I can’t stop thinking about the Sandy Hook tragedy. It hit me very, very hard. Grief-stricken and dazed. I didn’t know anyone there personally. I had no connection to the town. But the pain and the horror struck me like nothing has since 9/11.
I am left with the overwhelming conviction that something must be done. It should not be this easy to kill children.
It should not be.
One of the things that disturbed me was when they said that the killer’s mother had guns as a “hobby.” Perhaps because I am a writer, I am sensitive to the power of words. And although I have heard about people’s gun “hobbies” before, this time it really struck me how wrong that word is. Woodworking is a hobby. Genealogy is a hobby. Knitting is a hobby. Lethal weapons should not be a “hobby” comparable to those. I have heard people refer to their guns as “toys” and going out to shoot as “playing” with said toys. These words should not be used in conjunction with guns. It sends the wrong message. For those of you who are serious about your gun passion, please deter people from speaking this way. It diminishes what these weapons are meant to do: kill. Killing is serious. It is not a game. It is not a toy. It is not “play.”
Mention gun control, and inevitably a flame war will start. But see, I have friends who are gun owners. They are reasonable, responsible, rational people. They are caring and compassionate people who undoubtedly shed their own tears over this tragedy. It is time for people like my friends, who I am certain would not be against reasonable restrictions to help stop the mentally ill from getting their hands on guns, to speak up, to help find the middle ground that we can all live with.
Mention mental illness, and people shudder or shrug. It’s not their problem, right? Tell that to the families of the 27 dead in Connecticut. And the families of the victims of Virginia Tech and Columbine and Aurora, Colorado. It is everyone’s problem. It is time to start talking about mental illness, to stop stigmatizing it. It is time to revamp the health care system so that people who need help get it before they reach the breaking point. Right now, it is too hard for families to get the help they need for loved ones who are suffering from mental illness. We need to change that. Until we do, we are doing a disservice not just to the victims of those people but to the people themselves who deserve a good life even with a mental illness.
I don’t have the answers. But we as a country need to have the hard conversations. There are other countries with many guns and fairly loose laws, like ours, who do not have these mass killings happening. Canada and Switzerland have both been mentioned to me as such. What are they doing that we are not? Is it cultural? And if it is, then it is time we start addressing our culture, too.
All I know for certain is this:
There are 27 people dead who should be alive.
There are 7 adults who died before their time.
There are 20 children who will never grow up.
There are 27 families who have wounds that will never heal.
We have lost more than we will ever know.
We have lost too much already.
We must change course before we lose everything that’s left.