We Can No Longer Delay

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“Tonight, I am sitting under my desk at Michigan State University, once again texting everyone ‘I love you’ When will this end?”

This message from a college student to her family says something incredibly wrong about our society not just because she had to send this kind of text once, but because she had relayed a similar message while she was in high school only months before. Our nation is under attack from mass shooters taking out their anger on innocents in stores, churches, schools, nightclubs, parades, workplaces with a regularity so shocking that our sensitivity to such things is seemingly being dulled. By Valentines Day of this year of 2023, there had already been sixty seven mass shootings and no doubt the count will have risen before this post becomes public. 

An entire generation of young people has grown up in the United States with the specter of gun violence. Training for an active shooter is as much a part of preparedness at schools as tornado and fire drills. Students and teachers are on as high alert as we were when I was a young person hiding under a desk in preparation for a possible enemy attack during the Cold War. Each of us has come to realize that there may come a time when we have to react quickly if a shooter enters our space. As citizens we know something has gone terribly wrong, but we argue about what we must do to quell the bloodshed that takes innocents so horrifically from our midst. 

Talk is cheap. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but they somehow feel hollow when we have allowed years to pass since Columbine and the many other locations of violence without doing anything of real substance. Seemingly the growth of such incidents feels exponential as we do little to quell the hurt and loss of wonderful people wrought by predators with guns. Politics and power seem more likely to win the day than serious discussion of the issues and development of laws and precautions that might stem the tide of such incidents. Our nation and its people are sick and weary. Our young ask us why we care so little about them that we cling to the status quo and become ever more insistent on using bandaids to patch the wounds of gun violence. 

We desperately need peacemakers and brilliant legislators in our midst who know how to bring about meaningful protections for our nation. We can’t just build moats around our public places and post cannons and guards to keep danger at bay. We have to honestly look at ourselves and ask very difficult questions about what we have been doing wrong. How have we betrayed our children by becoming a country with more guns than people? Why have we ignored mental illness as though it is a dirty little secret that must be locked away in the attic? Why do those that we elect to lead us only pander to those willing to finance their campaigns rather than seeking to do the right thing? How has our religion become so twisted that we conflate guns with God? How can we just keep moving on to the next event without ever addressing the losses of innocents and innocence?

My tears have done nothing. I write about finding solutions and fewer people read my words. We don’t want to talk about this monster in our midst. We tell ourselves that freedom to accumulate arsenals is more important than the “occasional” incident. We can’t seem to face the truth of our situation which grows more and more out of hand with the passage of time. All of the studies in the world regarding what we should do are of no use if we remain at an impasse. Those Christmas cards of entire families proudly holding their guns create horror shows yet to come. 

I for one have lost my patience. I want those who represent me to quit pandering to the NRA and gun salesmen everywhere. I want them to stop running for office and blindly groveling to a base that seems to think that the second amendment to our Constitution entitles us to creating little armies in every home. I will no longer only cry and fret over the latest tragedy. I don’t want time spent worrying about a drag show that few will ever see. I am not so concerned about what we might read in books in our public places. I do believe that not one of us other than those in the military or law enforcement require an assault weapon. I think it should be more difficult to buy a gun than apply for admission to a university. I think that we have to really invest in improved mental health resources. We can even make our public places safer if we think that will help. Whether or not we responded to Covid properly or adequately is far less important than facing the issue of mass shootings head on and with reasoned cooperation. Let’s not argue about defaulting on our debt. Let’s pay our bills and then convene a national effort to quell these violent attacks. Let’s show our young that we really do care more about them than arguing over how a Super Bowl should be run. 

I will always be a teacher. I will always remember discussions with my students regarding what we would do if a shooter came to our campus. I recall drills and even a time when we went into a lockdown because a shooter was on the loose in our area. I felt the responsibility for the lives of my students in the most visceral way. It’s time to end the insanity of our adoration of a gun culture. It’s past time in fact. We can no longer delay. 


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