In December 2012, I sat at my desk on the upper west side of Manhattan and received a news alert of kindergartners and first graders being killed in their school. As with most all parents that day, I immediately thought of my sons, one of whom was in Kindergarten, the other of whom was in preschool. All I wanted to do was go home and hug them. But there I was at my desk with a Hudson River view, nearly two hours away.
I quit my job after the massacre at Sandy Hook.
After Sandy Hook there was grief and outrage and political chatter and parents pleading with legislators for tougher gun laws. And in the end, nothing really changed. Political commentator Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) said it best when he tweeted the following on June 19, 2015:
“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
Remember Columbine in 1999? We were shocked. Virginia Tech in 2007? We were outraged and scared. Yet here it was, 2012, and we had, as a country, essentially done nothing to prevent this tragedy. In fact, in July 2012, just mere months prior to the Sandy Hook massacre, a young man committed another mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Then it happened again in December of that same year. And then again in June, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Only 16 months later, American has suffered our deadliest mass murder ever in Las Vegas.
I’ve often engaged in debates over gun control. After all, I’m a Gulf War veteran – how could I possibly be anti-guns? Well, I’m not. I very much value and respect our second amendment, and I think it’s important that Americans have the right to defend themselves against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
However, I do not support semi-automatic weapons in civilian hands. These are weapons of war. When I went through Basic Military Training (BMT), I was trained on the the M-16. I was trained how to disassemble and reassemble this weapon, as well as how to load it and shoot it, of course. I was trained to do this with the utmost safety possible. Prior to enlisting in the US Air Force, I, like every other recruit, was evaluated both physically and mentally.
Basic weapons training and mental health screenings.
I’m not anti-gun. But we mandate more training to obtain a vehicle license than a gun license. With every mass shooting, circuitous political conversations occur about what to do and who to blame and what we should do next. These debates often center around mental health. Well, the Affordable Care Act provides the most comprehensive and vast mental health coverage this country has ever seen, yet our current president and his colleagues in congress seem hell-bent on repealing this very Act. These same (often “pro-life”) legislators are often the loudest and staunchest voices for the National Rifle Association, a pro-gun lobby organization. Still, Dan Hodges was right – the debate over gun control ended in a kindergarten classroom in 2012.
How would our perspective of this issue change if every single semi-automatic weapon came from outside the United States? We would certainly impose sanctions on such a country, possibly decry this onslaught of illegal weapons as an act of terrorism. After all, “they” are supplying the weapons that are leading to murder of our citizens! But of course, the NRA heavily funds pro-gun representatives. According to data from “Open Secrets”, “The total of contributions to candidates from National Rifle Assn PACs is 51 times larger than contributions from individuals”.
America, we have a problem. We are literally killing each other. Quite frankly, I’m tired of the “thoughts and prayers.” What I’d like to see instead are concrete steps to prevent mass murders of innocents by madmen.
Let’s get back to basics. Here are some of my thoughts on what we could do.
- Civilians do not need to have access to semi-automatic assault rifles.
- Mental health screenings, background checks and waiting periods should be the bare minimum for gun ownership and licensure.
- Weapons training, to include weapons safety training, should be mandatory for anyone that wishes to own a firearm of any kind.
I know these are not novel ideas – indeed, these are the very concepts that comprise the conversations and debates about gun control. I write this in the hopes that we as a country will not be sending our “thoughts and prayers” over social media in 2018, or any year after.
These are my thoughts, and that is my prayer.