In April 2007 I wrote a blog posting about gun violence in schools. The day before I posted the blog, a young man with some issues - probably most obvious to those who saw him on a daily basis - took semi-automatic weapons and went on to create the largest school massacre our country has ever had to bear. Thirty-three dead, including himself, and 17 injured who will have to live with the fruits of his labor for the rest of their lives. Every time they hear of a school or mall or workplace shooting, this clench will start in their gut and move throughout their entire body. Or the muscles in the middle of their back will stiffen and it will take everything from hugs to massages to therapy sessions to remind them they made it out alive.
I was lucky. The school violence I was subjected to was never deadly. Not deadly, but painful just the same.
1977-1978 - Bomb threats made against the high school that was attached to the elementary school almost once a week. (The result, it seemed, of the depressed daughter of a General who wanted to go back to the States rather than take her Algebra test.)
1982 - Gunman Takes Over Lake Braddock for a few hours, trapping each and every one of us (who didn't take a nose dive out of a window or the duct system. The only casualty - one locker (I got it Sr. year) and a light fixture. That and his dignity and freedom. He went to jail for quite a few years for that little stunt.
1986-1987 - Bomb Treat (not sure which year) - Senior year I thought I was done with this mess. Nothing happened in at least four years, maybe five so I was hopefully that the violence was over. Then the bomb threat was called in during lunch. No one knew how to handle a bomb threat, they were milling around right near the school. I, on the other hand, went into full safety mode, got my friends across the street, behind cars and eventually into cars and over to my house which would have been outside the blast radius.
I was under the age of 18 and yet I knew all of this. My innocence gone by the time I was in third grade. By then I knew there were people out there who had no qualms about murdering me for almost no reason at all.
Yet, I would rather not talk about my history or what my son will be facing tomorrow in school. The odds of there being SIP drills, Shelter in Place, and I want him to go through them as often as possible. He has a probably with hearing - he's not deaf, but words sometimes sound a bit like Charlie Brown's teacher in a Peanuts cartoon to him if he is at all nervous or focused on something else. I do know this means I am possibly up for some rather uneasy dinner conversation.
But this is a dinner conversation that needs to happen all across America if your kids are ready. And if you don't have children - have the conversation. It is actually two conversations and if we are really honest it's three.
1) True and honest Gun Control - whether you believe that Gun control should be control of the ammunition, the weapon itself or control of who gets it - this is a conversation that needs to happen.
2) A True and honest conversation regarding how we treat those who suffer from mental illness in this country and how it affects their children - From what I've read, I am no expert, but it seems that something more than just Adam Lanza snapping had something to do with this incident. From almost all accounts, Adam's mother was a survivalist, wound to extreme regarding the election, the looming fiscal cliff and, possibly, the numerology behind this December. She also taught her son, the son who was not receiving the services she thought he needed in public school so she pulled him out and home schooled him; the son who was a special type of mentally ill - quiet, reserved, no friends - and yet she isolated him even more. Maybe this was purposeful to control whatever illness it was that he was battling. Maybe he was someone who needed as little stimulation as possible - although taking him to a gun range to teach him how to shoot a gun (noisy, highly visual, did I mention the noise>) might not have been the best option.
3) How we work together to become a less violent country in the REAL WORLD. I know people are going to jump right onto the video game bandwagon. "Violence involving children? Must have been because of the video games! They're too violent! It's their fault." I stand here a Mommie Gamer (warning - it is a link to FB) to tell you that yes, the games can be violent, but they have taught my 6 year old some valuable skills. He knows how to think it out when it comes to a complex problem, he is beginning to understand money using the economies of the worlds he plays in, he has figured out that if he wants to see more of the world, he is going to have to draw those scenes. If anything, they have, like books, opened his mind to some pretty interesting opportunities.
Here's what I think - after that big wind-up you deserve something to chew on.
I think ALL THREE need to be discussed. We can no longer send the pendulum in any one direction without leaving singing gaps in the other problems. I will admit I do not know the answers because I do not know all the problems. What I do think is that we cannot combat the issues that have happened this year without looking at all of them - if only to address the issue for once and for all and maybe put it to rest (gaming).
I also think that there are two large organizations that need to become involved as open minded members of the conversation - in fact if one of these organizations does not become involved the conversation is dead before it begins.
Here is my dream.
The NRA, NIH and White House/Congress need to sit down and have a frank conversation that will soon open up to the people to hear what we think after a bit of education. And then, with the NRA leading the charge, there need to be some real changes when it comes to guns in our country.
Why the NRA leading the charge? Because if they do not, if they continue to fight anything that they feel is an insult to the 2nd Amendment, nothing will get done and yet again we will not have learned anything.
There is a group called the Coffee Party, they encourage conversations regarding big issues. That is great. From what I understand, they have had great success in many areas - just not this one. They can't. The National Rifle Association sees them as ants to step on rather than as people who want to work with them in order to save lives.
Maybe if we reach out to them and say "Something needs to be done, let's do it together," there may be change. If not, then we can say "We've tried so many times. This is an organization that just does not care. But for some reason, I doubt that.
And for those men and women who think that the concealed weapon they carry into a movie theater could do anything to stop someone who is in armor and armed to the teeth. Or a principal running for her gun, which would have be locked up in a vault somewhere separate from the bullets, would be able to get to the gun and get it together in time to save anyone. Ladies & Gentlemen, please get a clue. I grew up in a military family and when we were threatened - my best defense was to drop to the ground and play dead. No gun brought to the fight AFTER it already started would not stop the problem.
That's where single payer health care in the US comes in. We need clinics on every corner that can be a community's GP. We need that clinic to be staffed well with Peds, General Medicine and Psychiatric doctors available to look for and treat - either by talk therapy or medicinal therapy - those around us who need that extra bit of help.
This has been a long blog, but one I hope has some positive outcomes. I am considering creating a petition for a roundtable discussion regarding gun control and the mental health crisis - NRA, NIH, White House and whomever else the White House (or NRA) believes should be involved. I believe there should be citizen representatives as well - real citizens, those who have guns, those who play video games and those who write violent stories. What we have to say may surprise you to no end.
If I were to create this petition which do you think is the better location: Change.org or WhiteHouse.gov? And if I did it - would you support me? Would you stand beside me as I wave a flag of truce and hope to bring these people together in more than just name only? Again - there are many issues, not just one, that need to be addressed before we will see school and workplace violence become a distant memory. This is my dream of a better America.
Thank you for reading through this entire blog. This is an issue that needs to be addressed - questions are the first step towards education and after Friday - we need that first step.
Thank you again.