We are better than this

I have spent most of my day drinking in the realities of the world I live in. Today, in that world, I took my last final, jump-started my car, ate bagels and started my winter break. But for the families and friends of 26 people in Connecticut, their lives turned upside down.

All too often, we hear news of a mass shooting taking place in America. Today, that mass shooting took place in an elementary school, where 20 children were shot and killed by a gunman.

My peers have offered numerous commentaries on social media today, some of which I’ve agreed with and others I’ve found frustrating. But I felt the need to sit back and formulate my thoughts before I was ready to give my opinion on the subject.

And here’s what I’ve come up with: guns are terrifying pieces of machinery designed with the sole purpose of killing.

The argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” doesn’t resonate with me. Yes, it takes a human to pull the trigger, but if he or she didn’t have a trigger to pull, we would all be safer. Guns do not have any other purpose other to kill, and I think it’s wrong that in a civilized society, people feel the need to own them.

I feel compelled to compare America to other first-world nations. I look at Europe and can’t help but notice the lack of gun culture there. People don’t own guns or wish they could. There isn’t a major lobbying body in France fighting for gun rights.

Unfortunately I was born into a nation with the right to bear arms fundamentally guaranteed in our Constitution. But just because it was penned in ink in 1787 does not mean it is set in stone.

I want to live in a country where people don’t have access to weapons designed to kill other people. I want to live in a country where we can feel safe in our schools, malls and movie theaters. I have no problem giving up my right to bear arms if it means my fellow Americans can live safer lives.

Although gun control has been on the forefront of my mind, I also want to address mental illness.

Many people will say “what kind of terrible person could do such a thing?” but I don’t think of it that way. What this man did was scary, but my wish for the future is that we help the people who need it before tragedy strikes. Whatever was going on in his life that was so terrible that he felt he needed to kill makes me sad. I wish someone had been there to help him, and therefore help everyone.

Words like “monster” make it sound like we couldn’t stop this shooting from happening because the shooter was so determined. I don’t believe that. I think if someone had noticed signs of distress, they could have gotten him help. If someone who loved him had taken that difficult step and talked to him about his behavior, maybe none of this would have happened.

Don’t be afraid of mental illness. Like cancer, it is something to fight through, not live with secretly. Support people in your life who battle through mental illness everyday, and be careful not to assume that someone is “just fine” because you don’t know what they deal with. Having a supportive attitude about mental illness will be noticed by those around you, and may change the life of someone struggling.

What I hope will happen in the aftermath of today’s shooting is that we will reexamine our attitudes towards guns and mental illness. One way you can help is by donating to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. As a nation, it’s time to change gun culture. We are better than this. 

I am so lucky to get to see my family tomorrow. Unfortunately, 26 families will be incomplete.

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3 thoughts on “We are better than this

  1. THANK YOU! Of all the blogs I’ve read today about the school shooting in Newtown, this was by all means the most thoughtful. Gun control does, indeed, need to be on the table… but we can’t stop there because the root of the violence is still there. Until our society can learn to stop stigmatizing mental illness, tragedies like this will continue to strike. Even if we rid our country of every last gun, violence will still strike–just today a knife attack on a school in China occured. The difference is that without a gun, the attacker was only able to wound, not kill. But the horror was still very real. Breaking through the stigma that keeps the mentally ill afraid of seeking help is one major step toward find the healing we need as a nation.
    http://appalachianpreacher.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/shooting-stars-and-school-shootings/

  2. I agree wholeheartedly about the concern about getting help for those with mental illness. One problem we have in accomplishing that in this country, is that, during the Ronald Reagan years, for some reason, laws were created that were (misguidedly) intended to protect the mentally ill. The result was that far greater restrictions came into play, and it became difficult for even family members to get loved ones committed– even when they needed urgent care to get them medications so that they wouldn’t continue to wreak havoc in their lives, and in others’ lives. Most deeply mentally unbalanced people don’t believe that they need help, and they continue to do things that are ruining their lives, and the lives of their families– and then, something like this sometimes results. But, you can’t get someone committed unless you have witnesses and proof that they are a physical danger to themselves or to others — that’s really hard to prove, until they’ve already harmed someone. I know about all of this from experience, from the experience that a dear friend went through with a bi-polar husband who ruined their lives during his last bout of mania. Terribly sad. And he, now that he is properly medicated, is horrified at the things he did while manic, and was actually resentful of his wife for not getting him committed earlier– she had tried repeatedly, but couldn’t prove his threat to himself.

    Additionally, during those Reagan years, funding was cut deeply for mental health facilities. My mom talks about the sadness of seeing people in her hometown who were forced out of the care facilities where they were, because funding was cut for their level of mental illness. I guess their care was considered another “entitlement” whose burden we just couldn’t shoulder. These weren’t dangerous people, but they were unable to care well for themselves, and ended up roaming the streets, homeless.

    It’s a sad state of affairs.

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