#TodayIStheDay (A Prayer for Newtown, CT)

"What's most horrifying is that this is becoming normal.

Everything about this is becoming normal."

-My friend Raziq

I couldn't say it better myself.  Here we are again.  27 dead today at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.  20 of them children.  Then come the screaming arguments over gun control.

"Repeal the Second Amendment!" says one.
"Over my dead body!" says another.
"Gun violence is out of control!"
"Guns don't kill people, people do!"

Rinse.  Repeat.

Such anger- and fear-driven responses to tragedy inhibit legitimate conversation and debate as much as anything else.  I myself have been guilty of much misdirected anger toward those I love today.  It's only human.  We're all angry and we're all afraid.  

Both sides are quick to construct straw men to burn in effigy:

"Those hatemongers won't stop clinging to their guns!"
"Those bleeding heart liberals want to destroy the Second Amendment!"

We are, however, better than that.  We are capable of having meaningful conversations that can advance our society toward the kind of meaningful structural change that has the power to limit if not prevent these sorts of tragedies from happening.  So...let's start now...

Let me say, first and foremost, I do not want to repeal the Second Amendment.  I know of relatively few serious folk who consider this a serious solution to our serious problems.  The Second Amendment was conceived by those escaping political and religious persecution from a tyrannous government in order that this new government they were creating could never amass such power and in order that all its constituents would have the power to protect themselves against said government if need be.  However, a few things need to be said about the text of the amendment and its interpretation.

Let's start with the text itself:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It's worth noting that "well regulated" are the second and third words of the amendment, respectively.  That probably means they're pretty important.  I, therefore, find it peculiar that Second Amendment advocates use the amendment as a sort of riot shield against things like banning assault weapons or extended clips.  This is what the founding fathers had in mind: "well regulated."  The Second Amendment does not mean the founding fathers believed that any citizen should be able to have any gun they want, whenever they want.

Furthermore, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" is a conspicuously (and, I believe, purposefully) vague, broad statement.  Technically, I think you could pretty much ban all but one particular type of gun and that would still essentially leave the right to "keep and bear Arms" intact.  For that matter, think for a second about what constituted "Arms" in the late 18th century.  According to the Wikipedia page on Muskets: "By the 18th century a very experienced soldier could load and fire at a rate of four shots per minute."  Granted this information isn't cited and Wikipedia isn't the most reliable source but the actual number isn't as important as the idea--and you get the idea.  By contrast, the rate of fire for your average semi-automatic nowadays is about 45-60 rounds per minute (more non-cited data from Wikipedia, but, again, you get the point).  I have a hunch that if the founding fathers were alive today, they'd be pretty alright with banning AK-47s and magazines that hold 31 bullets instead of 10.

Tell me again how gun laws create more gun crime...

Another big argument about gun laws (specifically laws banning guns) is that they don't work--that banning guns does not prevent crime and in some cases actually makes it worse because, obviously, "criminals don't follow laws" and if you ban guns it will just make them easier to get on the black market.  There is something to this argument, in my opinion, but not that much.  I don't know enough about all the facts and figures and whatnot but it does make some sense that if you ban guns (the more encompassing the ban, the greater the effect), there are a large number already in circulation that have to go somewhere.  However, with assault rifles and extended clips and the like, I'll take my chances.  The fact remains that even banning guns makes them more difficult to get.

I don't like to use the comparison between guns and drugs because they are two very different things in a variety of ways but that's the argument you always hear: "Well prohibition worked so well for drugs and alcohol, right?  What makes you think it will work any better with guns?"  Make no mistake, the legalization of drugs would make them easier to get.  Perhaps you could make the argument that the people we don't want to get their hands on guns/drugs wouldn't have a much harder time (or perhaps would even have an easier time) if they were banned.  That's why I believe regulation is much more constructive than banishment, at least, perhaps, as a first step toward future banishment.  I do, however, think that such narrow bans as those on assault rifles or extended clips can work.  As the figure below shows, the Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004 was effective in limiting the number of extended clips:

"During the federal assault weapons ban, there was a drop in the percentage of firearms seized by police in Virginia that had high-capacity magazines. When the ban expired, the percentage rebounded.

There are many who say that now is not the time for the gun control conversation.  I absolutely agree.  That time passed long ago.  There are many who say it is "too soon"--in reality, it's far too late.

However, my main reason for writing this post is not to go on and on about gun control.  The biggest issue at play hear that will probably get almost no coverage in the media is the issue of the accessibility of mental health care.  According to an article in the LA Daily News:

"About 1.6 million California adults reported having symptoms of severe psychological distress and had problems that interfered with their daily activities, according to the center's 2009 California Health Interview Survey

One-third of those who took the survey, or about a half-million people, were uninsured for all or part of the year when the data was collected"

(Thankfully, starting in 2014, "Obamacare" is beginning to change all that.)

A few months prior to the shooting in Tuscon that killed 6 people and wounded 13 others--including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords--Jared Lee Loughner was expelled from Pima Community College and forbidden from returning until he had a note from a psychiatrist saying he was no longer a danger to himself or others.  James Eagan Holmes saw three mental health specialists before murdering 12 people and injuring 58 more in a movie theater in Aurora, CO.  Help came far too late for both young men.  Ditto Major Nidal Hassan, who murdered 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009 and Seung-Hui Cho, the 23 year-old college student who murdered 30 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007.  Both also left, as did Holmes and Loughner, fairly clear signs of their mental instability but nothing was done and soon it was too late.

I would happily trade in having the gun control conversation in this country right now if we could only have the mental health care accessibility conversation instead.  Sadly, I have serious doubts that this conversation will take place.  It's an uncomfortable conversation to have.  No one likes to talk about mental illness.  It is at the very heart of our vulnerability.  It can claim anyone and there is very little rhyme or reason to it.  As a sufferer of Anxiety Disorder, this is an issue that hits close to home for me.  When I was first diagnosed only a few years ago, suddenly a lot of things began making sense.  The mere ability to understand why I felt this or that way and how Anxiety was affecting my brain made it so much easier to cope with and made life so much easier to understand and deal with.  I was lucky to have the means to treat myself and I still to this day love going to therapy.  Far too many aren't so lucky--and we owe it to them and to all the victims of violence at the hands of the mentally unbalanced to have these difficult conversations in these difficult times.

And I leave you with that.  The victims.  They are what is important today.  27 dead.  20 of them children.  They need our love, our prayers, our support, our everything we have to give them.  We each mourn them in our own way and we do our best to honor their memory.  How can we best honor their memory?  I won't condescend to tell you how best to do this.  I am a mere human being as are we all and none of us is prepared for this or knows how to handle it.  However, it seems to me that the best way to honor those who have been tragically taken from us--at Sandy Hook Elementary and at Virginia Tech; in a parking lot in Tuscon and in a shopping mall in Oregon--is to make damn sure they didn't die in vain.  Let's talk about gun control.  Let's talk about mental health care accessibility.  Hell, let's talk about an overarching culture of violence that is perpetuated by everything from the media to our own government and its foreign and domestic policies.  Some will say that it's disrespectful to the memories of the victims and to their families.  I can't think of anything more disrespectful than saying these important conversations are disrespectful.  To me, that is the highest form of honor and prayer for the victims of this horrible tragedy.  That they should not have died in vain.  That this tragedy and those that have preceded it shall not be meaningless.  That this should be the start of something significant and righteous.  "Today is not the day" to debate gun control, says White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.  I agree.  That day has long passed--and for that reason, every day henceforth IS the day.  #TodayIStheDay



Popular posts from this blog

Week 4

COMICBOOK REVIEW: Garfield's Pet Force 2014 Special

Count Down to the New Year By Syncing These Epic Movie Moments at Midnight