Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Is it even worth asking why?

Last Friday, in a little town in Connecticut, lives were altered forever. Many lives. As early reports began to surface about the massacre that had occured, celebrities and regular folk took to Twitter and Facebook to write about it; to condemn the horror, and offer their thoughts and prayers to the families of those involved. The prevailing question was, of course, "why?". What would possess a 20-year old man to shoot his mother four times in the head with a rifle, and then take her guns to the school at which she worked and open fire?

I guess the question I would ask is, "does it really MATTER why?".

Mental illness? Probably.

Pure evil? Maybe.

A combination of both? Sure, that's possible.

But who cares?

THIS HAS TO STOP. AND IT HAS TO STOP NOW.

I was going to write about this on the weekend, but decided to wait a few days to clear my head, and to give myself time to gather more information about the subject in order to have a more informed opinion. The thing is, though, I don't know any more about it than what I wrote above. I don't know any more about it because I haven't tried to learn any more about it. It's just too sickening. It's just too horrible.

Most of the stories I have heard or read on the subject were about the reactions to the incident, rather than the incident itself. The NFL held a moment of silence before each game. Chris Johnson, a running back for the Tennessee Titans, wrote the name of all 26 victims on his cleats before his game on Monday Night Football. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has been alerted to the fact that one of the victims, 6-year old Jack Pinto, was a huge fan and would be buried in Cruz's jersey, wrote "RIP Jack Pinto" on his shoes and called the family to offer his condolences. President Obama was visibly shaken when addressing the nation on the tragedy. There are lots of stories like this. Everyone has had a similar reaction. How could you not?

I was sitting in a hospital bed, IV in my arm, waiting for a procedure when I grabbed my phone and heard about the tragedy. The unit was particularly quiet that day, so I called a couple of the nurses over and told them what I had just read. It didn't seem particularly real at the time, to any of us. Sadly, it does now.

I don't have kids. As most people who know me are well aware, I am not even particularly fond of kids. But you don't have to have children to be affected by something like this. I was 6 years old once. I went to elementary school and had friends. I remember what mid-December was like when I was young. Sometimes snowy, more often not, but it was always close to Xmas and that was the best time of the year. Good food, lots of time with friends and family, visits to see Santa, and presents under the tree!! Now, for the families of 26 people, this time of year will always be associated with pain, loss, and death.

Imagine what December 25th will be like for the parents of those children. The house filled with half-eaten advent calendars, stocking hung for, and presents tagged for, children who's names now only fill the obituary columns. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain. I hope I never can.

Why does this continue to happen in the United States, and nowhere else in the civilized world? Is it because of the gun laws? Is it possible that the founding fathers didn't comprenhend of automatic (or semi-automatic) assault rifles when they authored the 2nd amendment? It took about 15 seconds to load one round back then. So let's compromise; let's make muskets legal and all other guns illegal. Go ahead, gangbangers, try to shoot up an LA neighborhood with a bunch of muskets. School shootings? Good luck. You'll get off one shot (assuming you pre-load the gun) before you get trampled. Better make it count.

Have you noticed how quiet the NRA has been since this shooting? They took down their Facebook page, and just about an hour ago, 4 days after the shooting, finally broke their silence. They are, and let me make sure I quote this accurately, "shocked" by the shooting. Thanks, NRA, we were all really worried about your reaction.

If you are a member of the NRA, or a supporter of that organization, YOU are the problem. Yes, YOU. Former leader Charlton Heston was famously quoted as saying that you could take his gun only "from my cold dead hand". OK, I'm fine with that. Shoot anyone who is in favor of the current US gun laws. Better them, than another classroom full of children.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But what is it going to take? Is one classroom of first graders not enough? Does someone have to shoot up an entire elementary school and kill everyone inside before action is taken? Two schools? Three? What is the number of dead? If not 26, what is the number? 45? 100? 150? At some point, it's going to happen. Isn't it time now? Isn't this enough?

President Obama, this is your chance. You are a second term President, you cannot be re-elected. You have nothing to lose, and thousands of lives to gain (and not to mention, being the President who finally got some gun control legislation passed will be a legacy that nobody can ever take away). It won't be easy to get the Republican congress on board, of course, but this is the time. Why does there seem to be a little more outrage this time than the last time? Or the time before that? Or the time before that? Is it because this occured 11 days before Xmas? Is it because the victims were younger than the traditional victims in this kind of crime? Maybe. But whatever it is, it's time to act. It's time to get the guns, President Obama, and it's time to get them all. I hate to politicize something so awful, but there is a palpable sense of disgust in the world right now, and it's time to use that to get something done.

If you are on Facebook, you've seen the numbers. Last year (well, one year, I'm not sure it was actually last year, but it doesn't really matter), handguns killed 10,728 people in the United States.

They killed 263 people, combined, in Germany, Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, Israel, and Sweden.

The time has come. Take the guns. Take them all. Of course this won't STOP crime, of course it won't STOP gun deaths. But it will sure as Hell lessen them greatly. Imagine if all it would do was cut them in half (and it's certain to do better than that). That's over 5000 people a year who live to see another day. Over 5000 families who don't have to bury their loved ones. Many of those people will contribute something significant to society, if they haven't already.

The time has come.

I am not particularly religious, but sometimes it just helps to believe in God, even if it's not a permanent or strong belief. This is one of those times.

God bless the victims of this terrible tragedy, and their families. God bless all of the other children in the United States, and all over the world, who get up each morning and go to school, just to learn and have fun with their friends. And God bless everyone who has had enough of this senseless violence.

The time has come.