I left my teaching job last Friday afternoon at one Napa area school to go pick up my daughter at another, acutely aware that the horror that had played out in Connecticut just hours before that could have just as easily happened at either of the schools that I was at later that day. And I am just heartbroken.
But more than that, I am -- frankly -- outraged. And on the matter of gun violence and gun-related tragedies in these United States, and our consistent failure to effectively address those, I will be silent no longer.
Before I go any further with this discussion, however, please allow me to disabuse those of you who are going to quickly jump to completely inaccurate conclusions about me here (that I am "anti-gun"), simply because of the position that I am taking in this blog about gun violence in general, of that view.
I am not.
As a youngster, I even learned how to target shoot with a .22 caliber rifle and not only enjoyed it, but actually got pretty darned good at it. But I think the evidence is pretty clear that there is a strong correlation between the fact that, here in the United States, we have the highest per capita rate of privately-owned guns in the world, not to mention access to inexplicably deadly ones that are generally not similarly available to private citizens in other developed nations, and -- by a long shot -- a higher per capita rate of gun-related deaths than any other industrialized democracy in the world. And the time has come to have a serious discussion about what we need to do to start diminishing the tens of thousands of gun-related tragedies that occur here year after year.
We've all heard it said that: "Guns don't kill people. People do." It's a silly argument, really, because the same, of course, could also be said about knives. But with the kinds of guns that are currently available to the average consumer in these United States, people who kill people with guns can do that with stunning efficiency. Not counting the life of his mother, whom the Sandy Hook gunman allegedly killed at another location not long before he arrived at that Connecticut school last Friday, it reportedly took him only about five minutes to end twenty-seven lives, the vast majority of those belonging to very young children, later that morning. Yet in another widely distributed, but largely overlooked, news report yesterday, we also learned that another madman in China used a knife, instead, in an apparent attempt to end the lives of twenty-two schoolchildren and an elderly woman. The death toll there from that attack? Zero.
Notwithstanding the fact that the underlying intent of the Founding Fathers at the time the 2nd Amendment was established is subject to many different interpretations today, they could never have contemplated then the deadly efficiency with which the portable weaponry that is now easily accessible to most US citizens under our current system of "gun control" can take innocent lives. With that in mind, it makes little sense to take a "strict constructionist view" of this matter now unless we also want to limit ourselves to consideration only of the firearms that were technologically available to American citizens then.
And please don't tell me that if a teacher had just been packing at that school, this might have ended differently, as Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America had the unmitigated gall to imply with the statement that “gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands." Ask any teacher that you know and s/he will tell you that, while most of us would willingly take a bullet if that might spare one of our students from harm, carrying a firearm in the classroom at all times -- which is the only scenario under which such an argument even remotely makes any sense at all -- is not what we signed up for when we went into teaching. Nor, for so many other reasons, is that the answer to this problem.
Despite the declarations by gun control opponents that "now is not the time to 'politicize' this tragedy," there really is no better time than now for us to have this conversation. For history has shown us time and again that, once our collective national shock and horror over Friday's massacre begins to soften and fade into a much more muted collective national memory, so -- overwhelmed by the tide of the pro-gun community's stunningly successful efforts to reframe the argument about any reasonable attempts to put in place any kind of gun control measures and make it all about their interpretation of what "2nd Amendment rights" constitute -- will our national political will to enact policies that could prevent future tragedies like this one.
What got lost in the news on Friday, buried by the predictable, though understandable, "wall-to-wall" coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, was the story about the arrest of "an 18-year-old high school student in Oklahoma for allegedly plotting an attack at a school."
While the United States comprises only about five percent of the world's population, it accounts for some 87% of the gun deaths suffered by children 15-years of age and under worldwide.
How many more Columbines, Virginia Techs, and, yes, Sandy Hooks must we endure before we actually begin to engage in a substantive national discussion on the matter of reasonable gun control measures in this country that might finally move us closer to an end to this kind of madness?
Let us not allow these innocents to die in vain. The time to address this problem in some truly meaningful way is now... it really is.