Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where Do We Go Now?

Like most everyone else, I've spent much of this week thinking about the tragedy that occurred last Friday. In that time, we've heard so many opinions on what needs to be done, what should be done, and what shouldn't be done. Some ideas have made a lot of sense to me. Others have made none. 

The obvious suggestion has been reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. I couldn't agree more with this and was shocked several years ago when the right wing Congress decided to let it lapse. When you look at these mass murders, nearly all of them are committed with these weapons. There is no practical purpose for a gun that fire almost 50 rounds in one minute except to kill people. 

I've also heard people who don't understand the need for guns at all, pointing to other countries as examples. This gets a little tricky. The gun culture in this country has deep roots dating back to the Revolution and the days as a frontier nation. Americans have a intrinsic distrust of government, which fuels this notion that the people need to be armed in order to defend themselves against tyranny. That was the real intent of the 2nd amendment, not for hunting, as many argue. Given my own distrust of authority and it's proven tendency to abuse power, I do strongly believe in the right to own guns. Though I'm a huge supporter of stricter gun control, stricter licenses, background checks, and mandatory instruction, on some level, I feel safer living in the country where the police and military aren't the only ones allowed to have guns. But that doesn't mean there can't be regulation. We regulate every other amendment, why should this one be any different?

Perhaps the most absurd solution I keep hearing is this idea of arming teachers, or creating secure rooms within classrooms. First off, the idea that more guns will solve anything is absurd. We heard the same thing a few weeks ago after the NFL player murdered his girlfriend. There were people saying that if she had a gun, she could have protected herself. Well, the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter did have guns. They didn't help her and they enabled her son to murder 26 other people. And honestly, think about it for one moment, putting guns in schools and around children...the chances of an accident increase exponentially. And besides that, transforming the school atmosphere into a prison atmosphere has NO part in the solution. 

Another idea that, as I expected, the right has put forth is the idea that prayer in school would somehow lessen the risk of these incidents. As far as I'm concerned, that is a ploy to use this event as a way to push an agenda that has no part in the conversation. 

The way I see it, though guns certainly play a huge role in this discussion, the core problem is the overwhelming number of children who are not getting the help they need at an early age. When you look at all of these crimes, so many of the perpetrators share a common profile. They are kids who feel ignored, misunderstood. They are outcasts. They are bullied. They are people who never got the help they needed. If you want to prevent mass murder, you need to deal with those who will potentially become mass murderers. In most of these cases, these people can be identified at an early age. We know the signs, we know what to look for, and yet, too often they are ignored. 

What we need in schools are smaller classes where teachers can spend more individual time with students. We need mental health professionals who can work with these children in a way that doesn't feel like they are being punished. We need parents who are more involved with raising their kids. We need people in the community volunteering to give children at risk more positive role models, especially if they aren't getting them at home. And yes, we need gun control to keep weapons out of the hands of those who aren't helped, or can't be helped.

But perhaps the most important step has already been taken, because as a society we are seriously talking about these issues for the the first time.

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