I am compelled to write in response to recent letters decrying the unending toll resulting from gun violence in our society.
One such writer began by stating he was “sick and tired of these school shootings” and “it is time to fix the reason why they occur.” I wholeheartedly concur. However, what I am “sick and tired” of is the shocking number of people who stupidly refuse to face reality in these cases. And, as a retired teacher, I am especially outraged that the gentleman quoted above and many others call for the arming of our teachers as a solution.
Other writers claim that the unending carnage in our streets is God’s retribution for the tolerance of homosexuality, legalized abortion, banning of prayer in schools (not true) and even the teaching of evolution. Really? As a devout Catholic, I find it repulsive that anyone would think that Almighty God would be complicit in the brutal slaughter of beautiful, innocent children to prove a point about our behavior.
The violence in our schools and society at large is the result of many things, not the least of which include the massive number and types of weapons, ever deadlier ammunition and the deliberate obstruction of any attempt at meaningful discussion of the situation by the National Rifle Association and other groups.
Contrary to their propaganda this is not a Second Amendment issue. Rather, it is about striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the desire for all of us to be able to live peaceably and safely as a society of people. The contrasting views of the two recent presidential candidates, the parties they represented and the philosophies they espoused could not have illustrated that split more clearly. None of the rights we cherish are absolute. All of them have limitations where they conflict with the welfare of others who are our friends and neighbors. I am even more deeply confused and saddened to see that, often, those who most loudly and proudly call themselves “Christian” seem to be the very people most strongly in support of individuals owning and using weapons created for the sole purpose of killing other human beings. “What would Jesus do?” indeed!
Law enforcement members and agencies whom we never cease to applaud and most glowingly honor (albeit sometimes tragically too late) have been pleading for years for limits on public access to certain types of weapons, ammunition and the body armor being used to deadly effect against them by an increasing number of violent criminals and we have turned our backs on them. A noted speaker last week, in discussing the killings in Newtown, Conn., stated that several of the first responders likely would have been killed by the shooter, had he not first shot himself, because he was better equipped than they were. Shouldn’t this incident be the last in which that could be said?
As for solutions to this problem, I can say that arming teachers is not an answer. Would we all wear guns all day? If not, would they be of any use in a moment’s notice if they were hidden somewhere in a classroom for use in such an incident. Does anyone think that there is a “safe” place to put a gun where students wouldn’t find it if it were left unlocked? Come on people, get real!
We can begin by discussing a ban on assault weapons and ammunition such as “cop killer” bullets. We can close the gun show “loophole.” We can limit the number of guns that can be purchased in a given period of time. We can lengthen the waiting period for the purpose of carrying out seriously thorough background checks on those attempting to buy weapons. We can require the reporting of lost or stolen weapons. If those things represent a greater inconvenience to “law abiding” gun owners and purchasers, I’m sorry, but too much innocent blood has been shed for anything less. And, all of those things can be accomplished without denying anyone the right to hunt safely and to defend their family from harm. And we can, and should, closely look at how we address the issue of caring for the mentally ill in our society, many of whom, since the days of Ronald Reagan, have been thrust out into the streets without real care in a misguided (or deliberately false) plan to provide for them greater dignity.
We absolutely should, as a recent writer advised, pray and consult our Bibles. But should we continue to stand by paralyzed by rhetoric and politics worshiping a false god of individualism and a “right” to what is mine above all else and that of any and all others? We are not a nation of 316 million separate individuals. We are “We the people of the United States.” We live in a society with each other and it is time for us to again seek a more perfect union.