Greetings faithful blog readers,
On Sunday, I woke up to the devastating news of a shooting in my home state that left 26 people dead. Only you know what? It didn't devastate me at first because, at this point, I'm so desensitized to mass shootings like this that at first the impact feels like "just another day in the US of A." I hate to admit that, but when your country loses 531 people to mass shootings in 2017 and the year isn't even over, how does one start to react? An additional 1,619 people have been wounded in a mass shooting this year. It seems like the flags at school are always at half-mast. Even though it's clear our system is flawed, (allowing people who've been found guilty of violent crime to legally purchase weapons, states that routinely never report to NICS, the fact that 60% of mass shooters obtain their weapons legally--just to name a few problems), as a nation, we never seem to do anything other than offer "thoughts and prayers" to the victims' families. I can remember life pre-Columbine when schools felt like a safe place. Today, 1 in 8 mass shootings occur in a school. So when I wake up to news like this, I don't feel it at first; there's a numbness inside me, and then, sometimes something penetrates it.
For me, this time, a photo of 14 year old Annabelle Pomeroy on the Sunday evening news left me feeling broken. I recognized myself as a teenager in this young lady: her photo made me recall that state between childhood and adulthood so vividly. The photo also affected me because Annabelle has never been able to vote. As an American youth, she relied on the adults in her country to make sensible laws. But we failed her. Each and every one of us. Other countries don't see nearly the number of mass shootings that we do, so I can't believe there's nothing our politicians could have done by now to keep citizens safer. Who would Annabelle Pomeroy have been? The bio of another church member, 16 year old Haley Krueger, tells that she wanted to be a NICU nurse and help premature babies. Annabelle's bio does not hint at what she would of liked to do. I've imagined her as a teacher, a veterinarian, a minister. What about the other children? Brooke Ward (5), Emily Garza (7), Emily Hill (11), Greg Hill (13), Noah Holcombe (17 months). If they hadn't gone to church on Sunday, would they've gone on to graduate college, dance at their weddings, make a meaningful impact in the life of a stranger, find joy in raising their own children or in building a meaningful career or in living in a creative life?
Should a developed first-world country allow so many citizens to become victims of violent crime simply because they were in the wrong place (a movie theater, a school, a holiday party, a church) at the wrong time? Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? If we aren't comfortable with so many deaths, why don't we change? Do we really not care?
That last question sticks with me: Do we really not care?
Looking at Annabelle and the faces of all those who were lost Sunday, I'm relieved to find that I really do care, but I'm worried that living here is slowly numbing me. I don't want to become the kind of person that accepts a terrible reality; I don't want to be apathetic or to start to believe change is impossible. I have close relatives that are members of the NRA. I think there can be changes made that still respect the second amendment. There have to be. Because our system now doesn't work.
And you know what I'm really not okay with?
The fact that I go to work with young people everyday (and some of my students are too young to even vote), and I'm not okay standing in front of them every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and conveying the attitude that this is "just how it is:" that there's nothing the voting adults of this country couldn't do to keep them safer.
Plainly put, we could do better. Today, I beg and implore you to look into the eyes of a young person that you love and ask yourself if a change is worth making. I'm not saying a change that prohibits all gun ownership, but I'm talking about making gradual common sense changes to the process of obtaining weapons. My co-worker recently attended a gun show and said buying her gun was easier than updating the address on her driver's license. But there's a price for every convenience.
Today, I look at the faces of Annabelle, Haley, Emily Garza and Emily Hill, Greg, and Noah...I look at them because the price of our current barely restricted gun ownership laws happened to be (this time) their lives and the lives of twenty others.
I ask myself who will pay the price next? My brother? My cousin? My friend? My parents? My husband? Me?
Right now, some may appreciate how easy it is to obtain a weapon, but there's a price for every convenience, and if we tap into our basic sense of humanity, I think we'd all agree that, right now, the price we're paying is just too high.
I hope you still care, and if you do, I hope you still believe change is possible.
"Violence isn't a Democrat or Republican problem. It's an American problem, requiring an American solution."--Dr. Dashanne Stokes