Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not about knitting

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?


Shirley said...

You are exactly right. Thank you for saying this.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Thank you for saying this.

Lynne said...

In 1996, a man with a mental disorder went on a rampage at Port Arthur in Tasmania killing 35 people and wounding 23 others. Australians do not have, and never have had, a constitutional right to bear arms. After that event, our government moved swiftly and tightened laws. No-one is allowed to own any kind of firearm without a licence. One must have a good reason (eg member of a shooting club, farmers) to own a gun at all.

I'm not saying people are not killed by guns in Australia -- they are. We also have a much smaller population in about the same number of square miles. But, due to very strict gun control, episodes like Port Arthur are rare!

You are brave to speak out and I applaud you.

Mary Lou said...

If not now, when. One man with a shoe bomb that didn't work has changed every airport in the US, but we cannot discuss guns? I have felt sick all day.

Frauntene McLarney said...

It makes my heart sick to think think about what happened, to think that some feel this is a 'bad time' to discuss control and to think that there are people, some of which I know very well, that feel tragedies like this have nothing to do with gun control. I know mothers who are saying this, as if the solution would have been for the principal to have a AK-47 in her office to stop this from happening. I don't understand it.

What bothers me as much, is that mental health care is not brouht up as a serious topic and cause to these tragedies as well. So often these people have histories of mental illness and loved ones who have felt something like this was possible but either didn't or couldnt get the individual help. The stigma, the cost of good care and lack of insurance coverage makes getting help difficult. We have a SLEW of erectile disfunction drugs, but not one antidepressent/antianxiety/antipsychotic that doesn't come with side efffects that greatly decrease the patients quality of life. It just breaks my heart.

TK said...

Well put. Now how do we make your thoughts, which are in line with my thoughts and the thoughts of so many others, heard louder than the cries of the gun lobbyists?

twinsetellen said...

I used to watch Westerns where the bad guys come to town and shoot it up and then some good guys would get the nerve and their guns and shoot back and win,but not before a lot of people died. And I always thought, "I am so so glad we don't have to ensure our safety by carrying guns today". Because if that is the way you ensure safety, it just means you have to keep getting bigger guns and along the way, people die in greater and greater numbers.

Maybe we could just start with the guns that can kill many people in just a few minutes. Maybe?

Anonymous said...

So brave and courageous of you! So right!
Thank you for speaking up!

Anne said...

Jocelyn, it isn't often that I disagree with you -- but I think the conversation we as a nation ought to be having is an entirely different one. This article has been majking the rounds, and as the parent of a mentally ill child I think she is right on. Guns are an issue, but the way we handle mental illness in this country is the heart of what happened in Newtown, I believe. What we all want, though, is a renewed belief in our safety and that of our children. And I don't know that we can ever regain that.

Wool Enough said...

Guns DO kill people. The NRA has it wrong, and they probably know it. The mere act of picking up a gun changes how a person sees the world.

We need a strong campaign for gun control now.

Nana Sadie said...

NOT a contentious statement in my book.

Children have every right to be safe wherever they go.
That sound you hear? I'm my standing ovation to you.

Nana Sadie said...

"It's" my standing ovation. NOT "I'm"

Autocorrect. Bah!

twinsetjan said...

I think we all should be standing ovations for you -- Knitnana had it right.

How would you feel about me quoting you in a letter to my Congressman and Senators?

Brava, Jocelyn, brava!!!

EGunn said...

Agreed. The point of a gun is to kill. If you do not intend to kill, you should not have one. If you do intend to kill, you should be prepared to answer some very tough questions about who, what, and why. Even the most responsible person cannot be counted on to act responsibly at all times, especially when angry, frightened or upset. Having a deadly weapon around is not a solution; it is a way to turn a difficult situation into a deadly one.

I also agree with Anne that there needs to be a separate conversation about how we deal with mental health issues. I don't feel that one negates the other; they are both important. Removing guns reduces the opportunity for damage. Recognizing and addressing mental health issues reduces the cause.

And you are right: if we do not talk about it now, when will we talk about it? Usually those who tell you that now is a bad time are the ones who don't want to hear what you have to say.

AlisonH said...

Amen. Preach it, sister.

And Wayne LaPierre's statement was pure evil. Note that the NRA does not allow its members to carry at their meetings.

lizzie said...

So right - the NRA is on the wrong side of history and will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs.

RobinH said...

I was brought up in a gun-owning household- my dad was military, my sister and I learned the basics of shooting. We were taught to respect weapons and handle them safely. In principle, I see nothing wrong with it.

The problem is that *in practice*, lax regulation of firearms leads to a flood of weapons going into Mexico, accidents that kill innocent people, and guns in the hands of unstable people who commit both murders and mass shootings. I was very impressed by the CNN article on the results of the changes in Australia's gun control laws. ( ) Australia's example shows us that it is possible to reduce gun violence through regulation - and Newtown and many other cases prove that we have a serious problem with gun violence.

Which is not to say that we should neglect Anne's point. The state of mental health care is also a tragedy deserving of attention.