I went back and forth on blogging something about this, mostly because I’m sure there’s nothing I can say that won’t be said by a billion other people (and probably better—for example, this post from Anne Lamott or even this piece from The Onion) and because my thoughts are basically incoherent and “CHILDREN WHY? GUNS WHY? 20 KIDS DEAD WHY?”
My Facebook friend Jason shared a quote that when things like this happen, there are three kneejerk responses. Blame society or blame guns or blame the mental health system. I’m solidly in camp two, but support addressing the mental health system, too (which is where Jason is—camp three). But another Facebook friend, Angela (and we actually all went to elementary and middle school together, too, as backstory) blames violence in entertainment.
And because I am me (someone who’s watched horror movies since I was nine), I was like, “But no! I know so many people who watch violent entertainment and who are totally fine! Ridiculous argument!”
And THEN the light went on. Because that’s basically what I’m saying for gun control. Yes, many people can manage to simultaneously own guns and not manage to shoot little kids (or moviegoers, or people at church or shoppers). Is it fair to strengthen gun control laws, which may hurt those law-abiding people, in order to keep other people from legally acquiring guns? Maybe not. But is it necessary? Probably. (Most of these mass shootings are used with guns that were acquired legally.)
Do I love horror movies? Yes, I do. Would I be willing to see a ban on gratuitous violence? If it could stop something like this, absolutely. I like Quentin Tarantino and yes, even movies like Hostel and the Saw movies but honestly, I like days where 20 kids aren’t murdered more. I will admit that that’s glib, but it’s also true.
(Note: I don’t think it’s accurate to blame entertainment for things like this, but then I’m also not someone who is likely to shoot up a school. I don’t know the ramifications of watching blood-soaked movies if you’re already on the bad end of crazy.)
And I think we need a change in how those with mental illnesses are treated (in both senses). It shouldn’t be this easy for people to fall through the cracks and the time to notice people need help is before it’s too late.
I don’t have easy solutions and I don’t know enough about any of it to even begin to offer them. But it’s time to do more than wring our hands and talk about how awful this is. Because yes, this is awful. But if we had had these talks after Columbine or Virginia Tech or even after the movie theater shootings in Colorado, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about these 20 kids today.
To put this another way, it didn’t take more than one 9/11 to forever change the way airplane travel operates in this country.
But there are also good stories to tell. Like this one, about the teacher who saved her students at the expense of her own life. Or the principal and school psychologist, or the first grade teacher who hid her students in the bathroom.
We saw the worst of humanity yesterday, obviously. But we also saw the best and it’s those stories that I hope keep coming out.
But I wish we would stop getting to see how we, as a community and as a country, react to tragedy. I hope this time enough’s enough.