By now, I am guessing that we all know about the terrible and tragic events that took place yesterday in Newtown. I imagine that I am not alone in being unable to stop thinking about the families devastated by the violence. I imagine that I am not alone in wondering what we can do differently, as a nation, to ensure that we do not continue to see such horrific headlines - seven such in this year alone.
I am going to do something today that is somewhat atypical of me. I tend to avoid black and white statements. Not just here on the blog, where I know that I have readers with very different perspectives on the world than mine, readers whose perspectives inform their comments here and in the email messages we exchange in ways that I value and deeply appreciate. But also in the rest of my life, where I tend to prefer the richness of layered shades of gray. It is rare that I see an issue on which, no matter how much I turn it over in my head, I cannot find multiple ways to look at it, multiple ways of understanding. Not today. So I will come out and state what I am thinking.
Our nation's stance on gun control is reprehensible.
I know. We're not supposed to talk about it right now. We need to be respectful, and allow time to pass (Kai Ryssdal had something to say about that). But past history suggests that even as I write this, the anti-gun-control lobby is swinging into action, ensuring that its core messages get out: guns don't kill people, people kill people; if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will own guns; the only way to stay safe is to arm the citizenry.
And that just ain't so. Yes, it is people who pull the triggers on guns. But let's be honest. A gun makes it possible to kill more people, more efficiently, from a greater distance. It makes it possible for a person torn by internal anguish or illness to externalize that pain in a maximally-destructive way. A semi-automatic weapon makes it even easier. And let's not even go into the recent spate of concealed-carry laws that have passed across the nation, or the five states that have now made it legal - please read this slowly and carefully and think about it - to carry permitted concealed weapons into K-12 schools. Given the ease with which one can obtain a permit for a concealed-carry weapon, that is nothing short of reprehensible.
And let's think carefully about the suggestion that the solution is for everyone to be armed. Yesterday's victims were all under the age of 10. Should they have been armed? Should their teachers have been carrying guns? Should we all be prepared to respond at any moment should
a person assault us with deadly force?
Let me say clearly: that is not the kind of society in which I wish to live. And I think that if people really thought about it, thought about what it would be like to walk down a street where people openly carried weapons of mass destruction (because a semi-automatic weapon is exactly that), on the alert and prepared to use them at any time, I can't be the only person whose heart cries out at the thought. When we look at other nations whose citizenry carry and wield weapons against one another in such a casual way, we tsk and talk about their total disregard for human life, shake our heads at the barbarity and lack of civilization in those poor nations. When we talk about doing it here, we say it is the exercise of our Second Amendment rights. In spite of the total disregard for the initial clause of that amendment, which references the need for "a well regulated militia". What we have here is, by no stretch of the imagination, a well regulated anything. It is legalized terrorism.
I think that children should have the right to go to school, and to come home again in the afternoon. And I want to say, out loud and firmly, that I believe with all of my heart that that right supersedes anyone's right to own semi-automatic weapons. Period. Under any circumstances. I could go further, but to my very great dismay, that already seems to be a contentious statement.
We should be grief-stricken as a nation, yes. Our hearts and minds should be with families who, today, are grappling with a reality that is everyone's worst nightmare.
But we should also be outraged. We should be incandescent with it. And we should shine that bright light on other paths, other futures, for us as a people.
Because if not now, when?