I write to process thoughts and emotions. In the instance of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting I’ve had no words. Or rather, no sentences. Plenty of words that splutter out (senseless, why?, tragic, heartbreaking, why??, horrific, scary, empathy, why???, sympathy, love, fear, WHY) but no way to form them into comprehensible sentences. After obsessively refreshing CNN, NPR, ABC, and Facebook until well after midnight Friday into Saturday I steered clear from new information for a while. I had enough to make my broken heart throb and visions race endlessly through my head. I had enough to keep a constant stream of tears coursing from my eyes, while also drinking in every cell and particle that makes up my own son and daughter. The son and daughter that every parent should have an inalienable right to hug, kiss, and tuck in at night.
I was shocked at the first Facebook status I saw in regards to protecting gun rights. How could anyone let any other thought through their heads except, SIX YEAR OLDS MURDERED? Someone’s world, their hearts, their souls…taken. Then I cried again, that people were so selfish to want to protect the cold piece of metal that was the reason for so many dead.
If you think you have freedom because you can carry a firearm, but you don’t have the freedom to be standing in a mall, movie theater, or school without harm or death; then you have fooled yourself into believing you are free.
The party’s over, pronounced someone close to me that was formerly in the military. Tell every citizen to bring their @#&%ing gun to a local armory by Wednesday. You want to hunt? Fine! Drive over, check out your weapon, hunt, and return it to the armory. No more easy access guns. It’s done. All around me others I would have thought favoring guns surprised me into commenting about the changes that needed to be seen immediately. I don’t judge anyone negatively for hunting or even shooting guns at a shooting range. It’s not something I enjoy as an extracurricular activity, but when practiced responsibly and in a safe place, it’s not a danger to others.
Of course mental health is the driving factor for this and other cases of gun violence. Mentally stable people will not kill someone, unprovoked. Yes, if a person wants to kill someone and they are unable to get a gun they may use another method. It is pessimistic to think that every mentally ill person who thinks about killing people will do so just because they could have the means somehow. Stop it! Maybe they won’t. Maybe without the ease and convenience of, say, opening your mother’s gun cabinet, a sick person will never follow through. Maybe without weapons that have the capability to shoot so many rounds in seconds, less tragedy will bring an entire country to its knees over and over again. Maybe saving even one life, having one less person murdered, is worth it.
Lastly, I’ll dispel illogical statements about having teachers carry weapons. This will never happen. Doing this will create the unsafe environment for students that you are trying to protect them from. Do you know what kind of worlds have everyone armed and trained to kill others? The increasingly popular dystopian society books do. The kind of places that you think, oh that sounds frightening. I would never want to live there.
Mental illness can begin showing signs at an early age. There are elementary teachers who need a safety procedure in place in case a disturbed student puts themself or others in danger. Often times it involves removing everyone else in the classroom and having them be in a safe place while the student rages within the classroom. It is often dangerous for staff and students to attempt to physically remove such a student. The student may be throwing furniture, using language that is abusive for the other small ears to be exposed to, or the child may be in such a black-out fit of anger that they’ll use whatever they can get their hands on as a weapon. I once had an 11 year old student stab another student in the leg with the very sharp, metal point of a math compass. Imagine if such a student knew that I had a gun in the room?
I used to keep a box cutter in my classroom. It was to cut into tennis balls that could then be placed on the legs of the chairs so they didn’t scrape up the floor. I kept the box cutter hidden, covered, in a box, in the back of a high cupboard. And no one knew of its existence. That was the only way I felt safe about it being in the room, because it is irresponsible to have weapons within reach of children. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes kids are pressured or bullied into trying something that crosses boundaries they normally wouldn’t cross. There’s the possibility that even a sane child could accidentally cause harm with a weapon. Classrooms are supposed to be a safe haven of peace. A place children spend the majority of their day. We want children, and adults, to feel loved, nurtured, and safe in schools. Eliminating, not adding, weapons is the answer.
Let’s entertain the teacher-with-gun scenario for a moment. Say the teacher has a weapon “safely” unloaded and locked away from children. Would the teacher be able to reach the gun in time to use it against a person randomly attacking the school? Say the teacher is at the other end of the school and has time to locate and load a weapon. The teacher even shoots the attacker, ending the barrage. Meanwhile, so much time has gone by and the weapon used by the attacker shot hundreds of rounds by the time the teacher got there. Many lives are still lost. And students are still traumatized by gun violence, a shoot-out that now involves their trusted teacher.
Guns offer an impersonal convenience. You can kill someone from a distance. The victim may not even have time to make a noise. Say a mentally ill person tries to attack people in a school with a knife. I think it’s fair to say in most cases the attacker is not going to kill as many people as the in the Sandy Hook Elementary devastation, before being overpowered. Also, I may not have gun training, but I have self-defense training, and it’s possible that I could overpower someone who’s on the same “playing field” as me. Give me a rush of adrenaline and a set of car keys and I promise you that your babies under my care will not have a hair on their heads touched.
People who come into public places and terrorizes others are terrorists. We began a war on terror many years ago, but it will continue until we end the terror that grows within our own country every day.
I pray for peace and healing to every person affected by the Sandy Hook shooting. I weep for the children and adults, beautiful souls leaving this world too soon. I hope that everyone grieving for their lost loves has arms that they are able to cry in. I hope that teachers, students, and parents everywhere will come to a time when they don’t have a nightmare what if vision constantly playing through their mind. That parents will be able to tell their child they love them before dropping them off to school, but because they do-not because they’re terrified the last words uttered to their child would be anything else. I pray that even though there will NEVER be a justifiable reason as to why these innocent people lost their lives there will be repercussions that help to save someone else.