17 December 2012

What Do We Want?

What is there to say that hasn't already been said?

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We don't watch television news, and we rarely listen to the radio, and we read the weekend's newspapers carefully, furtively. We needed the time, to process the shooting ourselves, to wind around what to say to our nine year old. And I think we worried for naught, for her stoic little practical nature shone through when we talked about it at dinner last night: he killed himself? okay, we don't have to worry about him.

But that it were so easy.

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The thing is, there are a lot of way to analyze this situation. Do we need better treatment and resources for mental illness? Yes. Should we clamp down on guns and ammunition? Yes. Are video games too violent? Who knows? But to try and use the excuse that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" as a deflection away from the very politicized gun control issue is missing the point. A crazy person in China went on a knife attack on Friday - but because he was using a knife, those 22elementary school children were injured, not killed. Guns kill people. As Nick Kristof pointed out in the Times the other day, we regulate the hell out of cars and buildings and food, but "the only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill."

What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now. How are we going to get it? I don't know, but I emailed President Obama (via the White House website), and I signed a petition to "address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress", and I signed an open letter to Congress and the NRA to "make today the last day that they block common sense gun regulations that protect all of our families". I'll probably write to my congressperson and my senators, even though I'm pretty sure they're already in favor of gun control. Because what we need is a good strong gun control policy, complete with background checks, waiting periods, restricted access to semi-automatic weapons, ammunition microstamping, a ban on high-capacity clips, and halt to gun sales at gun shows. And you know what? A CNN poll from a couple of years ago shows that a majority of the American people want a ban on semi-automatics (61% in favor) and background checks before gun purchases (94% in favor). I'd venture that those poll numbers would be even higher today.

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I was a little stunned to learn, over last night's dinner, that they do in fact have "lock down drills" in my daughter's elementary school. Fire drills? Sure, I get that. But lock down drills in my bucolic suburban town, where the kids huddle in the corner away from the windows and the door, just for practice? The innocence of childhood is gone.


readersguide said...

That was amazing -- that all those teachers and children had already practiced what to do in just this eventuality. Horrifying, and yet a good thing.

Anonymous said...

My sons were in high school the day of Colombine Lock down drills in every school from that day forward. They accepted it matter of factly, same as airline or any other security. Caring teachers, beleaguered administrators, how can they not take precautions? So awful, and now those two sons are teachers.
Hug everyone!

Nadine said...

Ah, so much time has passed.

On the oldest bldg on the campus of boy's school there is a sign with a triangular symbol: Fall Out Shelter. I remember the same sign on my elementary school in the 60's. We didn't have drills but my sister did at the same school in the 50's. Those who ruled our country from Washington, DC? They had bunkers up in the hills like The Greenbriar, and others. They had drills. Probably still do. Somewhere. It was all about a war then, the Cold War. This is war too. The war on guns. I hope we win.

And I cannot pretend to put myself in that woman's shoes for even a second. I don't know her or her sons or her fears. But why? Why does a suburban mom need semi-automatic weapons? That's just wrong. I get the "feeling safer", "bonding with my son" things but a rifle would have sufficed and 26 innocent people might still be alive.

I listened today to the radio with someone talking about the school districts in Texas. Some (maybe all? I dunno...) allow their teachers and staff to carry guns. It's not required, just allowed. Some do but most don't. Whatever. They say it's enough to keep disturbed people with guns away. I'm not sure how they can measure that because most school districts in the US have not had a tragedy such as this. But their goal? To limit the carnage to one bodybag, presumably that of the intruder.

I need to think about this more.... And I need to know why one bldg of boys school is still marked as a Fall Out Shelter.

susan said...

They have lock down drills here, too. When CG was in first grade, she and a few friends were reported (by the paraeducator in the room) for talking during a lockdown drill (the teacher in the room couldn't hear the girls, but the paraeducator could). CG and her friends ended up having to go to the principal's office where they got a little talk from the uniformed police officer who had come to the school. I learned about this when she burst into tears at bedtime. I was furious! (not least b/c school policy says that going to the principal's office is the 4th stage of progressive discipline, not the first, and b/c I thought it was complete overkill).

All that said, we had bomb drills all through elementary school, where we lined up silently in the hallway and crouched with our hands over our heads and the blinds drawn in the classrooms. It just struck me as school weirdness and never made me anxious.

leanne said...

My son's school has lockdown drills -- they just had one a week or two ago. The principal sends a letter home a few days before the drill to let us know. I appreciate the warning. I've asked my son a few questions about the drills in the past, but never very deeply. And he doesn't say much about them.

This year is the first year that his school has a security system in place -- during the school day you need to ring the bell so that someone in office can buzz you into the building.

And because my son hasn't brought up last Friday's tragedy, I haven't spoken a word about it in front of him. The innocence of childhood is gone for sure, but I'm still protecting him anyway.

Emily said...

We seem to have them, too, but my kids say that it just means they stay where they are and keep doing what they're doing. Not much of a drill, huh?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think you know my thoughts. Yes, huddling under a table with a kindergartner during a lockdown drill will make you wonder WTF is going on in this country.