guns of every kind & want every piece of information about a person when registering a gun, but they feel like it would be intrusive to ask a young man how he's doing. Really?
Nowadays, kids hide behind TVs and gaming consoles, getting lost in video games and movies, where violence and mass casualties are glorified. Funny how you can get Hollywood to speak against gun violence, and for gun control, but try to get those same Hollywood types to quit marketing violent video games to young men, their target audience, voluntarily? Good luck with that. They'll argue that isn't the issue. Where did the kid get the idea, not to mention the complete lack of respect for human life, in the first place?
On this the one year anniversary of the tragic shootings in Newtown, how about we let common sense rule the day and work to get to the root of the issues that lead to gun violence. It can't hurt to try, can it?