Same Song, Different Verse
Our Gun Worship Claims More Victims
My class last week introduced the idea of objectivity in the social sciences; inevitably, the students ask me if I can be objective about the subjects I study since they are so, well, human. I answer them honestly: I try as hard as I can to be objective, but it’s tough! Implicit biases are sneaky and wily; they show up when we least expect it. But, I tell them, it’s critical for me to put my own feelings aside when considering their answers/assignments/discussion board posts/etc. As long as you can back your argument with evidence, I’m fine.
There is one subject, however, that I know challenges my objectivity to its core: mass shootings. Who can be objective about mass shootings? Why should we have to be objective? Are there really two sides here? My answer to that last one is: yes. There are two sides. Sure, we all hate mass shootings, but what comes next?
A gunman ran into an elementary school yesterday in Uvalde, Texas. He was engaged by police but went in anyway and murdered 19 children in their classrooms. 19 families are destroyed. They will never be the same. Uvalde will never be the same. It’ll be whispered alongside Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, and so many others. It’s unimaginable.
Except it’s not.
We were already mourning the loss of 10 people killed while doing their grocery shopping the week before. And the one before that. And the one before that. It’s not unimaginable. Ask any parent; it’s truly, undoubtedly, imaginable. It’s why we drop our kids off and push off the silent dread that runs through our bodies. It’s why we hug these kiddos so tight. It’s why the last day of school feels like such a relief: one more year down.
We watch in horror as DNA samples are taken from parents to see if their children are still in that building; their little bodies are so unrecognizable that they can’t be identified. We hear the wails and guttural screams as parents are told their child will not come home. There is no training that can prepare a parent for this moment. But we all feel it deep down. It is profoundly imaginable.
That brings me back to objectivity. Surely, we can all agree that this is terrible. Surely, this is the one issue where a divided nation can come together: children being murdered in their classrooms is awful. I imagine we do all agree about that. It’s just what comes next.
Thoughts and prayers.
Thoughts and prayers.
Thoughts and prayers.
Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, was required to give a press conference before his team played the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. I felt his righteous rage as he banged his hand on the table and yelled, “ENOUGH.”. Enough. How much is enough? He went on to vent his frustration that we cannot seem to do anything to stop this from happening. He said he was so tired of offering condolences because they’re so empty. He chided the 50 senators who refuse to even try to do anything.
I felt that deeply; I was born and raised in Texas. Guns are built into the lifeblood of the state, right or wrong. They aren’t going anywhere. I despise them, but, again, that’s my personal belief and not one I am prepared to hoist onto other people. I have very bright students that make arguments about our second amendment, and I always allow them that space, as long as their argument is sound. I remove myself from my personal beliefs as much as I possibly can. But, every time this happens, I wonder: when will it be enough?
You hear the argument that bad people will get guns, guns don’t kill people, we can’t stop these tragedies, and on and on and on and on…
Do you think we could try? Anything? At all? We don’t even try. We are the only nation on this entire planet where this is a problem. Other nations have tremendous mental health challenges. We’re the only one with this problem, so what does that tell us? Maybe it’s too easy to get a gun here? Especially a gun that is considered a weapon of war. One that is not meant to take down a deer or pheasant. It’s meant to kill. That’s its purpose. Even its maker says it should never be in the hands of civilians. But we keep selling it. Over and over again, we see the same story unfold. Could we at least try something, anything to make it more difficult?
When I dropped my 12-year-old off at school this morning, I sucked in my breath involuntarily. “Mom,” my kiddo says, “It’s okay; the police station is right across the field. They could be here in two minutes. When we do our lockdown drills, they always tell us that”. I nod and say, “Of course they can; that’s important! Feel safe. I love you so much; have a good day”.
But it’s a lie.
You see, the police did engage this shooter. He had a car accident, was shot at, and still ran into a school and murdered 19 elementary school babies and 2 adults. They.engaged.him. They were right there. The good guys with guns! But with speed and a weapon that is meant to kill, he was still able to alter the lives of these families. How long was he in there? 3 minutes? 5 minutes? The carnage he leaves behind will last a lifetime and beyond.
We learn by experience; when Columbine happened, they waited outside the school until they felt they were ready to go in. That was a mistake. We know now that the first person on the scene needs to enter; the violence happens fast and is often over quickly. Any delay is bad. But there will always be delays. Human nature kicks in, and our good guys with guns might not be prepared.
But, in the hours after the shooting, we heard politicians tell us that the answer is more guns. We just need to arm and train teachers and have more “resource officers” at the schools. There was an officer in Uvalde; it didn’t make a difference. And if a trained professional can’t make a difference, can we really expect a 50-year-old art teacher to dive into the fray? We’ve just been fighting at school board meetings about how teachers are groomers and shame our kids. Now, we need them to be Wyatt Earp?
So, rinse and repeat. Our fetishization of gun culture claims more victims. It will feed, and it is insatiable. There will never be enough. It is simply the price we pay for our “freedom”. We will offer thoughts and prayers. We will say not to politicize it; that it’s “too soon” to discuss policy. We will say this is absolutely unimaginable. We will tell these parents we are so sorry. We will perform grief.
And then we will do nothing.
And then it will happen again. It always happens again. This is America.