Sunday, October 8, 2017

That is who we are, isn't it?

“So, you were on the stage when the shooting started? Can you describe for us what happened?” 

As he listened to the news anchor’s question, the young man’s gaze was averted.   He was seeing something else, something off-camera, something that left him pale and haunted.  In his blue flannel shirt and jeans, this kid had just spent the evening at a country western festival… and been sprayed with gunshots from a window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel.  The silence seemed long… painful… between the anchor’s question and the boy’s ability to find his voice.  He glanced into the camera and quickly away.

“I was with my sister,” he began, and immediately, I worried about his sister. “We heard this popping noise.  Pop, pop, pop.  At first we thought it was, like, firecrackers or something, you know? But then, this guy next to us was shot…” The boy angled his head and placed a finger where his neck met his jaw, “here.  In the head.”

He went on, his voice flat, his gaze still fixed elsewhere, back in time.  “The shooting stopped, then started again.  There were three volleys.  Each time, my sister threw her body over mine and told me she loved me.”

With tears running down my face, I imagined being there.  Out on a glorious night, enjoying the music and festivity, and then, the fatal shift wrought by that popping sound. Those desperately whispered, possibly last, loving words as Dave leapt to cover me, or as I leapt to protect my children. The futility of flesh as a shield when hatred has access to an automatic weapon. 

Who would continue to allow that access after the deaths of 20 first graders and six of their teachers in Sandy Hook?  Who would allow that after the deaths of theater-goers watching a movie in Aurora?  Who would allow that after the deaths of young people dancing at a club in Orlando?  Who would continue to do nothing as guns in the hands of the mentally ill or hate-consumed continue to kill Americans gathered peacefully together?

Statistics vary depending on the source and definition of a mass shooting. Gun Violence Archive counts 1500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook.  These include incidents where four or more people were shot, not necessarily killed, and not including the shooter.  So if three people were shot and killed, they’d not be counted in that statistic.  In terms of individual gun deaths, the average is 12,000 homicides a year.  If suicide by gun is included, the number skyrockets, as if 12,000 weren’t skyrocket enough.        

So, how is Congress responding to these tragedies? What steps are they taking to keep guns out of the wrong hands?  Oh, wait.  No. Their response, no doubt prodded by the NRA and gun manufacturers, is to pursue ways to make it easier.  In Connecticut, we are blessed by Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, and Representative Jim Himes who are seeking to close loopholes in existing legislation. But a few months ago, enough members of Congress voted “aye” to pass a law that allows those with mental illness easier access to guns.  Not only that, there are bills currently under consideration to legalize silencers and give concealed-carry permits validity even in states that don’t allow them.

WHAT? Why is the agony and outrage most Americans feel not reflected in the votes and actions of Congress?

“The second amendment demands we protect gun ownership!” might be the response.  But it’s lunacy or willful ignorance to think the founding fathers envisioned automatic weapons, or would wish to protect the right to spray death on innocent citizens with a weapon designed to kill many in a short time.

Over the past year, my husband and I saw Zac Brown in concert at Citifield and James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Fenway Park.  The stands were packed to capacity at both venues, with roughly 35,000 eager fans in attendance at each.  Despite the happy crowds and great vibe, it crossed my mind, just a quiet flitter, that a shooter with an automatic weapon could do a lot of damage if that were the goal.

Instead, people danced, just as the concert-goers in Las Vegas did.  Everyone smiled, and some linked arms, as 35,000 people sang along with James Taylor to “You’ve got a Friend.”

That is who we are, isn’t it?

In the names of those dead by gun violence, and to prevent adding the names of our loved ones to that list, I pray that Congress, those entrusted with the well-being of the nation and its people, will be moved by these deaths to enact common sense gun control and start, at the very least, with re-instating the ban on semi-automatic weapons.


gail m said...

I agree. Shot guns and hand guns if you must, but regular people owning automatic and semi-automatic weapons? No way. Do a buy back; do whatever, but no more sales. "But the crazy people will still have access," They say. So what; that's no reason to not do anything. Do it now. We have got to start someplace!

It's heartening how some legislators ARE changing their stance after this last shooting, as well as country music stars and others who previously supported "2nd amendment rights." Maybe, finally, the wheel is turning.

David Hughes said...

As long as the NRA has the pockets of the greedy politicians filled to the brim, there will be no change in legislation from our congress, unfortunately. I fully expected change when innocent little school children were gunned down, but nothing happened. Call me cynical, but I do not expect any change to come from our current congress. After all, the country is being run by an absolute mad man and they re doing nothing about that either.

Gerry said...

Well put, Lea. The sad part is that "common sense" does not seem to be a quality that is prized by many people in Congress. They are more concerned about maintaining the support of people they perceive as powerful, such as the NRA and gun manufacturers, which, in reality, are a small percentage of voters. These semi-automatic weapons and anything made to make them automatic should be illegal to own. I agree that it must start someplace and buy back programs is a good place to start.

tootsielala55 said...

As always, Lea, you hit the nail on the head giving so many of us vent to the horrors of one week ago.

One could begin to ask, how many storms (emotional, physical, meteorological, you name it) must we withstand? THIS however is something over which we DO have control. People seem afraid to allow changes for sanity sake to happen. Next question, as we all suffer the loss of 58 souls, why not.

lise gescheidt said...

you have laid the stark reality bare again. What will it take to save us from ourselves? we no longer have common sense. Why is America forced to watch our citizens die over and over again for nothing? for the second amendment? How has this amendment become so embraced, and the others so diminished in our lifetime?

Gail Bromer said...

I am disgusted that legislation can be bought by powerful lobbying groups and individuals. Instead of representing their constituents , many legislators are working hard to maintain their own personal self interests and get themselves re-elected.
While I'd like to see the 2nd amendment be "eliminated ", maybe there is a better way- to add a 28th amendment protecting individual rights above those of groups, special interests , or corporations.
It's time to protect "we, the people", and stand by a moral code of conduct, rather than using a financial balance sheet to make decisions for our wellbeing.

Joan said...

As always, thanks for getting to the heart of the matter, Lea.

Within a very few minutes one can find innumerable examples of our federal government's efforts toward improving the quality of our lives:

“When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne outbreak. Public health officials investigate outbreaks to control them, so more people do not get sick in the outbreak, and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.”

“According to the Center for Disease Control wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in car crashes.1 Considering car crashes are the leading cause of death among those between the ages of 5 and 34, you could say wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to save lives, period.”

Research efforts are constantly gathering data on air and water pollution in an effort to clean emissions and reduce particulates and improve the quality of the resources that surround us. Professionals are hired, data is collected, systems are designed, and a better outcome is proposed and put into action.

So why, in the face of continued mass shootings, are we not employing the same efforts toward recognizing and eradicating this catastrophic problem?

Christine Porter said...

Agree with everything you have written Lea, and like you, I cannot imagine why anyone wants/needs a semi automatic weapon, personally I wouldn't ever want any kind of gun. You realize that is a losing battle though when you see a relative of someone who was killed in Las Vegas say that they are totally against any kind of gun control and her uncle (who was killed) would never have wanted there to be any legislation to take guns away from people. "Can't mess with the 2nd amendment" I think was her comment. Sigh....... a losing battle.

Lea said...

Thank you all for your comments. I've had so many conversations with people lately, many making points like Joanie's about countless items or circumstances that have sparked safety concerns that led to legislation and regulation. And yet, not guns...It is shameful. Incomprehensible. heart-breaking. Two members of Congress have been shot, but that wasn't enough. Does it have to be so intensely personal that one of them loses a wife, husband, or child to shake their hands from their wallets so they are compelled to act on behalf of the people's well-being?

Katherine Schoettle said...

I agree with all that has been said. Maybe term limits is the way to start having representatives and senators with integrity. After all, if they cannot continue in office anyway, perhaps they would stop being so beholden to the powerful lobbies. I agree that I thought after Newtown, things would change. I tried to figure out the best way to protect the students in my care if a gunman invaded the school, but I hoped that Congress would begin to make a change. It did not happen. I cannot understand why our government representatives are unable to imagine the pain a family feels when a loved one is killed. Deer and other animals do not shoot back. There is no need for such high powered weapons.

Lea said...

I agree Katie. I think the ONLY answer to this ineffective Congress IS term limits....but they are the ones who would have to vote in that change...! Such a catch-22!