One Conversation I’m unable to Avoid

This is one conservation so many believe we need, but not like this.  It’s a conversation we really ought to have; but no one wants to have it for this reason.  The conversation should be informative and problem-solving, not confrontational and vindictive.

It should be honest.  It should be direct.  There should be no finger-pointing, no accusations, no belittling any lack of proper terminology or cultural understanding.

We should be reasonable and pragmatic.

I wrote the above in the days following the Sandy Hook tragedy.  I smirk at the sentiments expressed there now, as if there was a chance this “discussion”, which was more like shouting that started within minutes of the Breaking News reports hitting the internet,  could somehow be non-confrontational, without vindictiveness, without finger-pointing.

A few months earlier I wrote of the immediate reaction to such senseless violence shortly after the Aurora massacre.

But this time I just wanted to get some thoughts together with the intention of waiting until after the funerals for the victims at Newtown, CT were concluded.  But in the meantime, most reason on both sides went out the window, ensuring only that no one would really listen in an attempt to solve anything.

To refresh everyone’s memory, I’m not a gun owner.  Never was one.  But I am considering getting the required permit that would allow me the option of acquiring a gun should I think it necessary or preferable somewhere down the road.

I had been considering this for quite some time, as a method of protection should it be needed … down that road.  You never know.

I live in a bedroom-suburban community with plenty of local police protection.  Never felt threatened by crime or potentially isolated by disorder.  But if something were to happen – personally or in a larger social sense – you want to have options.  So I consider obtaining a gun permit a responsible thing to do, even if I don’t follow through right away with a purchase.

I would simply have kept my own personal options opened.

So yes, I am a non-gun-owning appreciator of the 2nd Amendment, as stated in that Bill of Rights as an adjunct to the original U.S. Constitution.  And yet, after what happened a few days before Christmas, I can’t help but think something has to change.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on guns, gun law, or current restrictions on what’s allowed or not allowed to be owned.  I have heard or read some things on guns, which as presented here should be taken at face value.  If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone more knowledgeable will correct me; and I have no problem with that since I’m clearly not an authority.

However, this discussion cannot be solely about guns, weapons capabilities, ammunition and clip capacities.

It has to include school safety and the optimistic concept that declaring a “Gun-Free Zone” somehow makes our children safer.

One of my first reactions, when horrors like this originate from within a family setting, is to ask what the parents/guardians were doing, not doing, thinking, and otherwise managing the individual and their mental health status in the time leading up to the crisis.

In this case, the parent responsible died as a result of what steps she took – or didn’t take – to get her son the help he needed.  But without all the details of what transpired, it’s a dangerous jump to conclusions to simply blame that parent.

And so, we have to speak of our handling of mental health issues, where caregivers and parents stand the risk of – at some point – being overwhelmed by their charges.  In this vein, I offer the following story of a mother faced with an increasingly violent, hostile 13-year-old son.

(Much has been written about Long’s blog post since it was published.  The internet exploded with reactions – both sympathetic and highly critical – to her story.  I offer no judgement, and only skimmed a few of the responses to her saga.  My point here is to simply present it as an example of what some parents face – aside from parental choices and skill sets – when dealing with a growing child with potential mental health issues.)

You should read it to get a sense of helplessness some parents face when dealing with a seemingly uncontrollable child.  How would any Parent(s) react to the challenge described by this single mother?

  • Having to make sure your younger children have a safety plan when the eldest acts out is no way to live.
  • What happens when that hostile but manageable son becomes too big for his mother to counteract or control?
  • Is tossing her son into the criminal justice system, as one social worker suggests, her only option for help?  Obviously it cannot be the best option for either Child or Mother.

So many – if not all – mass shooters are found to have some form of mental defect.  What is the mental health system’s responsibility in all this?  Are we paying now for those decisions over the last few decades that made treating these individuals in society’s mainstream?  Are we reaping the consequences of shuttering those institutions that were infamous as hell holes for the mentally ill?  Could we have done this better?

Again, I’m not an expert.

I would be the first one to admit that suggesting we need armed guards or police inside our schools is an extreme reaction.  But then I look at some schools in cities like Philadelphia, where well-armed police take up station each day to prevent violence during arrivals and dismissals.

And then there’s the evolution among law enforcement on the proper response to “live shooter” situations, be they in a school, a theatre or a mall.

Unlike the Columbine shootings, where police waited outside the school to assess the situation as the shooting went on, police now actively attack the attackers … with guns and violence – if need be – in order to bring the shooting to an end.  It’s been learned to be better to confront and stop as soon as possible, as opposed to sitting and hoping for the return of sanity.

And suddenly, the armed school guard idea doesn’t sound all that wacky or reactive.  Problematic and risky?  Yes.  Wacky or without merit?  I don’t think so.

When we advertize schools as “gun-free zones”, regardless of the merits of the intent, one of the consequences is to essentially highlight schools as “soft targets” where an attacker knows he can kill and accomplish his dastardly goals virtually uncontested.

But don’t get me wrong.  I’m not pushing that as The Answer either.  But we should be completely honest about our expectations when it comes to the safety of our children.

The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the guns.  But they are just the tools most easily accessed and used.  Certainly we can do a better job keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  Yet no system of prevention is foolproof.

It’s easy to argue that certain changes in the types of guns, accessories, and ammunition should make a difference.  And yet as early as 1927 a school board official in Bath Township, MI was able to murder 38 elementary school children, 6 adults and injured another 58 without even touching a gun!

Again, I offer no claim to being an expert on guns, their types, or the accessories that make them more efficient weapons; but tightening access to them, whether designed to keep criminals or dangerous personalities from using them appears like a no-brainer.

High capacity ammunition clips are already illegal to own.  No one can walk into a store and walk out the same day with an assault weapon. Except supposedly you can at certain gun shows.  That – I can agree – should stop.  But then where do you go?

Now consider the fact that our own Government – such as in the “Fast and Furious” controversy – cannot seem to get out of its own way when it comes to the most lethal weapons and access to them by the most dangerous criminals.  When one hand has knowingly pushed the most dangerous weapons to those very same criminals, it’s incomprehensible that anyone would expect the law-biding to willingly surrender their access to those very same weapons.

Obviously, restricting gun access is not the panacea so many think or wish it to be.

And once you get to that point, you realize this problem is a lot more complicated than the mad man’s choice of weapon.

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6 thoughts on “One Conversation I’m unable to Avoid

  1. Good blog, I completely agree with all your thoughts above. I have 12 years of Military behind me and had never owned a weapon personally, until recently. I finally decided that it was the right step to apply for and receive my concealed carry permit. After I got my permit, I still took my time and did my own research, took several classes, and Then made my first weapon purchase. Being a ‘responsible’ gun owner is everyone’s privilege under the law and I now take that privilege very seriously.

    With all that has happened in CT and previously elsewhere, I don’t understand the logic in NOT wanting to protect our kids in schools these days. Many Districts have had Police SRO’s (student resource officers) in schools for years, like Philadelphia, Norristown, and others, and now even Upper Merion has initiated a new Police presence in and around their schools.

    I don’t see the reasoning why there ISN’T a national background check system. Why there is more training required to drive a car, yet none required to own a weapon? Why would any civilian need a 20+ round magazine? Or a full-auto machine gun, sure it is fun to shoot, but so is a LAW rocket, doesn’t mean everyone should have one.

    Something needs to change nationally to make everyone safer.

    • Thanks, JK, for the compliment!

      Nothing in your remarks should be considered unreasonable. Yet you can bet there will be strong resistance to most of the changes we seem to agree on. Some gun owners – though certainly not all – see any opening of the door as an invite for future attempts to take all guns away. Which is silly and paranoid, given past USSC rulings.

      But if reasonable ground isn’t ceded to common sense, somewhere down the line the reaction to similar tragedies could be much more threatening to responsible gun ownership.

    • I agree, Pat. Yet I don’t belittle the desire of many that putting guns in schools should be a last resort. Unfortunately, unless you want your schools to look like military installations or – worse – prisons, there’s little we can do to “harden” schools from such attacks. The cost alone makes more aesthetic solutions unlikely.

      The entire situation is a big caca sandwich.

      • The most cost effective and active shooter effective option for a motivated organization would be an armed presence. If it was understood that an armed response (covert or overt) was possible / likely (something similar to an air marshal system or other trained / equipped persons) you would see fewer shooters at schools. No need to make the schools a fortress, it is almost too late anyhow for that, the fences / barriers that surround most schools now are related to threats both inside and outside our schools and their student populations.

        You could do all this and then, of course, those just looking for any target, not necessarily a school, would work their way to a softer target among society’s soft target list.

        • I agree. I believe if a potential shooter knew or suspected that someone is, was, or could be armed – be it a school, a theatre, a home – said shooter is most likely to pick another “softer” target.

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