It’s a lovely spring day today, sunny and cool, yet a dark cloud hovers in the distance, if only in my mind, because of yet another horrendous school shooting that killed at least 19 children and two adults in Texas. Democrats are calling for more gun control, Republicans like Ted Cruz are going the “thoughts and prayers” route: in short, nothing is really changing in a society saturated by violence.
Too many of our schools have become battlefields, and I don’t think turning them into mini-fortresses is the solution. I do know we need less militarism in America, less hate, and more hope and help.
We are losing too many young people to guns, to drugs, to suicide, to despair. Something is deeply wrong here in America, and we need to have the courage to face this and to effect change. We need to become a less violent society, a less materialistic one, a less hateful one.
One of the go-to words to describe mass murderers like this is “evil.” He was “evil.” Like he was some kind of monster, like a Balrog from “The Lord of the Rings.”
What he did was monstrous, but he’s not an ancient demon from the underworld. He remains human, and he needed certain tools to murder people this quickly, and the tool he chose was guns. (One report I saw said he used an assault rifle; another said a pistol. Maybe both?)
We need better ways to identify humans with murderous intent, but there are also ways to limit their access to the tools they use to murder so many people so quickly.
Let’s not obsess about “evil” and use that metaphysical term to paint this as an issue that’s beyond legislation and community action.
About the Second Amendment and what the Founders intended, here’s my take:
To this historian and retired military officer, the intent of the 2nd amendment was clear: In the 1780s, America relied on militia men rather than a large, permanent, standing army for self-defense. For that to work, militia men needed to keep arms in their homes then bear them in militia training in the field. Back then, arms meant smoothbore muskets along with a few rifles. (Rifles were more accurate but much slower to reload.) Americans on the frontier and in rural areas also used guns to ward off Indian attacks and for hunting and sport.
What the Founders couldn’t foresee was the growth of a huge, permanent, military establishment that rendered militias obsolete. They also couldn’t foresee a one-shot smoothbore musket morphing into an AR-15 with a 30-round clip (or more). Nor could they foresee an epidemic of gun violence in America, with each year’s toll exceeding 30,000 people killed by guns. In 2020, the number exceeded 45,000!
And the Founders couldn’t foresee the growth of a powerful lobby, the NRA, representing the gun industry and the enormous profits made by that industry in selling guns to Americans in quantities that defy belief. Nor could they foresee how the issue of gun violence would be so politicized, with one party embracing guns as a core part of its identity, while the other party fired blanks back at it while posturing as if they were firing real bullets.
So here we are, paralyzed politically (if not literally) by guns, with little hope of immediate relief other than a few noises about improved background checks. Some toothless bill will probably be passed, Congress will turn to other issues, and the people will be lulled into an uneasy and unhappy silence until the next mass shooting that kills children. And then we’ll repeat the process of doing basically nothing because at some level guns ‘r’ us.
Five years ago, I remember talking about lockdown drills (or “active shooter drills”) with colleagues at Penn College. Such drills were voluntary. Basically, the drill involved locking the classroom door, moving students to the back of the classroom, and having them hunker down, away from windows, while keeping silent so as to avoid detection by a shooter roaming the halls.
I was against these drills. I thought they added to the fear, and I chose not to do them. But maybe I would do them today.
After one shooting massacre (I can’t recall if it was Virginia Tech in 2007 or Sandy Hook in 2012), locks were added to the classroom doors. In theory, if I heard gunshots, I or one of my students could jump up and lock the door before a shooter got in. But what if a determined shooter shot the lock out?
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