I’m thinking about the kids of Sandy Hook Elementary school today.
Like all national tragedies, where I was when I heard the news is burned into my brain. I was in an airport business lounge checking my work email. My coworker at my then-company, located in a suburb of Boston, gave me the news that there was an active shooter in a nearby elementary school. I spent my flight thinking it was a mistake. Much like when I heard that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers, I thought it couldn’t possibly be as bad as it sounded. I was actually hoping that it had just been a personal vendetta, maybe a guy who wanted to kill his ex-girlfriend or something (how sad is that — that was the best case scenario in my brain) but then watching the screens when I landed in the Minneapolis airport, it wasn’t. It wasn’t.
Until I was about nine-years-old, I grew up in a house with guns. They were everywhere — on a big wooden rack hanging on the wall in the living room, propped up in corners, nestled in a sock drawer in dressers. I was seven- or eight-years-old when someone put a hand gun in my hand and propped a sick bird — a sparrow that the barn cats had been playing with — up on a fence post and told me to pull the trigger to put the bird out of its misery. I couldn’t do it — not because I felt bad about the bird (I did, I’ve always been a tender-hearted fool) but I physically didn’t have the hand strength to pull the trigger, which was sticky. I’m not sure why this adult gave a kid a handgun and told her to shoot. Maybe he wanted me to see the bird absolutely explode with the impact? Maybe he wanted me to feel the kickback, have the gun jump in my hands and slam back into my face? Maybe he was trying to teach me respect. I don’t know. It was not a good moment. He was disgusted with my weakness and swatted the bird off the fence post then stomped on it with his boot. I believe that was the only time I’ve ever held an actual handgun in my entire life.
We don’t have guns in our house. This is something I feel very strongly about. I’m just not interested.
It’s been three years since the little happy village of Newtown was forever changed. Those kids are now frozen in time.
On that business trip when I heard about the tragedy, I actually ended up flying to Boston a few days later. I had a hard time getting a rental car because so many journalists were flying in. In fact, at the rental counter, when they looked at my profile and it said that I was a journalist, they assumed that I was covering Newtown. There were signs all over Logan Airport directing people to special services teams the airlines had deployed specifically for the crisis. It was basically terrible on so many levels — from a grief perspective, from a national coverage perspective and from a national systematic nightmare perspective.
So, three years ago, 20 little kids were murdered by crazy person who got his hands on guns that were acquired legally, but the number of little kids who have been murdered since then is absolutely shameful. Since then we’ve lost at least one American kid under the age of 12 every other day to gun violence. Those kids rarely get news stories. They certainly don’t get big news coverage on the anniversaries of their murders. They just become part of the statistics. 554 kids under 12. Not to mention the 100K more deaths since then among people over the age of 12.
If terrorists had done something like that, we would be calling for a nuclear strike.
Let’s forget about Donald Trump and his entire diatribe about entire religions for a second. Forget about closing our borders. The call is coming from inside the house. We are our own worst enemies. And maybe guns aren’t the root problem — maybe it’s mental illness or a growing sentiment of helplessness or disenfranchisement or just something in the damned water. I don’t know. I don’t care. If you left rat poison-laced food out on the floor, you wouldn’t blame the dog who ate it, you’d blame the person who made it accessible to the dog.
I’m just not sure why our right to safety and freedom from fear isn’t more important than a gun zealot’s need to have their buying experience be convenient and hassle-free. If it weren’t a real life hypocrisy, it would almost be funny that the same people who would love to see Planned Parenthood burned to the ground are the same people who feel that handguns should be in every home, in every purse and in every glove compartment.
Either life is sacred or it isn’t. Either everyone is free or no one is. It’s just that simple.