I don’t want to write about what happened. I don’t want to think about what happened. For the last few days, I’ve done everything I can to avoid reading about what happened. I just can’t bear it — as a parent, as a (usually) proud American, as a human being. I don’t want to hear the details or see the pictures or listen to eyewitness accounts. I just can’t bear it.
But I can’t ignore it either.
A few weeks ago, there was a horrific incident in Manhattan where a nanny — well, I won’t rehash the details, you know the case. I was so wrecked by that I almost wrote a post on the subject, but then I just couldn’t. That would mean thinking about what had happened some more.
I haven’t forgotten about that incident, though, and I won’t forget about this new incident either. And there will be another incident, we all know there will, where someone who desperately needed help does something horrible to someone innocent, and all we can do is hope that it won’t affect us or anyone we care about, that we’ll be able to go on living our lives and hugging our own kids and saying, “Isn’t it horrible what happened to those people?”
But every time I go on Facebook, I see friends arguing about the causes of this latest incident — I won’t dwell on the specifics. I don’t need to type them out, and you don’t need to read them. Every time I see someone else writing about it, though, all I can think is, “Good! Argue. Debate. Keep talking about this. Tweet it, pin it, tumbl it, whatever. Do everything you can to work through this for yourself and to keep the subject alive.”
So fine, here’s my post. You may not want to read anything else on this subject, and if so, I don’t blame you. Go back and look at the baby polar bear at the top of this post. You’ve earned it. I’m just going to go ahead with my little rant, though, for my own benefit. I hope you don’t mind.
First of all, debate is good, but let’s just not get bogged down in the debate over what we should be debating. Guns, mental health, media coverage? Yes, yes and yes. Let’s look at them all. Now.
Here’s my philosophy on guns: Before you let a gun into your home, picture the worst-case scenario of what might happen with that gun, on purpose or by accident. Now take whatever precautions you need to take to ensure that horrible thing doesn’t occur — locks, double locks, a hundred locks or, if necessary, not buying the gun in the first place. Unless you’re willing to take gun ownership that seriously, you’re probably not qualified to own a gun.
We need to stop indulging people who think guns are toys, that there’s something cool or fun about seeing how many people a gun could kill, how fast… just hypothetically, y’know. That it’s just awesome to have the latest, most lethal killing machine hanging on your wall as some kind of trophy. Again, consider the worst-case scenario of what that gun might be used for… because we’ve seen the worst-case scenario occur over and over.
That’s why the “arm the teachers” argument falls flat. Think about all the things that could go wrong if we put more guns in schools. Trust me, the worst-case scenario will happen, a lot. Also, I had some crazy teachers growing up. Enough said.
I don’t understand the mind of someone who would commit a mass murder, and I’m not sure anyone truly does, but we should be doing everything we can to figure it out. No one should pick up a gun and start firing randomly because we were too heartless or too lazy or too cheap to help them.
Some people think the killers are just seeking fame. I always doubted that argument myself. If I ever wanted to be famous, I would audition for America’s Got Talent (and surely find myself in a montage of people who most assuredly don’t got talent). But let’s assume there are people who would commit these kinds of acts just to get their names in the news. Let’s say that at least some of the killers want to be as notorious as, you know, that guy and the other guy and those two nutjobs from that state.
It’s certainly possible. For a while, people thought the way to get attention was to send someone powder through the mail — either anthrax or, in some cases, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Anthrax. When the media hype died down, so did those kinds of attacks. Maybe we can do the same thing with gun violence. It’s worth a shot. (No pun intended.)
So how do we keep the bad guys from gaining any level of notoriety? Well, here’s my modest proposal: Instead of blasting the perpetrator’s name everywhere, we refer to them like we do hurricanes, from a predetermined alphabetized list of antiquated, almost absurd-sounding first names.
We’ll call this guy Almonzo. The next one will be Bartleby.
You want to make a name for yourself? Go right ahead. Just be warned that name is going to be Clementine.
Sure, the person’s given name will still get out — and it probably should, to some extent, so we can study these people, interview their families and help prevent the next Dudley, Jasper or Phineas. But for the large majority of us who’d rather not make a psychotic into a celebrity, we can just call them Hubert or whatever we’re up to alphabetically at that point.
It’s a starting point. Let’s do that and see how it works out. Meanwhile, we’ll keep working on reducing unnecessarily overpowered weapons and helping the mentally ill.
I don’t want to think anymore about what happened last Friday, and you probably don’t either, so let’s make a pact that for now, we won’t shut up about it. Let’s make it a priority to do whatever we can, so won’t ever have to wonder what name comes next after Zelda.
As is often the case, I think Michael Moore expressed the reality best in his tweets over the weekend. I hope everyone who reads this will think very carefully and very seriously about the truths Michael expresses. “Yes we need gun laws & better mental health care. BUT even that won’t stop the killings. Because, let’s face it, America believes in killing
A country that officially sanctions horrific violence (invade Iraq, drones kill kids, death penalty) is surprised when a 20-yr old joins in?
I hate to say it, but killing is our way. We began America w/ genocide,then built it w/ slaves. The shootings will continue- it’s who we are
The long term solution to reducing gun deaths is to change our society from one of perpetual war and fear to one of peace and tolerance.
The short term solution? A law immediately banning semi-automatic weapons & mega-clips. Must have license to own gun. Must pass mental exam.
Also, end the U.S.-sanctioned policy of killing: End the wars NOW, end death penalty. Stop banks and insurance companies from destroying ppl
It’s all violence & it’s all connected. Why does this happen only in America? The answer is right in front of u. And it’s not just the guns.”
But it doesn’t only happen in America. Look at the London Underground bombers or the youth camp in Norway (or was it Sweden? Denmark? One of those) or the same day as the Connecticut killings the ones in China. And that’s just the ones I thought of immediately. This is NOT just an American problem!! I agree with a lot of what you said, but definitely not the statement that this only happens in America.
Sorry, Elizabelle01 but I disagree. And strongly. The incidents you describe are acts of terrorism, which have completely different motives and operandi to shootings. It may not happen exclusively in America, but it sure as hell happens at a much higher rate than anywhere else in the world. Generally, I am very much in favour of all individuals having their own opinion, and listening with a curious open mind to that opinion. But this issue is far too important to let pro-gun lobbyists make their arguements; to me, they do not have an arguement. If it will save the life of one person, child or adult, then the ‘right’ to bear arms must be revoked. An imposition on autonomy? Maybe. But for the greater good.
Good points, Kathy. But didn’t Bowling for Columbine make the opposite point? I remember a whole segment about the brutal history of the UK and how they’re safer than us these days gun-wise. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, or maybe his point is that they got past their culture of violence?
I live in Israel. Every school has armed guards, only one entrance to the building, high fences topped with barbed wire and several teachers (ex-IDF) who carry licensed guns on themselves. It isn’t pretty, but we have really cut down on the number of terrorist incidents. Also, for those people who are yelling about assault-weapons bans: Most states have these laws on the books– the gun used in this
shooting was bought legally, licensed, and compliant with the law. I used to live in NYC where they have strict gun-control laws. Unfortunately, the criminals always managed to acquire guns illegally. I don’t have all the answers, but I think you
should establish a well-thought out policy instead of just passing some ill-conceived law which will only be a band-aid for this problem.
I think our violence problem in America is very different from Israel’s. These shooters aren’t politically motivated — not that either way is somehow better or worse. Dead people are dead people, whatever a shooter’s motivations may be. But I do think we need to address the problems differently. It would be a shame to turn our schools into fortresses, especially if there are other options we could explore first.
This was really well written, and you lay out some points I happen to agree with. Especially about arming the teachers. Every time I hear that argument, really bad worse-case-scenarios flood my brain. Naming them like storms? I might actually like that idea. I keep pleading for people to remember a victim’s name, instead of the perpetrator. Even if it’s just one name. Fill your memory with their name, say a prayer for them, light a candle in their honor. But let the memory of his name go.
just your title alone almost made me smile.
Oh, I like your naming convention! I have been stumped by how do properly deal with the issue. I feel that simply talking about it publicly only adds fuel to the storm and puts the idea into the heads of copycats. I hate the idea of making a martyr of the perp by plastering his name everywhere. A mindless storm. That’s what it is.
The arming the teachers or fight fire(arms) with fire(arms) solution makes me fear those who’ve been proposing it. If we are going that route, then hey; let’s provide every single person with 1 nuclear missile, that would level the playing field now wouldn’t it? Of course by level the playing field, I mean flatten the Country into a pile of molten ash.
Clearly, there needs to be a reduction of ease of availability in obtaining heavy weaponry, legally and illegally. This needs to happen on both sides,those who own them keeping them properly secured, as you’ve said, as well as how they’re sold, and to whom! You do not need a semi-automatic weapon to protect your livestock and family. The right to bear arms was written long before weapons of this nature existed.
I can not begin to fathom what these families are going through and hope I will never have to. It’s beyond coherent words, my heart aches for them. And yes, I hugged my son that day until he begged me to let him go play with his trains.
As a teacher, I do not WANT to carry a gun in my school. I would lay my life down to protect my children, those I gave birth to as well as the 100 or so who pass through my classroom each day, but having a gun in my classroom is just tempting a student who is already on the edge.
Well put. I’m surprised how much traction the “arm teachers” argument has gotten. Scary.
Clementine! Thank you for that much needed laugh. As a mother this tragedy really hits home and has left me unable to get it out of my mind. Your take on things is thoughtful and with just the right touch of some uplifting humour. Well done.
Thanks. I heard someone say this was worse than Columbine because these were “just kids”. All I could think was, “The kids in Columbine were just kids, too!” A senseless death like this at any age is just unthinkable.
Innocent lives taken in violence. No matter the age it’s wrong.
I love reading your posts. I agree with all you said here with one exception, they all should be named a–h–e #1,#2,#3. Correction: make that Sick A–h–e. I also believe we as responsible, law abiding citizens should report anyone we know of that is of the same ilk to authorities – anonymously. Also children who are home schooled should be checked in on from time to time. And lastly………..no guns or gun permits allowed without background checks and appropriate credentials.. Hunting should be outlawed – it is NOT a sport – it is a slaughter.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out the truth that “hunting is NOT a sport, it is a slaughter.”
I’m no fan of hunting myself, but the only way any gun legislation is going to pass is if we compromise. Let people have their hunting guns. Let’s tackle the big stuff.
Loved the bear!
This was good to read – I think you might enjoy reading my brother Dave’s take on the situation. He lives in Florida and was affected by two ‘crazy gunman’ situations in the past few years.
“I stood at the dedication for several miles of a state route in Florida a few years back. It was being dedicated to a young professional who worked at our company as a technician preparing roadway design plans for this stretch of road. His fiancé and young son and mother and father all attended the dedication. He had been killed in our office one day by a mentally ill former employee that we had let go two years earlier. We now have a badge and security system and every time I swipe my badge I think of him and the violence that killed him for no reason.
Last March, I drove to my son’s school after hearing reports that a shooting had occurred. As I made my way through the maze of cars and police, I saw my son walking toward me out of the school turned battle zone. I will never forget that image. My son’s headmaster had been shot and killed in her office by a teacher that had been terminated earlier that day. As he sat down in my car, he was silent and did not start to talk until we were well clear of the school. When he learned who had been killed, he simply said, “She did so much for us”.
So I watch this tragedy through a familiar lens. And I say to myself again, I think it is time our nation had a real discussion about gun control, including a focus on mental health screening as well as control of weapon types that are built for a military battlefield and not for personal defense.
While it is our elected politicians’ job to defend the Constitution and the Second Amendment, it is equally their job to interpret that document in a modern context in order to protect those among us who are unable to protect themselves. Enough already. If this is not the time to talk about this, then when?”
Thanks so much for posting that. That was heartbreaking.
As a teacher and a parent, Friday’s attack breaks my heart. I wouldn’t let me children watch the news this weekend because I wasn’t done processing. At work today, we discussed causes, solutions, all of the water cooler talk that follows a tragedy.
It was my understanding that the guns were not the killer’s, but instead were registered to his mother. I do not think as many types of guns should be readily available as currently are, but gun-control laws have little affect on criminals. Laws affect law-abiding citizens.
If someone gets it in their head to do something so awful, they will find a way. Has everyone forgotten Oklahoma City? No guns there. Fertilizer and racing fuel….
We only agreed on a few things. Our society IS violent. Our society ACCEPTS violence. Our society GLORIFIES violence. And we don’t have an answer.
This is a different note. To Anonymous and Kathy, my family is a hunting family and my children have been taught gun safety and what a heavy responsibility guns and hunting are. Hunting is also important in population control. When an alligator shows up in your backyard and eats your dog, or a wild hog attacks your child, maybe you’ll feel a little differently (and yes, those things happen where I am). My family hunts FOR FOOD. There are many times we would not have meat on our table if my family did not hunt. And there are other families who have “Shopped my freezer” to feed their children. When I hear slaughter related to animals, I think of the ground beef in the grocery store….I’m not asking you to change your mind or start serving elk at Thanksgiving, but don’t forget to be tolerant and realize not everyone shares your views.
Response to Katiebman As a matter of fact I agree – no t everyone share your views in addition- It’s not working your way – is it?
I’m not sure what “my way” is?
KatieBman, it’s great to hear of someone who hunts who actually hunts for food! Mommy Man, I really like the idea of naming perps like storms so we forget who they actually are. Numbers would be even better! It was a tragedy that will undoubtedly happen again unless something is done to prevent it. Gun reformation is a damned good start. I know the age old argument is that if someone wants to kill someone they will find a way… why not make it more difficult for them in the first place…
Strawberryquicksand, thank you! I think people sometimes forget that not all of us are looking for a trophy on the wall.
Mommyman, I totally agree with naming the shooters like storms. And it’s not that I’m against gun laws in any way. I don’t see any purpose in a lot of the guns that are out there, readily available. I’m sorry but a semi-automatic isn’t necessary to shoot a deer.
Brilliant as usual, but I would like to ask, are you ok? Do you have someone to talk to about this, if you would like to? It sounds as though this has affected you deeply.
It’s like you’ve plucked this post from my brain. It’s killing me too, and I wish I could quit thinking about it, even for a little bit. But how I LOVE your idea of the generic, awful hurricane type names. I think that’s so seriously brilliant. Thank you for yet another perfect post. Love to you and your family.
My heart hurts for all the victims families. I do not understand these acts of violence. I do not want to diagnose it, I want it to stop.
A query popped into my head the other day as to : “why do you never hear of a Gun Shop being attacked?”…why is is schools, theaters, Malls…
Great Post Mommy man.
sorry was suppose to say is IT..can’t type..too upset..
Arming teachers raises SO MANY questions. Would they all get proper training in target practice and recognizing a potential/actual threat vs someone’s quirky aunt coming to take them to lunch? Who would pay for that? Who would pay for the costs of guns, ammunition and some form of insurance? And if they don’t pass all the testing, which hopefully is continual, then are they still allowed to teach in a regular school system that hasn’t been locked down like a prison?
If it comes to arming anybody then it should be two or three trained professionals who aren’t teachers and who’s sole mission is to protect the children BEFORE Clementine or Jasper get into the classroom.
I say this fully believing that we have to get to the root of the problem first and foremost to make any real change, whatever it is, but until then we have to be realistic about the kind of world we live in and protect ourselves and our children until that problem is fixed.
It’s so sad this is even a discussion.
I am glad you addressed these issues, it is so vitally important to us as a society, parents, fellow humans that we must take a stand. For me and my family it has just become to much and I could write pages on the subject. Do we have guns in our house? Yes. One hand gun and a small caliber hunting rifle for livestock protection, we got it this summer after having a couple of run ins with some aggressive coyotes around our livestock and children. Are they locked up? Yes. Yes. Yes. I was raised with guns in the house and safety has always been on the forefront. I used to compete in Biathlon also and hope that one day so will my children for that gun safety and gun education is tantamount in our home.
Do we need more gun control? Hell Yeah! In my perfect world hand guns and assault weapons along with clips of any size would be banned and only used by police officers and military personal. The fact that you can purchase a similar gun to the one used in the past 3 shootings at Walmart for the bargain price of around $300 is a giant cry for help. I just wonder who is listening. Every gun purchase should come with a waiting period and a back ground check, no exceptions. This won’t keep guns out of everyone’s hands but its a start. The first thing I did on the Monday following Sandy Hook is to contact the offices of my two US Senators and US Rep and let my feelings be known. I voted for them, I helped put them in office and I hold them accountable. Let your Senators and Rep’s know how you feel its time for some quality legislation not a quick fix.
I had to sit down on Sunday before my 8 year old son went to school the next day and try to figure out a way to explain what happened to him in such a way as to not scare him but to prepare him if he heard something in school on Monday. I was very vague but answered his questions honestly but when he connected the dots to the lock down drill they had in school a month before it hit home in so many ways. The worst thing my mother had to worry about when I was in elementary school was when my 5th grade teacher explained his wife’s c-section to us. Now its where is the best place to hide in the classroom, a new spin on duck and cover.
Teachers with guns, I am not even going to get started. The same with armed security guards. What is wrong with us as a society that we can’t even see what is so gravelly wrong with this situation.
Naming the perpetrators after storms I think I like that, its a start. Can we add names like Merle and Rudloph (seriously I had a great Uncle named that and he hated it).
Mental health. Where do you begin. There is just so much we need to improve upon with aid and education that is needed so parents and families get what they need. I feel there is also just a great disconnect between some kids and the world around them. I don’t know if that should be considered a mental health issue but I volunteer a lot in my children’s school where I started a new outdoor program. I spend every Friday afternoon with a grade from 3rd to 6th. Some of these kids just need someone to listen to them, to invest in them, to validate that what they are thinking and going through is important to someone and that they are not alone. That someone is interested in what they have to say.
I’m so glad you are encouraging your readers to talk about this to keep the momentum moving forward for change and healthy debate. There was another shooting today in NY. firefighters responding to a call and again there are 2 families who are going to have to be dealing with the deaths of loved ones from gun violence. My husband was a full time firefighter/paramedic for 15+ years until he had a career change. I know intimately what these families go through on a day to day basis. I wonder what gun control advocates will say to this? “ We encourage firefighters to wear guns under their bunker gear and lets go ahead and install a couple of turret guns on the tops of fire engines as a deterrent.” As crazy as it sounds to me some where in the US I dread that someone is having that thought. Its time for us to pull our heads out of the sand and start making the hard decisions and bring the debates out into the open.