Friday, February 16, 2018

Ashes to ashes


I am haunted by the photo of distraught mothers awaiting news about their children in the wake of the recent Florida school shooting. One of the women had clearly been to an Ash Wednesday service earlier in the day as the marks are still on her forehead. As I explained to my congregants in our service, the ashes serve as two reminders for Christians. On the one hand it represents our sinfulness (and hopefully repentance) and on the other hand they symbolize our mortality. Parkland was another horrifying demonstration of the latter.   

The cycle of violence, outrage, grief, arguments, posturing, blaming and so forth with no substantial changes is mind-numbingly frustrating and heart breaking. Once again, as in so many modern debates, we have those on both ends of the political spectrum driving the conversation. On the one end, we have those who want to ban all guns versus those on the other end who believe any restrictions whatsoever are an impediment to their constitutional rights. If we could have a reasonable conversation somewhere in the middle, we might actually accomplish something. I do not consider myself a “snowflake” or a “fascist” so I decided to just start listing some things I think, know or believe about guns and violence in America to see where it led me.

Guns are powerful weapons that are useful and even fun when used properly. Guns are powerful weapons that are dangerous and frightening when not used properly (either intentionally or stupidly). Guns themselves are just "things" like rocks, hammers, knives and so forth. Any evil lies in the hands and heart of the one holding them.

I am the owner of multiple firearms and do not think a “gun ban” is the answer to our problem. If I thought turning over my weapons to authorities would lessen the possibility of more children being gunned down in school or anywhere else, I would be first in line. That is not the solution in my opinion.

I do not believe there will be or even could be a full disarming of the citizens of the United States. That would be impractical if not impossible. This is a common fear tactic that I believe is simply perpetuated to drive gun sales. Even if certain weapons were deemed illegal or restricted moving forward, there are already so many on the streets it would have minimal effect.

Once again, there is much attention on the specific rifle used in this attack. The AR-15 is not technically an “Assault Weapon” as it is only semi-automatic (fires one round with each pull of the trigger) even though it looks like a military style weapon such as an M-16. Actual assault weapons are fully automatic and what we commonly call a “Machine Gun” and civilians are not legally allowed to own them.
However, the AR-15 can be adapted to have a high capacity magazine holding up to 100 rounds without reloading (as opposed to the more common 30 rounds). The high capacity magazine is an element that makes this weapon especially deadly in a mass shooting scenario because the shooter can attack longer without pause. Surely some limits on this capability would not inhibit anyone’s rights on the gun range or the hunting grounds. Again, this is just my opinion.

There is also the “This is a mental health issue” talking point. Sure... almost by definition anyone who seeks to slaughter multiple human beings is crazy. Yes, we need more help for those with psychological problems in our country. Yet, this will still likely have little impact on the frequency of these violent incidents because we can only do so much. It is like trying to keep an eye on a severely depressed person and still being unable to prevent their eventual suicide. Still, a registration process that can flag persons who have demonstrated any instability should be a no-brainer. Having to pass a test to get a license to drive a car did not infringe on any of my inalienable rights that I know of. 

There are those who think arming teachers is the solution. This is frankly so absurd I can hardly respond to it. I have the utmost respect for teachers and the teaching profession in general, but thinking back to my school days there are definitely some that I would be terrified of having a weapon in class. We do not seem to trust them with a paddle, so why would we have them packing heat?

So where does this leave us? I believe the vast majority of Americans want children safe in school. It does not matter what “wing” you identify with. If we do not ban guns, arm teachers or effectively monitor the mentally ill what do we do? I believe the most effective solution is one of increased security. I’m saddened this is what is needed, but not nearly as sad as I am when children get massacred.

Here is my proposal. Implement the best security means possible in every single school in these United States. Metal detectors, non-invasive searches, armed trained professional security personnel, new school protocols…whatever it takes. I would further propose that the government along with the NRA help fund this effort. Put your money where your “thoughts and prayers” are. Keep your guns, make your money, but make daggum sure you do everything you can to make our kids as safe as possible.

I don’t know how much such an effort would cost, but if we take “gun ban” laws off the table, the NRA would not need to spend so much money lobbying for their sympathetic candidates. According to Fortune.com, they spent over $31 million dollars just in support of Trump over Clinton in the most recent election. That is only one presidential election and does not even count all the contributions to other members of Congress.

I know this may sound crazy, but is it any crazier than doing nothing? 


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