Kids + guns. Kids + guns + mental illness. Adults + kids + assault weapons. Laws + guns.
I have rolled these equations around in my head since Newtown and trying to get a fix on the right combination of variables. I’m not good at math, but I am pretty sure that if we can agree on the variables, we can solve this thing. Surely there is an answer, right? I mean, it’s just a mathematical equation and we just need to apply algebraic reasoning to reach an absolute and right conclusion.
Hmmmm….let me think. That sounds really difficult. Maybe it’d be easier if we all agree on the conclusion first and work our way backwards. Maybe it’s one of those things where we need to start with the answer and work back from there. What do you think? Yeah, that sounds good.
I think we can all agree that innocent children, teachers and school administrators should never be looking down the barrel of any kind of gun pointed at them in the very school in which they seek to educate or be educated. Does that sound like an acceptable conclusion to everyone? Okay, let’s start there.
Please believe me when I say that I do not mean disrespect by what may seem light, or tongue-in-cheek, treatment of what is an extremely complex, emotionally charged issue/problem/concern. Like you, I have tried to come to some resolution, to wrestle with it and figure out my position, or decide if I even have an official position on this tragedy.
True to form, you won’t find answers here at 4 Out The Door so if that’s what you seek, you are most definitely in the wrong place. Instead what you will get are my personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, and considerations; hopefully, some will resonate with you. Perhaps they won’t, and that is okay.
In addition to answers, you won’t find extremes on this site. To be perfectly honest, extremes – in any form – scare the crap out of me. Extreme religion, extreme political views, extreme behavior; those are the kinds of things I’m talking about. If you’re one of those people who started amassing an arsenal in your basement after Obama was elected, and preparing for the end of the U.S. as we know it after he was re-elected, I’m speaking directly to you. Again, it’s a personal thing based solely on my life experiences, my personality, my preferences.
As a result, you may think that makes me a coward, devoid of passion or emotion, or that I’m apathetic, but please hear me out. As a mother, tax payer, and attorney who very much believes in the constitution and individual rights, I definitely have deep emotions, abundant thoughts, and innumerable feelings about this particular American tragedy. If after reading this, you believe I’m a chicken shit, then so be it.
For your consideration, I present the following:
1.) I was around guns, taught to shoot both a handgun and a rifle, albeit reluctantly, at a young age by my father. I’ve spent more hours walking a tree line waiting for our bird dogs to “point” and find a covey of quail, setting decoys, and sitting on my ass in a duck blind than I care to admit. And you know what? Every time I heard a shot, I had to cover my ears. It scared me. The loud crack. The undeniable power. It just wasn’t for me. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the sport of it. Do I think you need an AR-15 to take down a deer? I don’t know. My dad did just fine and he didn’t have a semi-automatic weapon.
2.) I feel pretty confident that schools (any academic institution, but definitely not elementary/secondary schools) are not the place for weapons. Saying that just feels right to me. It aligns with what I believe the purpose of an academic institution is, and if I am passionate about anything it is about education. There are just some places in my mind that are sacred; an elementary school, for example, among others. We need to do everything we can to make sure the focus stays on learning in those buildings. In my opinion, protecting that environment is paramount. Where will we be as a society if we fail to adequately educate the next generation? Where will that leave us? A little behind? Or, worst case scenario, left in the dust without a seat at the table? Again, I don’t know the answer, but this is arguably my worst fear as a citizen of the United States.
3.) So, what do we do to protect that environment? Do we allow “legitimate”, card-carrying, gun-packing teachers to bring their guns to school in the off-chance a gunman bursts in? Hells bells, folks. How much more can we ask of these poor people? We already expect them to spend seven to eight hours a day with our children five days a week teaching them wonderful things, attend to and accept all of their quirks and particularities giving each one the exact amount of attention he/she needs, assess their deficiencies and make sure they are where they need to be academically, communicate appropriately and often with us, plan and organize field trips, make sure they stay sharp on the latest teaching strategies. Oh and, by the way, could you take that gunman down with your handgun should the need arise? And if they are able to take the gunman down? Then what? Do they get a bonus?
You get my point here, right? For this to even be an option we need to first, pay these saints what they are worth, and then double that for asking them to protect our child/children in just such a situation. Don’t dig into your pockets all at once, now, to give up more tax dollars to this endeavor.
4.) Do we allow one or several to be kept locked up in the main office should the need arise? Again, my basic premise is…well, just read number 2, above, and here is something else to consider. Has anyone studied the psychology of fear? It is the most unpredictable emotion because it evokes both a chemical and emotional response. So what makes us think that someone who took a concealed carry class is ready to handle a gun in a situation amplified by fear, confusion, anger? I offer a couple of personal experiences:
a.) Last night I went to bed at about 2:30 a.m. In the process of getting into bed I woke Greg up (p.s. he is an extremely light sleeper). I went right to sleep after what was a brief, couple sentence, chat. I woke up what seemed just a few minutes later, disoriented. Even more confusing was that Greg wasn’t in bed and I could see that the light in our entry way downstairs was on. I heard the dogs bark and I could feel my heart start to beat faster. What if someone was trying to get in the house and Greg went to investigate? Then the light went off in the entry way and everything was silent. I didn’t hear Greg coming up the stairs. Nothing. Crickets. I laid as silent as I could, listening, paralyzed by fear, not knowing whose figure would appear in the doorway to our bedroom. I literally could not move for about five minutes. I couldn’t even reach over and turn the lamp on.
b.) A few years ago, one of the neighborhood moms came at Emily and got up in her face about something as I was dropping her off at a sleepover. I was standing next to Emily, and as I saw the other mom come across the yard yelling at her, I stepped in front of Emily to protect her. Once the air cleared and I made sure Emily was good with me leaving, I turned to walk out and the mom followed me and tried to continue the argument outside. Something took over in me and I said things I would never say to someone else. It was totally an out-of-body experience.
I tell these two stories simply to illustrate that we can’t always predict how we or someone else will react in a tense, confusing, or fearful situation. That fight or flight thing is awful powerful and unpredictable. Accepting this as a fact, having experienced it myself, I have to believe it’s best to leave protection of our schools to someone who has been expertly trained in these kinds of situations, not someone who was taught in a two-hour Sunday class how to handle, hold, load and shoot a gun. There’s more to it than that.
Here’s what I’d like to see:
1.) A thorough review of security and safety guidelines at all schools and strict adherence to those guidelines.
2.) A police officer or military-trained expert at the entrance to every school.
3.) A white-hot spotlight on mental health education, treatment, and support coupled with broader, open access to the same.
4.) Stricter gun laws focused primarily on assault-type weapons.
There is no “magic bullet”, for lack of a better reference. Each one is an essential element to preventing what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary from ever happening again, in my humble opinion.
Love and Peace, Carmen
Coming Up Tomorrow: Disney World Redux