Friday, December 21, 2012

A Week Later: It Will Never Be Easy!

Last Friday, while the eager and ready minds of first graders were starting another school day, excited about Christmas and the upcoming weekend, innocence and promise were shattered in an unspeakable tragedy that has gripped this country by the heart strings and that has ignited a discourse of passion and emotion.  To me, it made no sense and would show no compassion to jump up on a soapbox spouting wouldas, shouldas and couldas before twenty families even had a chance to catch their breath or bury their children; and before six other families could say goodbye to their loved ones, heroes who had spent their last moments trying to protect students from a madman.   But there it was... by Friday afternoon, the murmurs could be heard.  As the emotional day wore on and cloudy rumors became clearer facts, the whispers became louder.  And by Saturday morning, everyone from politicians to news outlets to Facebook and Twitter feeds were raging about gun control as well as the current state of mental health care in this country.  The emotionally charged arguments are understandable.  We, as a nation, were still trying to wrap our heads around this devastating day and what could bring someone to murdering innocent children.

I promised myself that I would avoid as much as possible these arguments and wait before I chimed in.  I felt that Robbie Parker needed a chance to reflect on the short life of his baby girl Emilie and be able to lay her to rest without the sounds of politics ringing in his ears.  I felt people needed to know that Victoria Soto put herself in front of her students in a final effort to protect them and that her black lab Roxie is lost without her owner.  We needed to learn that Daniel Barden loved to ride waves and make s'mores with his cousins and that Oliva Engel was a Girl Scout and that she loved pink and purple.  I heard from a lot of people over the weekend that they had to turn the television off after awhile, feeling overwhelmed with sadness and unable to listen to it anymore.  My answer to them was that we NEEDED to be overwhelmed with sadness.  We needed to cry.  To hurt.  To grieve.  Because our pain is but nothing compared to what the Moms and Dads and brothers and sisters, our neighbors, in Newtown are going through.

The outcry is deafening and it is simple:  ban guns!  But IS it simple?  When events such as Newtown threaten the very fabric of our nation, and worse, target our most vulnerable of citizens, it is natural to want to take steps to make sure that something like this can never happen again.  The protests are there.  You hear it from the far left:  We should take away all guns from all people.  You hear it from the more moderate centrists:  We can take away certain types of guns from certain types of people.  And the far right can be heard clearly:  Don't touch our right to own guns.  Is the answer anywhere in those arguments?  Probably not, sorry to say.

The trendy shout is to ban "assault weapons"...  the shooter in Newtown carried a semi-automatic rifle along with two pistols.  Allegedly, he did not use the pistols.  The rifle has been referred to as an "assault rifle," which gives the impression of a military grade machine gun to those who have no experience with weapons.  In actuality, the rifle he used was a one trigger pull per round weapon with a 30 round magazine.  The unfortunate and horrible reality here is that had his mother kept only pump action or bolt action rifles, Adam Lanza would have still walked into that school and killed those children.

Many have said that Lanza's mother should not have had so many weapons at her disposal, that people should not be keeping weapons in their homes.  People need to know the story of Sarah McKinley.  Last Christmas, Sarah's husband died of cancer, leaving her and her 3 month old baby on their own in their home in Oklahoma.  A week later, two intruders were outside her home trying to break in, knowing that the man of the house was gone.  Sarah picked up her 12 guage shotgun and a pistol, called 911 and asked if it was okay to shoot the men if they got into the home.  She was told by the dispatcher to do what she had to do to protect her baby.  One of the men kicked in the door and came at her with a hunting knife.  Sarah leveled her gun and shot him in the chest, killing him instantly.  The other man fled.  If the far left would have their way, Sarah's guns would have been taken from her and she and her baby would surely have suffered a traumatic or deadly fate.

The response from the gun enthusiasts is that dangerously insane people are going to kill one way or the other.  The tired statement is that "if they outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."  And while this is indisputable, what cannot be just brushed under the rug is that guns are still the most deadly weapons in our society.  The argument cannot just be peeshawed because the Second Amendment says so.  There must be open and respectful discussion on the issue.

But let's keep in mind that in Oklahoma City in 1995, 168 people (including 19 children under the age of 6) were killed when Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder truck and 5,000 pounds of farm fertilizer to blow up the Alfred Murrah Federal Building.  Al Qaeda used box cutters and airplanes.  The point I am trying to make is that regardless of efforts, these isolated and unfathomable tragedies and attacks are going to happen.  They have happened before and they will happen again.  And all the legislation in the world cannot change that... it can only change the method of the madness.  If a person's goal is to murder, he or she will do it.  Had Lanza not had access to guns, who's to say he would not have decided to get in a car and speed into a bus stop crowded with backpack toting school children?  If that were to happen, do we ban cars?  Or do we take cars away from people suffering from personality disorder?  And then how do we know someone has not only a personality disorder, but a potential to murder?  Maybe we should just take away cars.  And bus stops.  Ensuring complete and absolute protection is a slippery slope that is best left alone.

As we try to come to grips with what happened last week, we are struggling with what steps we can take to make sure this does not happen again.  There have been calls to place armed police officers at every school in the country.  Others have suggested that schools have no windows and just one means of entry.  Of course, people want stricter gun control and better mental health care for troubled individuals.  In 2001, people demanded tighter security at airports.  There was no issue with taking off our shoes or going through longer lines to be patted down.  But as time passed, people started complaining about the lines, about the invasion of privacy related to searches.  People do not like their "freedoms" being encroached upon.

Every year around Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, we hear the same words over and over again as people remember fallen heroes and thank our veterans and active duty troops:  Freedom does not come free.  There is a price to be paid to live in a free country.  Those words make perfect sense and are almost exclusively applied to the sacrifices made by our military each and every day.  But we need to recognize this truth even more so in the face of tragedies such as Oklahoma City and Newton, CT.  Perhaps the only true downfall of living in a free country is that evil is afforded many of the same freedoms that good people enjoy.  It would be ideal to put into place all the measures that will guarantee our safety from the Adam Lanzas and Timothy McVeighs of the world.  But what would that look like?  Would we be shut in our houses, home-schooling our children.  Would we have no more airplanes?  No more crowded stadiums?  Is that how we want to live?  Or do we accept the cost of freedom with the responsibility to do everything within our power to keep our loved ones safe from harm yet remain living in a free country?  That is our cross to bear as a free nation while we try to move forward!

1 comment:

  1. As always, a thoughtful post by Brother Ken. Well said my friend.