“Evil visited this community today and it’s too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut — we’re all in this together. We’ll do whatever we can to overcome this event.” Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy
If you had a hard time sleeping last night, you weren’t alone. I probably should have turned off my television, stopped looking at tweets and news stories, and read a book or watched some silly movie. I couldn’t, though, and I sat for hours, following the events yesterday, much in the way I did in the days following 9/11. The collective grief of our country felt a lot like it did after those terrorist attacks – maybe because what happened yesterday seemed just like an act of terrorism. People hurt and kill each other every day in this crazy world we live in, but when a group of innocents is taken from us, it really is so much worse.
When I wrote my post yesterday morning, I said that I wasn’t going to make this about guns and gun control. I’m going to backtrack on that just a bit, not because I blame guns for this, but because we need to talk about this. TexasTart quoted something from the FBI that was stunning to me. She said, “I saw a statistic from the FBI today that said there are 310 million people in the USA and 285 million guns – that they know about. It’s fairly unrealistic to think those will all go away and they are the very thing that is typically used to protect us.” What gave me pause about this comment was not the number of guns in this Country, but the fact that the overwhelming majority of them are in the hands of responsible owners.
I spent some time last night looking at timelines of mass shootings in the United States in the past 20 years or so. Since the shooting at Luby’s Restaurant in Killeen, Texas in 1991, there have been 28 incidents, resulting in 255 deaths. The number of guns used in all of these attacks was 75, give or take. That infinitesimal percentage, in relation to the number of guns owned by Americans, belies the claim that this is only a gun control issue. It tells me that guns, and gun owners, are, for the most part, under control.
What troubles me more is who is committing these heinous acts. With few exceptions, the suspects are young white males who, for whatever reason, are harboring feelings of anger. They are disenfranchised members of our society, driven to kill because they were denied a promotion, were fired, got a bad grade at school, broke up with a wife or girlfriend, or simply see things that the rest of us can’t and don’t see. If what we’re hearing about Adam Lanza has any truth to it, he fits the profile. While I tread very lightly in saying so, given the lack of real and reliable sources, this young man had psychological issues which were or weren’t being addressed. The weapons he used yesterday were legally purchased and owned by his mother, one of the victims of his rampage. How or why that can make any sense is beyond me, but it matters if one wants to really talk about how mental illness is the real, constant and common factor in these things. Sane, well-adjusted and happy people don’t murder each other.
When I said that someone could have done something that may have prevented this tragedy, well, this may very well be an example. I’m not blaming his mother. More often than not, good parents do what good parents do – raise children who will be happy, healthy and productive adults. Sometimes, however, because of guilt, shame, social stigmas or poor support systems, children are let down by the very people who are supposed to do right by them and help isn’t given.
So, there are a couple of things that we really need to talk about. Mental health issues, and the way we deal with them in this country, have to be discussed in a much more realistic and productive way. Health insurers are under the impression that a couple of dozen sessions with a professional therapist are going to fix whatever ails our brains. I can’t begin to tell you how naive and idiotic that mindset is. I know that it’s all about the money and the bottom line, but the cost of putting the rest of us at risk is much worse. Sending people out into the world with a handful of prescriptions for psychotropic medications doesn’t do anybody any good. Not to make light of it, but crazy people don’t think or know they’re crazy. We’re all asking for trouble if we believe, for one second, that these people are ready to go home and continue life as “normal”.
Since I’ve already opened this Pandora’s box, I have a few thoughts about the gun issue. I’m not a gun-nut and I’m not a card-carrying member of the NRA, but, then again, I’m not a card-carrying member of any group of lobbyists. My husband and I do own guns. We know how to use them, how to care for them and how to keep them safely out of the wrong hands. Both of us have a very healthy respect for their power, and we handle them with caution. I believe that most rational gun owners do the same. If I have a problem with our gun laws at all, it’s with regard to what are referred to as “assault” weapons. I’ve never been able to see a good reason for any individual, outside of servicemen and law enforcement officers, to own this kind of fire power. Hunters don’t need them and they’re just too much for personal protection. I have a suggestion for those who want to use these guns, and I’ve given this a lot of thought. If you want to test your skills, then these weapons can be held by responsible and licensed owners of gun ranges. Drive over there, rent the thing for a couple of hours, shoot the hell out of some targets, then give it back and go home. You’ll still have bragging rights, and nobody gets hurt.
You’re more than welcome to add your own thoughts and comments. I’m going to make one thing clear, though. Don’t let this devolve into a screaming match. That’s not a request – it’s how it’s going to be. I’m not stepping in to break up any fights. I’m too old for that, you’re better than that and it’s not going to help anything. Just think about those 20 tiny angels, and how we got here. So, take your time, be thoughtful and respectful, and I’ll be happy.