It is disheartening how little impact the mass murder of 20 elementary school children has had on gun regulations. Increased background check legislation stalled, restrictions on automatic weapons and military grade ammunition not happening. I guess the horror fades for some folks if it’s not your kid, and the political will to take on the gun lobby is clearly nonexistent.

In fact “In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law“, however, of the 109 laws passed 70 eased restrictions and expanded the rights of gun owners.

Unbelievable in the wake of the unspeakable.

Below is what I wrote a year ago in reaction to the massacre of 20 children and the 6 teachers trying to protect them.

December 21, 2012

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It’s a place you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based on the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, and we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

After it happened, we talked with our daughter about Sandy Hook. She talked about the intruder drill they had at school the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one particular teacher, and that the room had too many windows. The drill had kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because it’s about as useful as  “duck and cover.”

When she identified other rooms and teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. (I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.”) We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and it was clear that none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies always know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. It’s useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. It’s not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

It’s so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I’m much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office, which just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”.

Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

birds_eye_view_map

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It is one of those places you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based in the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

We talked with our daughter about her thoughts on Sandy Hook. Mostly she described the reactionary intruder drill the school held the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one teacher and the room had too many windows. They had the kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because its as useful as  “duck & cover.”

When she identified other rooms & teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.” We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. Its useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. Its not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

Its so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I am much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office. That just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office by the way.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”. Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

sandy+hook+school+sign

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.