If Not Now, When?

I admit that I am easily riled. I can get angry or excited pretty quickly. Yes, I’m very cocker spaniel puppy that way. I’ve learned over the years to slow down and think before I act on my impulsive feelings. Usually.

I’m not going to wait today. I’m going to get it all out because this is important. It’s important that good people start getting angry and active.

We need more restrictive gun laws in this country. We need them yesterday. And we need more access to mental health services. Yeah, I’m making that connection early in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, but I know that these two things are related.

First, don’t tell me not to ‘politicize’ this today. I’m not. I’m personalizing it. I’m owning my anger and frustration and acting on it. I’m using these feelings to act and do my part. I’m mad. I’m anxious. I’m terrified. I’m sick to my stomach. And the only way I can do something is to voice it, to write about it.

Things I’m thinking about today:

1. “Guns don’t kill, people do.”

Yeah, that’s true. But you know what? People with assault rifles kill more people faster. Angry, drunk, or mentally unstable people commit rash acts that are only intensified with a gun in arm’s reach.

2. “Cars kill more people every year than guns, should we outlaw cars?”

No, we don’t outlaw cars, but we do have many restrictions in place to make them as safe as possible. Police monitor our driving and keep tabs on who is being responsible and who isn’t. And you know what? When it is warranted, we change those restrictions. Minimum driving ages have been raised since I was a teen. Why? Because as safety issues change, laws change. Well, for cars anyway, for guns we say, “No! Do not change ANY of my right to bear arms.” Listen, when our Constitution was written, guns took a lot longer to load and reload. Our founding fathers could never have imagined the power that modern weapons have. And that’s why our Constitution has provisions for change. Times change, and our morals and values do too.

3. “Criminals will find a way to get guns no matter then laws, why take away my rights?”

Drunks find a way to get behind the wheel too; let’s just forget about drunk driving laws. Or, we could keep enforcing the laws we have and maybe even tighten them if they are not strict enough. Criminals act against the law, but that doesn’t mean we abandon laws. That is ridiculous. Oh, my house was robbed? Crap, no use trying to make breaking and entering illegal then if people just do it anyway.

My main concern today is how to keep kindergarteners from being murdered at school. The only way I can do that is talking about ways to curb violence. And I believe one way is to put heavier restrictions on gun ownership. Will this inconvenience law-abiding citizens? Yep. Do I care? Nope. Add gun permit/regulation worries to that part of your life where taxes and the DMV live. I think it’s worth it.

I also think I need to do more to make my voice heard. And so do you. We need to be stronger and louder than the NRA. It feels like a mountain we can’t possibly top. I know. But, we won’t know unless we try.

Sick people kill children and teachers at school, but well people have a responsibility to learn from these tragedies and act.

16 thoughts on “If Not Now, When?

  1. So well-said –>

    “Listen, when our Constitution was written, guns took a lot longer to load and reload. Our founding fathers could never have imagined the power that modern weapons have. And that’s why our Constitution has provisions for change. Times change, and our morals and values do too.”

  2. Though I cannot agree/disagree with every opinion that you shared, I can say this. This statement > “but well people have a responsibility to learn from these tragedies and act”, could not ring more true. Whether it is amending laws, reinforcing safety in schools, or whatever actions we can take to protect our children, and citizens of this country, something HAS to be done.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Brooke,

      Thanks so much for this. You are right. Another lesson I think Americans need to learn is the art of compromise. Nothing gets done when we all demand our way or no way. So, be open to other’s ideas and work together to make things better.

  3. When it comes to 90% of what you said, I say “fucking damn right-we need to be louder than the NRA & make it so that someone can’t walk into WalMart & buy 100+ rounds of ammo and an assault rifle. And fucking damn right-we HAVE to make mental health a priority in this country. We MUST.” Then there’s that part of me that hesitates to instantly connect mental illness with such a heinous crime. Why? Because one, I believe that sometimes people aren’t mentally ill & unstable-sometimes, MOST of the time they are just evil, revengeful people hell bent on committing acts of violence for whatever reasons they deem important-they may even be trying in their sick, twisted way to send a message. To automatically say, “oh my god, this is SUCH a heinous and senseless act-the only way a person could do this is if they had a mental illness” perpetuates stigma and destroys any empathy or understanding for those with mental illness who aren’t violent people who commit these kinds of acts. It also makes it too easy for killers of this magnitude to use the insanity defense and be institutionalized instead in jail or on death row where they rightfully belong, in my opinion. So I think we need to be careful about instantly associating the two with each other.

    Also…and I’m going to get the whole “but its not about race, race doesn’t matter, don’t make this into something it isn’t, you cant compare this to what just happened,” argument for going here,, but it’s a cold hard reality, and I’m not the only person who recognizes this, so hear me out. Understand that I am in NO WAY undermining the horror of this incident or the others we’ve had recently. They are disgusting and horrific acts of violence against innocent people who shouldn’t have died so senselessly. I’m just as enraged, disgusted, and speechless as everyone else, trust me. I’m shaken to my core. But let me be honest-heinous, disgusting violent mass shootings of people and violent crimes happen every damn day-especially in the inner city. And NO ONE EVER associates the violence in these places with mental illness, or discusses the need for more restrictive gun laws. Any outcry (if there actually is one) is ignored, stifled, or stalled by politicians who could give a shit about actually fixing or changing shit. It’s never even a consideration. Do I think the reasons for this are steeped in racial bias? Yes, I do. I know a lot of people, especially white people would immediately disagree and say that is latest mass shooting isn’t on the same level as what happens every day, but tell that to the thousands of families slaughtered on a regular basis, senselessly. To the thousands of elementary school children who are slaughtered because one of their family members had a “beef” with someone who decided the only way to “keep it real” and “take no disrespect” was to slaughter the whole family to send a message. Perfect examples are Chicago, Philadelphia, and the city with THE MOST murders in THE COUNTRY, Camden, NJ. Did you know that the city of Camden is too poor to have a police force so they laid them off this year? That they laid off their entire fire department? Research it. Violence is so rampant and so vile in Camden (where Bertski is from-he could tell you all of the violence he witnessed DAILY) that the city council & police just gave up. They’ve petitioned Gov. Christie & the federal gov for help. Have they gotten it? Hell no. So every day, whole families are found murdered in their houses, young children are found with their throats slashed in dumpsters or on their front steps. In Philadelphia, where my mom is a school administrator, KINDERGARTENERS are brought into her office because a gun or knife was found in their book bag. A SIX YEAR OLD told her once that she took the pistol from under her mom’s pillow so she could feel safe walking to school and defend herself if something happened. This same little girl? She was found dead in an alley 4 days later with her backpack on-she was headed home from school. Was there an outcry then? NO. Do these mass shootings and crimes make national news? No, they don’t. Does the media or public question if the murderers are mentally ill? Fuck no. There is no mention of it. The perspective is that the murderers because they were murderers, these kinds of things are “normal” and “expected” to happen in minority/poverty stricken communities.

    So my point is that when something like what occurred in CT happens, 1) the immediate assumption if the killer is white is that he’s mentally ill, went on a mass killing spree is and didn’t get adequate mental health care that could’ve prevented his violent actions. And he very well could be, and he didn’t get the proper help he needed, we don’t know. Or he could’ve just been a vengeful son a bitch who decided for whatever sick & twisted reason that his relatives and the KINDERGARTENERS in his mother’s classroom deserved to die with her. 2) There is no outrage, no national outcry for more restrictive gun control laws unless something like this happens in a suburb or “regular” community, where exposure to violence isn’t an everyday thing. And that? Disgusts me just as much as the shootings in Aurora, Wisconsin, and now Connecticut.

    In President Obama’s press conference yesterday, he mentioned that violence like this need to be dealt with “whether it’s in a temple in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Colorado, a school in Connecticut, or a street corner in Chicago.” Let me tell you that that is the FIRST time, I have in my adult life EVER hear an elected official in high office ever mention the violence that occurs every day in our cities-particularly the inner city-and put the need for addressing & fixing it on equal footing as the violence that catches national attention & outrage. Maybe now, there will be a real push and change in policy that makes it difficult for ALL people to get access to such deadly weapons, and a push for less violence in ALL of our communities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

    Yes we need stricter gun control laws. Hell yes we need to take violence seriously-across the board. Yes we need to stop and mourn the loss of lives in CT…but we should also be just as mournful over the everyday tragedies that occur in our most broken down and forgotten communities. They deserve someone to speak for them and be outraged for them too.

    • I absolutely agree with you, A’Driane. I struggled with this last night because as tragic as the loss of the lives in CT is, I found myself wondering if my response to the event made me a hypocrite. After all, children in inner cities are gunned down every day and other children in the middle east have no access to schools because their countries are torn apart by war. And these kids are rarely on our national radar. Do I think race plays a part? I do. I think that this kind of violence *is* unexpected in white, upper-middle-class communities, and that is why it gets so much more attention.

      I’d like to add that if the shooter was black, I doubt everyone’s first thought would be “mental illness.” Honestly, it would probably be “evil man.” Which is equally as disgusting to me.

      • And THAT, Susan is the elephant in the room that people don’t want to acknowledge. Honestly, these are arguments minorities have been making for decades and no one has really listened, so now we’re tired of belabor ing the point. WE refuse to talk about it anymore because no one listens and takes our issues seriously. The access to guns and violence in minority communities is f-ed up. The ghetto and the broken down infrastructure, culture & lives of the families who live in these areas are f-ed up, America itself is f-ed up on this issue and the others that overlap & interlace themselves with this one both racially and socioecomically.

        A larger conversation needs to be had, and while we’re focused on addressing and fixing what caused these latest mass killing sprees, we also need to get real and start addressing what’s at the root of these problems.

      • I’m glad you feel you can talk about this here. This needs to be discussed as well. I hope some changes in gun laws happen that are meaningful for children living with this every day even though it’s not on the news.

        And I pray for the families this particular tragedy hurt so badly.

    • Thanks for your wise words Addye. You’re right, mental illness is not the thing that we should fear. I have mental illness; please don’t put me in the group you label ‘crazy’ and throw away.

      And yes, violence is a regular occurrence even in non-newsworthy places. I did know about Camden; I did not know B was from there. Thank you for bringing these points up so we can make this a fuller discussion on America, all parts of it.

  4. Steph, we need to talk about this. We cannot continue to pretend like this epidemic is going to go away. I heard a ridiculous suggestion about having all teachers be allowed to carry a weapon. What the hell? How can we make schools, homes and neighborhoods safe havens for all of us? We all deserve that. We all deserve access to quality mental health care. We clearly have a crisis of violence, addiction and mental health in the US. I have shielded my girls from the news. I could not bare to shatter their innocence.

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