When I found out about the school shooting in Connecticut, the first thing I thought about was my mother. I didn’t know where the shooting had occurred at the time and for a moment I wondered if it happened at the school she teaches first grade at. When I found out this wasn’t the case I felt incredible relief, so much so that I almost forgot that 30 people lost their lives; I almost stopped caring.
The day was filled with comments on Facebook debating gun control and mental health, words of condolences and of anger. I commented a long with all of them; trying to remain as logical as possible amidst the flurry of emotions despite being emotional myself. Everyone wanted to feel entitled to their grief/anger/opinion, but what I didn’t see was righteous indignation. No one seemed to want to act; no one seemed to know how.
And then it just stopped; the updates, the ‘likes’, the comments, the tweets; everyone had burnt themselves out and started updating about the usual again. The general horribleness was exhausting and it happens so often now that you can only experience this type of déjà vu so many times before you start getting dizzy. And so begins the process of forgetting.
Our country suffers from a collective amnesia when it comes to tragedies and injustices. We claim to abhor the same horrific cultural narratives and yet as soon as we’re done musing over the sadness we quickly get back to our lives because it didn’t happen to us. We get to turn of the news, the radio, or the computer and for us it ends there. But the families of the victims will never be able to turn it off; for them it doesn’t get to end.
I didn’t pull the trigger and I didn’t give anyone the gun. I don’t have to power to make legislation nor do I have a large platform to speak from. But I am responsible for a part of this. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE.
People talk like they have answers, but all they do is talk about what NOT to do. “DON’T take my gun”, “We CAN’T confront mental illness in this light,” “This ISN’T a time to discuss gun regulation,” “That’s NOT the real problem.” Everyone wants to voice an opinion, but no one seems to want to put forth the effort to work towards solutions. We won’t even take cues from other countries that possess better gun law and lower firearm mortality rates. We subscribe to the belief that there’s nothing we can do; we don’t seem to want to DO anything.
Well, you know what I think we should do? I think we should stop stigmatizing and demonizing mental illness and educate people on how to communicate, handle, and confront its many issues in a way that is honest and understanding. We need better mental health facilities and resources so that people and family members of people who are suffering have a safe and caring environment to get the help they need. I think we need gun restrictions that still allow people to have guns with proper training, education, licensing and background checking. We should definitely be concerned with how guns are obtained because saying “people are gonna get guns no matter what” doesn’t cut it anymore since the US has the highest firearm mortality rate of any country in the world. The only ban that I think would be helpful is a ban on selling military weaponry to civilians, especially via online purchase. Unless you’re a soldier currently serving you do not need access to an AK-47 and 10,000 rounds of ammo. We need to talk to our children about mental health and gun safety during every stage of their development because these issues always play a role in our lives at any age. We need to appeal to our politicians, local business owners and community leaders to get involved on a personal level because we listen to them a lot more than we realize. We need to give a big middle finger to the NRA because they don’t care about us or our community; they just want money.
This may only solve a fraction of the problem, or it may not solve anything. It all seems easier said than done, but since when has change ever been easy. This isn’t just for the sake of preventing more mass shootings, but so that we can have a better society as a whole. No one has taken away our rights, we’ve just been so afraid that we’ve forgotten how organize and act on behalf of those rights. We do a lot of forgetting these days, but I don’t want to forget anymore.
Do you have any ideas on how to create change? Sadly, it isn’t for those who’ve already passed, but to keep others safe in the future.