Early Monday I was sitting in my car waiting for the layer of morning frost to melt off my windshield when I first heard the news from Las Vegas on NPR. I immediately got out of the car and went back inside to hug my wife. In her confusion over this double goodbye, I suggested she sit. Together we scrolled through dozens of 140 character snippets on Twitter; just long enough to fully grasp the horror. What is there to say when one hears of another mass murder carried out by another person in possession of a rigged-rapid-fire rifle? Is this our new normal, America?
Period 1, I asked my students to start class with a seven minute write. Typical Monday routine although I am sure they sensed my desperate need for writing time rather than our regular foray into playfulness. 7 minutes to write. That mystical number which allows us to break into the root of the matter. Afterwards, I asked who heard the news from Las Vegas that morning. Several responded at once. One shooter. Mass murder. Innocent concert-goers. Largest massacre in US history. After a brief but potent rundown of the know facts I posed the pressing yet unanswerable question: how will we solve the gun violence epidemic in America? They talked background checks. Gun limits. Mental illness. But then they sat mute, weighed down by the magnitude of gun violence, again. I asked them, please continue this conversation, with anyone, with everyone. To not let the NRA or the politicians in their pockets, or the fear, win. I’m not sure they could hear me. Many own guns. Most are already afraid. One suggested I carry a gun. We laughed at the thought of that. Me. The little lady with loud boots and big hats. It was time to move on, so, we segued into a discussion of the character of Edna’s suicide at the end of Chopin’s The Awakening. Seriously, understanding these massacres are beyond me in every way possible.
“Congress has been unable, or unwilling, to approve gun control legislation after recent mass shootings — including one targeting lawmakers playing baseball — and it is unlikely to consider new bills after the attack in Las Vegas.
To the contrary, House Republicans are on track to advance legislation easing firearms rules, including a package of bills backed by the National Rifle Assn. that would make it easier to purchase silencers.
Opponents of the bill argue that making silencers more prevalent could worsen the impact of mass shootings. Supporters say silencers can prevent hearing damage among hunters” (Los Angeles Times).
Condolences came easily from local legislators to top-dog Trump, “To the families of the victims: We are praying for you and we are here for you, and we ask God to help see you through this very dark period. Scripture teaches us, The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve. To the wounded who are now recovering in hospitals, we are praying for your full and speedy recovery, and pledge to you our support from this day forward. In memory of the fallen, I have directed that our great flag be flown at half-staff.” Reference to the scriptures? Okay, I appreciate the need to find solace. Find explanations why when all is senseless. Something to fill the horrible holes. But what about taking action? Might we at least start by asking the tough questions?
“Why can’t this country agree on common sense gun legislation that would prevent the mass murder of innocent people? Is mental illness on the rise among white men and, if so, why? What have I, personally, done in the wake of mass shootings in the past? How can I do something different?” (Martin).
And if we attempt to ask those questions, might we engage in the tougher discussions in order to face the hard truths?
“That wholesome public relations veneer masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism. A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way” (Cash).
Guns are ruling us. For now. But as a young man who lost a dear brother to gun violence messaged me this morning noted, “As inhumanly horrific as these events are, I honestly believe they happen because we are on our way to a guns-free society eventually — even though it will likely take a generation.” This future I believe, if we all begin to talk, and take action,
Wondering how to take action? First, get facts from sources like Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence or The Trace. Then support the efforts organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America but ultimately, call your Representatives to discuss gun control reform. Only then can we truly hope, again.