gun control, school shootings

Trigger (un)happy

After this week’s shitshow, social media is saturated with grim statistics reminding us yet again that our country is unique in the worst of ways. “The U.S. is the only country among its peers that has seen a substantial increase in the rate of child firearm deaths in the last two decades (42%). All comparably large and wealthy countries have seen child firearm deaths fall since 2000. These peer nations had an average child firearm death rate of 0.5 per 100,000 children in the year 2000, falling 56% to 0.3 per 100,000 children in 2019. The U.S. numbers keep moving in the wrong direction.” In fact, for 2020, the average child firearm death rate in the U.S. per 100,000 children was 5.6, a whopping 1800% more than peer nations.

This week Nashville got its turn. A head of the school, a pastor’s daughter, and four other irreplaceable souls, half of them children, all gone in a blink. We don’t know what to say, but still, we collectively murmur, hug your loved ones, we need to come together on gun control, sending you thoughts and prayers. It’s one thing to get a deadly disease, fight like hell and still die from it, or perish in a car collision, or drown. It’s another to be at your school on an otherwise ordinary Monday morning and not get to see another day. Why? Because another troubled individual was having another bad day and reached, in this case, her boiling point. After the fact, as is often the case, people come forward and admit that the shooter did, as it turns out, seem odd, was troubled, had made threats, had recently purchased an unusual quantity of firearms, etc., but we never could have predicted this. Or could we?

As a parent I can’t imagine–though with these climbing grim statistics every parent of school aged children now must—running through that school parking lot desperate for answers, knowing that future grieving parents are among you and that parent could very well turn out to be you. Or the scene at the nearby church where children, school staff and law enforcement gathered to sort out the mess they now found themselves in and connect children with their families. I imagine that church will stand out as a clear memory, at least for the adults in that room, of being a safe haven in the most horrible of horror shows. 

One child was about to turn nine, and with two children of my own, I well remember the buzz of the planning and excitement, the friends we’d invite, gifts I’d wrap, singing Happy Birthday to You and presenting a made-from-scratch cake blazing with candles. The best part was seeing the shining wondrous joy stretched across my sons’ faces. These grieving parents must now go forth carrying only memories of past birthdays, and one set of parents also gets to grieve their child’s ninth birthday celebration that wasn’t. It’s all so unnatural, this deadly interruption, and it makes me wonder how many lawmakers who refuse to ban the purchase of semi-automatic weapons have lost their own loved ones in a similarly horrific scene. I have to think very few because it’s unfathomable to have this horror visit your own family, but yet you’d sign up for more? 

When I look into the kind faces of the people who perished plastered on my tv screen, I see entire networks of colleagues, friends, neighbors and families, all bearing the weight of this week’s terror, a weight that will remain long after the last funeral. Despite locked doors and emergency protocol, the rock paper scissors game has semi-automatic weapons winning every time. It took mere seconds to shatter the locked entry, seconds for shards of glass to rain down like the endless tears that would soon follow.

Some say it’s a mental health problem and we need to do more. Others say it’s not guns that kill, but people. However you explain it, the statistics continue and they’re grim. As of late March, the Gun Violence Archive has counted 130 mass shootings in the United States this year, and we’re not even a quarter into the year.

We won’t forget the image of the young girl on the bus, her little palm pressed into the window, and the adult-sized fear and sadness hijacking her innocent face. No one deserves this kind of day, but it’s clear this isn’t the last of them. Those communities who have yet to be hit can’t imagine they’ll be up next, but after Monday’s terror, it feels inevitable.

So many countries have wised up and been better for it. Twenty-six years ago, a gunman entered Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, killing 16 kids and a teacher. The UK govt responded by enacting tight gun control legislation. In the 9400+ days since, there have been a total of 0 school shootings in the UK. In our own schools, the curriculum needs to drastically change, move away from these deadly lessons, and foster an environment where our children, educators and staff can safely teach, learn and thrive.

Can you imagine?

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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