Today in Newtown Connecticut, 27 people were killed: 20 children, six adults, and the shooter. This is the largest grade school shooting massacre in American history. Newtown Connecticut is approximately an hour northeast of New York City, it is a well to do medium-size suburb. Something like 25,000 residents. And in that relatively quiet town, a young man, apparently in his early 20s, decided to — according to early reports — go to an elementary school wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying at least one assault rifle. He slaughtered two schoolrooms full of children. There are some initial reports that he had in excess of 500 rounds of ammunition — and these were not just regular everyday small handgun bullets. They were 5 mm rounds; it would only take one shot anywhere near their torso to kill a small child with one of those.
I am blogging this on the afternoon of the shooting. Many of the facts are still not known, but we do know that 20 children are dead. We do know that is traditional in this country to shy away from expressing political opinion in the wake of a tragedy. “It’s too soon.” Unfortunately, the continued frequency of these shootings make it such that it will always be too soon. Today, it was a massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut. Last week, a mass shooting in a mall in Oregon. And before that, the assassination attempt of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. And before that, the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. Not to mention the tens of thousands of deaths delivered by guns in this country every single year.
In the 13 years since the Columbine massacre, many things have happened in this country. Many lessons learned, and many changes to the way we view ourselves, our security and safety, and the government’s role in maintaining that. In the past decade, we’ve seen a very large expansion into the daily lives of those who travel by airplane, post online, or use a cell phone. And yet that same choice is not made for those who use guns.
I am not a gun owner; I have never fired a gun. I believe that holding a gun in your hand is putting oneself on the same level as God (or Goddess or deity or whatever term you prefer). A person holding a gun has the ultimate ability to end life. And, therefore, the ultimate responsibility. I don’t believe that it is possible for me to guarantee that I would never make a mistake holding such a thing. I am but one person, able to make mistakes just like anyone else. What happened earlier today was not a mistake — or, rather, if it was a mistake it was not one of the shooter. Everything he did today was planned. The mistake comes from us. The society that allows the conditions under which such an act could take place.
After every single one of these tragedies are always people that ask “why don’t we do something?” The first question gets asked, but the second and third one never seems to get asked or answered. So I will ask them:
- If these 20 dead children — each of them under the age of 10 — are not reason enough to at least start the conversation about what we can and should do about gun violence in this country, then how many dead children will it take?
- What if the shooter had killed 30? Or 50? What if the shooter had killed every child in the school? Some initial reports say that he had 500 rounds of ammunition… More than enough to kill every single living being in those buildings.
- Why is it easier to get a gun than it is to receive mental counceling?
- Why do we stigmatize those looking for such help?
- Why is violence so prevalent in our society?
- Why do we not make the social cost of using a gun take into account the potential for misuse of that gun?
Since 1999, the entire security infrastructure this country has changed completely. Every single time I drive my car, my actions are recorded. Every time I drive through a major intersection, or through a toll booth, or to an airport, or freely on any public street with a security camera, I license plate can be scanned and its location tracked and stored forever.
In most states in this country, every single year every car has to be registered. Every couple of years, everybody’s license needs to be renewed. It is impossible to buy or sell a car without that transaction being noted by the state. It is impossible to get a license without the license being handed to you by the state. We consider these things to be commonsense measures, to ensure everyone safety. I’m not saying that doing this with guns would necessarily solve every problem, but if we’re going to do all of that for cars why can’t we do something for guns?
In more than 30 states, the gun that was probably used and other assault rifles just like it can be purchased without an ID, without a license, and without trace. This can happen at a gun show, or in someone’s private home, or really anywhere at all.
When the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire in 2004, a 10 year experiment of an assault weapons ban came to an end. The results of that experiment? A 66% decrease in crime associated with assault weapons in this country. Is the one directly associated with the other? No one can tell. Banning assault weapons, and banning large capacity ammunition clips, will not stop this from happening again. But it’s still a good idea. Because I’m pretty sure that every mom and every dad, every brother in every sister, every loved one who lost a loved one today… Or really on any day as a result of gun violence… Would love a 66% chance to get those loved ones back.
No, this blog post is not about games. But I had to say something. I’m going to go pick up my daughter now, who will have just gotten out of school an hour ago, and give her a hug. And tell her again, “I love you.”