Something I have never really talked about is the experience I had in high school with a shooting. My little town’s high school had one, and it put us all over CNN and other news channels for weeks. There was an underclassman named Edward Bryant Gillom, and he was 15 at the time. I believe he was a freshman. At any rate, I heard after the shooting that he had been bullied repeatedly by several jocks, all of whom were much bigger than Gillom. One day he brought a gun to school (I don’t know if he planned to shoot his assailants, or if he brought the gun only in case they threatened him again), and shot the guys who had been tormenting him. One of those guys he shot died. It was sheer pandemonium at the school. We heard the shots, but didn’t understand what they were at first. That was back in 1993. This was an example of the school neglecting to prevent known acts of bullying. In 1991 I took a knife to school after a boy named Ryan threatened to kill me for being gay. I did that many times in high school. So, I can relate to why Gillom would be so afraid. And these situations have some sort of a “action and reaction” narrative that makes some sort of sense. They illustrate failures on the part of schools that ignore bullying.
But what happened in Connecticut? That I don’t understand at all. Even if the shooter had been bullied throughout his life, why murder first graders?? I find that the more often I hear about these disasters the less able I am to process them emotionally. It’s become so common that it’s barely shocking. I feel my reaction has been reduced to simply shaking my head and saying, “What’s wrong with some people?” And that’s it. That isn’t good. That isn’t good AT ALL. Twenty babies are dead. And that’s what 6-year-olds are. They are still babies. And I don’t understand. But what upsets me even worse is that I’m only just now getting upset. The massacre happened over 24 hours ago, and I’m only just now finally beginning to feel how awful this is. It’s a dishonor to the kids and staff who died, and it’s a dishonor to me as person to be this accustomed to terrible news.
I am not going to say that I think all guns should be taken away. There are 300,000,000 in the USA now, so that would be impossible. I am going to say that mental health services should be just as easy to get as guns. I am going to say that having a rifle for hunting and a few shells is fine. Also, having a simple hand gun with a clip of bullets is fine. But why the hell does anyone need semi- and fully-automatic assault weapons of the type used by the US Armed Forces??? And why the hell does anyone need hundreds or thousands of rounds of ammunition??? This is not prudent. And what I am reading now shows me that in the +60 mass shootings in the USA since 1982 there is not one single instance anywhere of an armed bystander preventing the assault from happening (so the idea that more guns in the hands of more people will prevent violence is totally inaccurate). There are more guns in fewer hands, and six of the 12 most deadly mass killings since 1982 have happened since 2006. There have been six mass shootings this year alone. This is happening even though the number of guns has gone up from 200,000,000 in the mid 1990’s (up 50%!). If the NRA is correct, more guns should equate to fewer mass shootings, not more.
The Second Amendment was created at a time when local militias were needed to help enforce laws and defend immediate areas from invasion. I am not suggesting that the Second Amendment is at fault. Nor am I suggesting that guns kill people. Yes, I agree that people kill people. But having such easy access to guns certainly makes it easier for people to kill people. There are several states that allow people to carry guns while intoxicated – you can’t drive drunk, but you can carry a gun into a bar or onto a college campus, drunk or not. How does this make any modicum of sense??? Honestly, there are times when I think Canada succeeded in becoming the nation the United States was SUPPOSED to be. It also seems to me that industrialized nations that forbid guns do not suffer from more violence than we do in the USA. In fact, it seems quite the opposite.
So, what is to be done to prevent tragedies like this? The Aurora shooting during the Batman debut, the Sikh temple, this elementary school… All these and more happened THIS YEAR ALONE. I had no idea the gun control laws of the Clinton administration had lapsed in 2004. I presumed they were permanent. But I was obviously very wrong in that regard. I think it is reasonable to say that there should not be more guns than citizens in a nation. In a few years our guns will outnumber us. Not because every American will have a gun, but because some people have so many. And what does that accomplish? Yesterday a mother who bought guns to protect herself was killed by her own son with one of her own guns, and he then went to a school and murdered almost 30 more people before killing himself.
Something is extraordinarily wrong with our relationship to guns, violence, and mental health. But now we have 300,000,000 weapons out there, so what the hell are we going to do? At what point will gun control finally be a viable conversation again? A member of Congress was shot in Arizona not that long ago, and many people died that day, too. Who has to get hurt for this to finally matter enough? How can the NRA and its allies be the only ones forging the shape of this dialogue? I’m still not as upset as I should be for those dead people in Connecticut (I had all but forgotten the people in Colorado, ironic given that I was in Denver the day the Aurora shooting happened), and that disinterest/apathy upsets me in and of itself. We need to have the capacity for shock and grief, and it is being eroded away from our hearts. This has to be addressed, and soon.