Mr. Rogers plus
After the tragedy in Newtown, one of the many facebook world responses was to post a quote from Mr. Rogers. He recounted that as a child when scary things happened in his world, his mom would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This is wisdom and hope we can share with our children in the midst of and in response to traumatic events; yet taking it one step further is also critical. We often need to be the helpers.
In a previous blog post, I encouraged myself and others to remember the names. I was fairly faithful to this task until Christmas, the flu and fiscal cliff angst rose to the top of my consciousness. But as all new years bring the hope of new beginnings, I have resumed the one a day prayer and meditation for the individuals who died on December 14. Along with this practice, it seems time to thoughtfully consider how to help honor the memory of those who died on that day as well as the many who have died in like manner over many years. This is an ongoing sorting out in my own mind and heart. Over the next months I hope to write about a few possible responses, but on this day, I will begin here.
Gun control – I’ll start here because it seems the simplest in my own way of thinking. Whether a particular gun can discharge 31 bullets in 15 seconds or 45 in a minute, no civilian needs access to that kind of firepower – ever. I have yet to hear a reasonable argument about why that “right” should exist. If you have one, I’d like to hear it. This past summer, I engaged a friend who sports an NRA sticker on the family vehicle in a discussion about banning assault weapons. When I asked “what is the rational argument against such a ban?”, the reply was something to the effect of “if they take that away, what is next?” The slippery slope argument just isn’t good enough in this case. It is disturbing to me that we have become a people of extremes. We are so bound up in fear that we hunker down in our own corner, don’t give an inch and throw common sense and rational debate out the window. We need to learn how to listen, discuss and compromise. Let’s start with this issue.
The lack of sufficient background checks and information sharing across state lines is another failing we must address. We allow people to walk out of gun shows unchecked or simply purchase high power weapons and ammo from the comfort of their own home computers. This is not remotely ok.
And to the argument of “guns don’t kill, people do”, I get that on one level. But the speed and amount of devastation that a high capacity magazine weapon inflicts in a short amount of time is unacceptable and so often plays a huge role in our country’s recurring nightmare story – Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, inner city streets, etc. How many more must there be? On the same day that 26 died at Sandy Hooks Elementary, in China 22 students were injured in their school as a man attacked with a knife. This too is extremely traumatic, but there is a big difference in the outcome – the Chinese children have a chance to grow up and live their lives. Twenty children from Newtown had that stolen from them.
Sometimes we must be inconvenienced and give up the desire to live exactly how we wish in the interest of public safety. Any of us who wish to fly on an airplane put our liquids in a bag, take off our shoes and get screened even though we would rather not do so. There are times when individual rights must give way to the good of the whole – this is one of those times,
How to be a helper in this area? It seems that some politicians have more open ears on this issue right now. So, we can help by letting our representatives and senators know how we feel and how we expect them to vote in upcoming legislation. Money talks. I was astounded to hear a recent interview that pointed out the tremendous David and Goliath situation in the area of gun rights vs. gun control PAC money that plays such a big role in who gets elected in this country. In 2012 the National Rifle Association spent $16.1 million of influence while Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence spent $5,816. On open secrets website there is a lot of evidence that the gun rights lobby is light years ahead of the gun control lobby in this game.
I am not naïve. Reasonable gun control is a very small piece of a very complicated situation. But it is a place to start. I hope we can have healthy dialogue and make reasonable change to address this critical piece of the puzzle. Our children are counting on us.