Originally I was going to write an article about athletes who were also veterans. However with the events of the past week, I have decided to write something totally different. Last week in Sandy Hook, 6 adults and 20 innocent children had their lives taken from them in an act of pure horror. In the ensuing week we have as a nation been bombarded with stories of the victims, the shooter, and how and why this could happen in an evolved society such as ours.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am a veteran, a gun owner and a supporter of the 2nd amendment. This fact does not unlike some would assume make me inflexible when it comes to making real change and improvements to make society safer for us and our children.
This event has galvanized the side that wants stricter gun control laws in place, while the side that believes in less gun control has stayed largely silent. Their silence has been called everything from foolish to unsympathetic, and sometimes worse. We have heard calls for more guns in schools, less guns on the street, and everything in between.
The unfortunate threads that runs through each mass shooting are similar, the shooter has or has had mental problems at some point in their life, and the victims are usually in a place where access to some sort of weapon for self defense is not available. This relegates the victims to have little or no chance for survival. A locked door,(which is standard procedure) for schools these days do not stop a determined criminal looking for victims/targets.
We know that the coming weeks and months both sides will ratchet up the rhetoric to try and prove their point, which in my view misses the point completely. When we as a nation make decisions because of tragedies, the measures are always based on an emotional response. This response is always short term in length, and usually ineffective in the end. Yes, this shooting did more damage than some of the others due to the age of the victims, and the time of the shooting. Children were taken from their loved ones less than 2 weeks before Christmas. Families that were spending time planning for holiday meals and gift giving, were suddenly transferred into planning funerals, and memorial services.
Mental Health Services must be improved in this country, diagnosis and treatment is sorely lacking. People think having mental health problems means they are broken and that keeps them from seeking help. Parents do not want to admit that something is wrong with their children because they will think that means they did something wrong. Parents want to say “my child is perfect”. They want their children to be a barometer of how attentive, and engaged they are as a mother or father. Anything that is out of the norm is swept aside, to maintain the image that we have cultivated.
We also see insurance companies limiting choices for treatment of mental health problems. Insurance limits types of treatments, amounts and types of drugs that can be prescribed. This leaves parents to fend for themselves in lots of cases, trying to keep “ticking time bombs” under control. Last week shows that this is the wrong approach, but as long as insurance companies are making calls that doctors should be making, I do not see this changing.
Gun control advocates have renewed their call to ban “assault” weapons, and high capacity magazines. Of course this misses the fact that the rifle used was not an “assault” rifle. An assault rifle is one that can be fired as a fully automatic weapon. The rifle used an AR-15, is a semi automatic, meaning you have to pull the trigger each time you want a round to be fired. As for a ban on high capacity magazines, the term “high capacity” is a subjective term. What would meet that term for one person, would not meet it for another.
Gun rights supporters say that we should arm teachers and administrators, to make our schools “safer”. Even as a gun rights supporter, I would not want everyone to have a gun in school. Having one or two administrators who were properly trained being allowed to carry a gun on school grounds is a more reasonable approach. Another idea is to have armed security guards or off duty police officers patrol schools while children are in school during the day. These would be measured responses that do not turn schools into the “wild wild west”, and allow gun rights advocates to claim that children are being protected.
We are quick to blame “the gun culture”, this was evident in the Jovan Belcher case, and in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting. It is easier for people to blame the instrument used, instead of looking at the person, behind the instrument. When we as a society look for answers, assigning blame is the hardest act to accomplish. We want to believe that all people are inherently good. We tend to find it hard to label someone evil, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
What are the answers to prevent more mass shootings, will bans on guns make us safer as a society? I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that the more we restrict law abiding citizens, the more freedom we will give to the criminal element in society. It is a fallacy to think that criminals will suddenly start to show respect for their fellow man. It is also unreasonable to believe that if every adult was properly armed and trained that shootings would fall to zero. We need to have an honest debate, one that avoids emotional blackmail, and the politicians need to score political points in order to figure out ways to limit these tragedies in the future. Unfortunately I do not see our political leaders being evolved enough to have that sort of a discussion, nor do I see our general public being forceful enough to make sure they do.