Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Something. MUST! Be. Done.

My heart shattered on Friday, 12/14/12... TWENTY tiny, unlived lives were taken at the hands of an unstable lunatic whose name I've refused to learn.  SIX courageous adults won't ring in the new year with their families because they tried to protect the children they dedicated their lives to.  That's. Not. Okay.

I'll admit it... typically, I epitomize complacent American.  I voice my opinion on things I'm truly passionate about, but only on Facebook and Twitter, and to my closest friends.  I'll watch a protest on TV and research it online and think "good for them", but I've never even genuinely considered attending one.  I jump in on trending topics and commiserate about the tragedies that strike our country... then I go about my day with the "it won't happen here" mentality and move on with my life.  

I'd like to think I'm a person of action because I am in my personal life.  I've accepted that I'm not a person of action in the "1 person can change the world" mentality.  A psychopath claiming children's lives in a place where kids should be the safest changed that... I'm writing this post in hopes that I'm not the only one it changed and that there are enough of us out to there to truly have our voices heard and to make sure that the people who CAN make the changes hear our voices.  Let's honor those 27 people who won't be with their families for Christmas next week by making sure their unthinkable tragedy has purpose.  Something. MUST! Be. Done.

I don't have the answer or know what that "something" is... I do believe that the answer needs to be a multi-faceted approach.  Every factor needs to be taken into consideration and we need to start taking steps to correct the underlying problems.  That means making mental health care more readily available, reevaluating gun control laws to make weapons less available, and adjusting school security to ensure that those children are TRULY protected within those walls.

Let's start with the underlying problem > the people who commit such acts are clearly not in their right minds.  You have to stop and wonder, how does it get to this point? and how did s/he go untreated?  I'm sure there's a story to each one of these people.  Frankly, at this point, I don't care what that story is because we all know how they ended.  I care about the next story.  I care about the other disturbed individuals walking among us that haven't reached their breaking point yet.  They are the ones who need to be helped to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to happen.  Mental Health care needs to be more accessible, more affordable, more SOMETHING.  Saying "take their guns away" is just a bandaid... there are still deranged individuals walking around and finding their ways into schools, malls, movie theathers... and now, an ELEMENTARY school. 

Then the question becomes, how did this guy get into this school?!  I've visited my little cousins at their schools for various events and it was like trying to get into a bank vault!  ...and even though I was frustrated at the moment that I was a few minutes late because I had to run back to my car and grab my ID, I thanked the woman at the desk for keeping my little loves safe.  If I think about it though, there really wasn't much to the security protocol once I was in the building, explained what class party I was there to attend, and produced my license... they asked if I knew where the room was, gave simple directions when I said I didn't, and let me go on my way.  Thankfully, I really was there to attend a multi-cultural pot luck in my Goddaughter's classroom.  What if I had an ulterior motive and decided to use that day and that excuse as my ticket in the door?!  Who would have known?!  Who would have stopped me?!  That thought makes me want to vomit and hire bodyguards to personally protect each one of my little cousins because it really could have been that easy.  ...but maybe I walked through a metal detector and didn't know it.  Or maybe there were hall monitors watching me that I didn't notice.  Oh!  I know - they ran my license number through a computer to make sure I didn't have a record.  Maybe.  Probably not though.

So here's where we're at so far: seriously unstable individuals easily gaining access to an elementary school.  Awesome.  ...definitely not something that has me up and blogging at 4am because I've dreamt about it every night for days.  (You read that sarcastically, right??  If not, now that you know I'm being sarcastic, go back and read that line again... thanks!)

Big issue time --> gun control.  Here's my preface for you: I'm a Liberal.  I'm a Democrat.  I'm a NYer who was raised on diversity before it was politically correct.  With every ounce of my being I believe in Marriage Equality even though I'm not gay, and would have been just as passionate about Civil Rights and I'm not black either.  I'd have been burned at the stake if I lived in any older generation because I take full advantage of my right to free speech, and wear my confidence and independence on my sleeve like a badge of pride (just ask the girls who work for me!).  I like to say I'm Catholic, but I'm really a CAPE Catholic (ya know - Christmas Ashes Palms & Easter).  I do not believe that Islamic people are the root of terrorism - their religion is almost identical to mine and they have just as much of a right to practice it.  I'm a DIE HARD Yankees girl and make that known pretty obnoxiously during baseball season... especially if you happen to be from the city north of NY that shall not be named. ;)  Clearly, I have strong opinions.  I loudly voice them and I OWN them despite opposition with which I'm faced.  Before the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I had no opinion on gun control... 

I have no interest in ever owning a gun, but I don't care if someone else wants to.  To each their own, right?  It is one of our rights as Americans... besides, I've been of the mentality that gun laws are to violence as forks are to obesity: guns don't kill people, people kill people -- forks don't make people fat, poor lifestyle choices do.  Remember how I started this post: I used to epitomize complacent American.  In light of this horrific tragedy, it became my obligation as an American, as a person, and as someone whose life has always revolved around children to reassess.  Reassess everything.  In this issue, gun control cannot be ignored and it's ABSOLUTELY time to reassess.

Let's start with the extreme... if I could snap my fingers right now and remove guns from every civilian (aka every American who is not active military or law enforcement), I cannot come up with A SINGLE reason why that would not be okay!  Not a SINGLE reason.  Can you?!  Think about our rights... free speech, free from religious persecution, vote for elected officials.  NONE of those rights, when exercised to their fullest, give individuals direct power take the life of another person.  All of our rights are about us being individuals who can say and do what we want to the extent that we are not infringing on someone else's rights.  The "right" to bear arms is archaic and outdated...

Our forefathers wrote the 2nd Amendment to give their people faith that our new government wouldn't try to rule their lives like Great Britain did during Colonial America.  The right to bear arms meant that they could revolt against their government to be a free state just like all of the colonies revolted to gain our independence.  That reason is null and void.  Even if there were still residual fear that our government would suddenly turn into a dictatorship and we'd need to defend our freedom, how are guns going to keep you free when faced with our military's nuclear weapons?!  The need is obsolete.  The "right" is outdated.  Again, give me one good reason!

In my quest to figure out where I stand on gun control now that it can no longer be ignored in my book, I've been asking this question... asking people to give me one good reason why owning a deadly weapon is a "right".  Here are some reasons I've been given...
I like to hunt. >> Unless hunting is your family's only source of food, this isn't a legitimate reason.  Find a new sport.  Hunt virtually - technology is amazing.  Your fun weekend should not trump a 5 year old's ability to go to school without fear.

For self-defense. >> It is way more statistically likely that someone will either illegally obtain your gun and use it in a violent crime, or that a child will accidentally shoot themselves or someone else than it is that you'll have to use it on an intruder.

It's my right.  I can so I want to. >> (This one is my favorite.)  I don't tolerate temper tantrums from children; I certainly won't entertain one in an adult.  You realize that this argument is exactly the same argument slave owners probably used, right?!  "But we've always had slaves.  They take care of my house and (blah blah blah), and that's what I want!"  Okay, maybe that's an extreme, ridiculous example, but it's really not TOO far off.  In an ideal world, 200 years from now our descendants will be mocking us for ever thinking we needed to have weapons like this around and shake their heads in sadness that it took us SO long and SO MANY horrific tragedies before we learned this obvious lesson.

But let's be realistic... guns won't suddenly be abolished and, again, completely getting rid of them isn't necessarily the answer, nor is it realistic - especially in the short term.  Increased measures on gun control IS realistic though...

To be perfectly honest, I don't even know what the current laws are on obtaining and owning a firearm... I do know this though, guns that are being legally obtained, are being used in violent crimes by the unstable owner, OR someone other than its registered owner and that's where the problems lie.  Maybe the answer is to require an in-depth psychological screening before you can legally obtain a gun, or very strict guidelines on how guns must be secured and stored with SEVERE penalties for violation of such laws.  At least things like this can minimize the number of guns available and accessible and therefore the number of guns used in violent crimes... 

I don't know what the answer is... but Something. MUST! Be. Done.

So here's why I'm ranting about this and here's my hope... It, unfortunately!, took an unthinkable tragedy to snap me out of my complacent American fog and put me into action.  I'm a product of my generation and my "action" consists of this blog.  The only way my 1 voice can make a difference though, is if it spurs other voices to do the same... so join your voice with mine!

You do NOT have to agree with all or any of my ideas for this multi-faceted approach... what you do need to do is let it be known that you agree that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.  PLEASE feel free share your ideas, your counter opinions, whatever.  But ONLY do so if you are also willing to put your name, location and age with your comment.  Yes, I just turned this blog into a petition... posting a comment implies that you agree that SOMETHING. Must. Be. Done. and that our government needs to take immediate action.  My hope is to get enough comments on this blog and enough traffic to this post that the people who can do something take notice... so comment on this with ANY opinion you'd like, but only if you're also willing to put your name, location and age.  

In order to keep the comments as clean as possible, I will not be responding.  Please know that I'm grateful for your response because you're helping to prove that the average American is NOT okay with this sad trend of tragedies and that those 27 people didn't die in vain... if you want to actually discuss this with me and get a response from me, find me on Twitter (@JENw1n525).

Again, please comment below, share this link, RT the tweet you got the link from... do SOMETHING to spread this around and get as many people as POSSIBLE to comment below so SOMETHING happens.
I appreciate the "likes", RTs, Reblogs and comments on Social Media sites; Please also leave comments HERE so this gets as much traffic and attention as possible.


To the 6 adults who died protecting those children... you are truly heroic and your actions certainly did not go unnoticed!
To the 20 tiny children... I have no words for you or your shattered families, just this: < 3 because my heart is TRULY with you!
To everyone effected by this tragedy whether directly or not... I'm genuinely sorry it took this event to snap me out of my complacent fog and can only hope I'm not the only one this impacted by it.


UPDATE 12/21/12: The NRA held a press conference addressing the Newtown Tragedy
Transcript: http://www.scribd.com/doc/117616563/Transcript-PDF

I have many pros/cons to this "armed guards at every school" proposal...

The Con Extreme: Thinking back to a post-911 Manhattan, it did NOT make me feel safer to see armed military personnel with INTENSE guns I can't even name in Penn Station.  It scared the LIFE out of me and made me want to stay the hell out of my city that I love so much.  It was a very uneasy, terrifying moment.  With that experience in mind, I can't imagine that the presence of armed guards is going to make our kids or parents feel safer.  To take it to a further extreme, it puts even more weapons out in society and potentially accessible to someone who is still battling a major mental health issue AND can still get into the school building...

In the general "put more guns out there and give everyone a gun" mentality, doesn't hold up!  Let's say an older student or even teacher pulls out their gun to try and take the guy down... there's an excellent chance other innocents will get shot and hurt/killed in the interim.  There's also an EXCELLENT chance that a SWAT team just getting to the scene may mistake the "good guy with a gun" for the "used to be good guy with a gun who is now shooting up the place".  

The Pro Extreme: I follow the logic; we protect many high profile places and/or people with guns.  Those are people who are typically targets (i.e.: incredibly powerful politicians) or are in places that provoke violence such as huge sporting events since there is so much passion combined with alcohol.  Those are very big scale situations that are much more challenging to control so larger precautions (in the way of armed officers) are the current solution.

Regardless... this doesn't address the underlying issue!  There are still crazy people who (1) think it's okay to do things like this (and need mental health care) and (2) can get into the schools (because the security protocol aren't effective).  So putting armed guards at schools is yet another bandaid to this MAJOR challenge...

This is America.  It's not a society that should ever have to have armed guards on every street and in every public arena... protecting our schools should be a TOP priority right now; once that's achieved, there is still the matter of these people committing these acts in other places like malls and movie theaters...

So again I ask, why is owning a gun a "right"?!  I've yet to get anything REMOTELY CLOSE to an answer or attempt at justification of this in our modern society... 

UPDATE: 8/26/15
If you're NOT angry and disgusted at the state of our country, you SHOULD be; reevaluate yourself. Don't even CONSIDER questioning MY anger! MY anger is *completely* warranted.
It's been almost 3 years since this initial post and still we have ZERO progress in this area. We're essentially at the point of #NOlivesmatter!  I still stand by my above question: WHY is owning a gun a right?  That concept has been falsified by Conservative media and the NRA and WAY over-exaggerated through the years.  I will momentarily concede in that our next step is *not* going to be to eradicate guns from our society - sadly.
How about we AT LEAST start HERE and all be HUMAN about it?! >>
Laws that are ACTUALLY enforced for:
1. Who can purchase guns (i.e.: extensive federal and all-state background checks, no history of domestic abuse or violence of any sort, no history of mental illness, etc.)
2. Regulate the TYPE of guns. There is NO reason a person needs to own an assault rifle. Literally NO. freaking. reason.
3. Clear guidelines on how to store them and keep them safe (i.e.: under lock and key, type of safe/storage container, how high off the ground, etc.)
4. Mandatory gun safety course and "How To" for all legal adults living in the house where it will be stored
5. Special course of additional safety for any household with minors as even part time residents
6. Regular required screenings to ensure all regulations are being upheld (picture submissions) and being forced to renew your license/permit by retaking the courses... ya know, similar to our driver's licenses even tho most of us practice that DAILY.

7. Require liability insurance for each firearm and vary the rates based on the extra safety measures taken and prior claims/incidents/violations, again, just like you do for your car.
8. SEVERE monetary and prison consequences for violation of ANY of those laws, and even MORE extreme consequences if their failure to comply resulted in a lost life and/or their innocent child getting possession of their weapon, and/or if their gun was used in any criminal activity.
We still need a TON of funding for Mental Healthcare coupled with significant media strategies to remove the stigma and allow people to seek help just like they would for a physical illness without fear of retribution...
Look at all the jobs that get created! ‪#‎logicALLaround‬
And, for the love of whoever you believe in, STOP devoting even a SYLLABLE of media coverage to the animals that cause these tragedies.
For starters.......