“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”
Everyone died a little on Friday.
– President Barack Obama in his speech at the Newtown CT prayer vigil Sunday night.
Friday’s massacre of 20 beautiful young children and six courageous adults in Newtown, Conn., brought to mind some very significant issues that we as a society have to deal with, starting now, to begin to prevent this carnage from happening again.
Yes, we can start by blaming the prevalence of guns. The fact that a divorced mother in a quiet little town could ‘legally’ stock herself with an arsenal befitting an army battalion signifies a real problem. Guns are simply too accessible, especially assault weapons.
I’m encouraged that even some gun supporters are acknowledging we need to do something. I’m also encouraged that, finally, our president seems committed to bringing the issue to the forefront.
I also think we need to change attitudes relative to guns. The New York Times reported yesterday that the owner of a shooting range near Newtown offered this comment:
“Guns are why we’re free in this country, and people lose sight of that when tragedies like this happen,” he said. “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.”
I’m sorry, that’s not right. A disturbed man WITH GUNS killed all those children. If he didn’t have a gun, he wouldn’t have been able to slaughter all those people. Period. So something in our gun laws needs to change. Fast.
We can also blame the failure to identify mental illness in time to prevent a tragedy. Nancy Lanza’s arsenal in the presence of a disturbed young adult was a catastrophe waiting to happen. It’s a fact that 40 percent of gun purchases don’t require a background check. We’ve seen what happens when unstable people get a hold of guns – in too long a litany of places including Columbine, Aurora, Blacksburg, Oak Creek, Brookfield and now Newtown.
I’m encouraged that the powers that be are discussing the relationship between guns and mental illness, and that there is talk of trying to do something about this, too. We need to find a way to check, double-check, triple-check the backgrounds and mental stability of everyone who wants a gun.
But the biggest issue in my opinion is our culture.
We have a culture that glorifies shooting and killing. Our children are exposed to killing and destruction the moment they can watch television or play a video game. And it continues as they grow and mature. Pick up one of their mobile devices. Or watch a movie preview. Or a crime drama. Or even a cartoon.
And think about the Christmas gifts children get. Kids grow up with images of guns implanted in their minds from early on, and it’s fostered as they mature.
This begs a question: What kind of society do we really want to be? Do we want to be a society where killing is commonplace? Where killing is recreational? Where killing is glorified?
I think we need to change. I think people who have responsibility for our entertainment vehicles need to think really hard about what they show and what they portray.
And we as parents need to take a second and think about the things we expose our kids to.
The situation is almost unique to the U.S. Evan Osnos of The New Yorker posted this insightful blog over the weekend:
“I’ve watched as other countries struggle with the curious fact that the most prosperous, successful, and emulated civilization the world has ever seen lives with the certainty that every few months one of its troubled citizens will casually acquire the tools to massacre a large group of his neighbors: shoppers in a mall, moviegoers, voters meeting their congresswoman, a kindergarten full of children.”
It’s time for us to change. To change the way we think, the way we act, the way we live.
As President Obama said Sunday night:
“No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”
Amen, Mr. President. So get to work.