Mental Cliff

Like many people in the US, and around the world, I have been deeply affected by the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th. When President Obama made his statement Friday afternoon I thought this has to be the single hardest thing he has had to do as President – be the POTUS while feeling like a father.

More than other acts of terrorism and public violence we have experienced in the last 11 years, this seemed personal. I found myself unable to concentrate once the story started to break, and spent the remainder of the day intermittently crying. As a parent, the idea that I could outlive my child is an abomination, and the idea that I might bury my child because of violence, a horror. That’s where everyones mind was on Friday.

Within hours the rage was unleashed, the natural companion to the compassion and sorrow. Rage against “gun nuts”, the 2nd amendment and the NRA lobbying dollars.  Rage against liberals who don’t understand the formula more guns = less violence (Rep. Gohmert, on Fox News wanted the Sandy Hook principal to be armed armed so she could have taken “his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”) Rage against the godless, gay agenda that causes such things to happen (Huckabee & Westboro Baptist). The usual.

As I have said on this blog before, I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment, and all the other amendments to the constitution for that matter, so I can’t get behind the folks who are saying things like “strike down the 2nd amendment”,  and “ban all guns”, because there are perfectly legitimate reasons for owning a gun…on a farm. Or for seasonal hunting. Or even for sport. Its tough to swallow, but there is a legitimate and compelling argument for maintaining and protecting the 2nd amendment.

I think instead we should reclaim the 2nd amendment for the people. Turn it back to the intent of the framers – common defense against a tyrannical government – rather than the modern interpretation of keep and bear arms to defend yourself. I would love to see semi-automatic handguns (used in Sandy Hook, Columbine, Chardon etc.) banned altogether.  Let the conceal & carry crowd have revolvers, “six-shooters”, 38-special – guns that no one has ever felt compelled to turn sideways when they shoot it in a movie. Can’t that be enough? Six bullets? To “defend your castle” and “stand your ground”?

There will be a great deal of opposition to any proposed changes in gun laws, the manufacture and sale of guns, or the regulation of gun owners because not only is the nonprofit, “grassroots NRA” funded by the likes of the Koch Brothers, but the firearm industry has  $11 billion in sales in 2012. So far. That’s a lot of skin in the game. The NRA spokespeople (some of whom are politicians) will try to deflect attention by advocating for increased mental health interventions rather than gun regulations. We need both so I hope they are successful. The Koch Bros. could redirect their lobbying dollars and make up children’s mental health services cuts in the 2013 Federal Health & Human Services budget. That would be a mitzvah.

The question that continues to worry me, is how long do we have for Congress to “take meaningful action” in regulating firearms before Sandy Hook fades to “another school shooting”. People were already irritated that the President’s speech on Sunday interrupted their football game and it was only 48-hours after it happened.

Given that many in our society follow football more closely than politics, is there “societal will” for gun control? Will this massacre of children, because they were so young, be enough to sustain US citizens through the intricacies and compromises of gun control legislation? Will the occasional reminder that someone else’s child will never grow old be enough to re-fuel the moral outrage that’s burning so brightly today?

Thinking about never seeing your child grow old should be the mental cliff we all stand on until meaningful gun regulations are passed.