I don’t like guns. I didn’t grow up around them, I am not comfortable with them, and in my personal experience far more innocent people have been hurt by them (either their own or someone else’s) than have been saved by them. But that being said, I am not against people having guns. While they were not in my home, I grew up in an area where most people had them. I remember guns on racks in the back of trucks in high school where people had been hunting in the morning before school or were going hunting afterward. Taking Hunter Safety was a mandatory part of PE in my high school in 9th grade. I was amused when I received my bright orange hunter safety badge. I knew even then there was no need of me ever needing it (as hunting has never appealed to me), but evidently the school thought it was something we all needed to know. (I think I still have the badge….somewhere.) Growing up I didn’t fear those who had guns. The idea of someone hunting another person seemed ludicrous. At this point in my life, however, the idea of guns in certain hands does scare me. Someone hunting people has become less fantasy and more reality.
I am personally in favor of stricter gun control laws, but I know that they can only do so much. Even with very tight gun control laws, I think the CT tragedy probably would have still happened. There are already so many weapons in circulation and in that case especially they were readily available. And unfortunately, there is always someone willing to sell them or lend them to the most unbalanced of people. Still I can’t help but believe that if we can find ways to make guns less accessible or harder to find, maybe sometimes we can prevent such things. Sometimes buying just a few extra seconds gives a person time to change their mind or for their rage to dissipate. But still, when someone wants to kill, there are plenty of types of weapons they can use to kill. Even their own hands.
In my mind the CT tragedy is less about guns and more about our country’s failure to pay attention to its people. When I say country, I am not talking about our government. I am talking about me. I am talking about you.
I can’t help but think we are living in a world with a lot of mentally unbalanced people. More than in the past? Yeah, I think so. It’s scary. So scary that I think a lot of us turn our head to it. We don’t know what to do, so we do nothing. Except maybe avoid those who appear to be unbalanced…and their family members. But won’t it be less of a problem if we get involved? Parents are struggling all over the place with their children. We often let them struggle alone. We walk over the homeless laying in a stupor in the street. We don’t notice the child that is living next door that is being molested. We don’t know that our elderly friend is being abused by their own children or left to fend for themselves in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. We turn up our nose at the drug addict or the alcoholic….after they pass the point of light entertainment. We ignore the child that is left to raise themselves or show our disgust when they don’t act the way that “good” kids do. People are hurting and hiding everywhere…. and sometimes just because we don’t ask them what is going on. We see or hear of something happening to someone, and think to ourselves “Somebody should do something!” We forget that we are somebody. After incidents happen we say “Someone should have done something.” Meaning someone other than us.
We certainly have excuses. We’re busy in our own lives….there’s enough on our plates to keep us busy and we don’t have time for more. We don’t want to interfere. People tend to keep their struggles a secret and don’t want to “bother” other people. We have no experience. We have too much experience – it brings back unpleasant memories. We don’t know what to do. It’s a private matter. No one has asked us for help. It’s their own fault. It’s their responsibility, not mine. The church should do something about that. We have government programs that should take care of it. That’s why we pay taxes. It’s not my job. I am off duty.
But we need to notice our world and not stay so caught up in ourselves. We need to see those around us. We need to be advocates for those who need advocates. We need mental health conditions to be better diagnosed. We need to remove the stigma of the words “mental health condition.” The number of conditions that fall under those words are a very broad spectrum. We need to realize that those words do not always mean insanity, do not always mean abnormal, do not always mean dangerous. Sometimes they just mean a different way of viewing the world. Sometimes they can mean a person is more advanced or more skilled than average. Sometimes they can indicate a strength and not a weakness. Should we study the list of conditions, I suspect most of us could find something there that describes us sometimes.
We need our country’s medical schools to provide more focus on training medical providers to better recognize mental health conditions and help shepherd people to treatment. We need that treatment to be available. We need it to be accessible. We need it to be affordable. We need it to be a priority and not just a footnote. We don’t need it to be a responsibility of our teachers or our school system. Granted they may often have to be the ones to notice when there are possible issues (because who else is really watching the kids these days?), but they shouldn’t bear the burden for figuring out the diagnosis, treatment and solutions. That is not their job…and we shouldn’t make it their job. It also shouldn’t be expected that parents will intervene for their children. In a perfect world they should notice when something is wrong and they should attempt to get help when necessary. But just because they are parents it doesn’t mean they will acknowledge it or notice it. Sometimes they are the people who are the least likely to notice when an issue crops up. They are either too close to the child and don’t see the gradual changes in them….or they can’t bear to acknowledge it.
I particularly think we need to pay attention to young men. How do we intervene before they get to crisis point where violence happens? We are fairly good at explaining to young women about the changes that go on in their bodies around puberty and in their teen years, but from what I can tell we don’t do nearly as good a job of explaining it all to boys. Maybe because they “mature” a bit later, and the changes are a bit more subtle, we tend to ignore it or joke about it and think it is only about facial hair and deeper voices. Many boys tend not to be talkers. They’ll tune you out and grunt in reply. But estrogen and testosterone….they can rule the life of a teenager. This is natural, this is normal, but there can be imbalances and surges that aren’t normal. Hormones can make you feel like your body is being controlled by a crazy person…and often these feelings don’t get mentioned to adults because they don’t know know how to articulate the feeling. Once you start feeling like a crazy person for a while, you start to become a crazy person. You start doing things that may make you feel less crazy (drugs, alcohol), not realizing you are making the problem worst. If you don’t realize that this “abnormal” could possibly be “normal”, you probably don’t realize that you can be helped. So we need to talk about it and keep the lines of communication open.
Yes, maybe some of these boys who have been the killers in some of these incidents had severe biological mental problems…defective places in their brains. I don’t know. But even if that were the case, I can’t help but think we could have stopped these things from getting out of control if we only had paid attention and gotten them help.
I am floored when I hear people who think the solution to preventing another Sandy Hooks massacre is to arm our teachers. It shocks me that people think putting guns in our schools would result in a better environment for our children. Do they wear holsters on their hip? How long before it takes a child to pull it out as they walk by? How long before a teacher mistakes a situation and shoots an innocent by accident? And would they really have time in the event of a crisis like that to use a weapon? This solution sounds more horrific to me than the problem….and I consider the problem horrifying enough. Are we going to make teachers become law enforcement officers in addition to teaching school? Some evidently think so, and probably also think we don’t need to pay them an extra nickel to do it. What lessons are we really teaching our kids if we allow our communities to become a series of armed fortresses?
Like most of us, I have so many thoughts going through my head right now. We live in a sinful world and I know that it should be no surprise to me that these things happen. But I also know this is not what God wants for our country. I think He expects more out of each one of us. To be truthful, I really don’t want to get involved. I’m one who feels inadequate to the task. I’m tired of all that needs to be done and overwhelmed by the problems I see around me. I know of situations where I should have intervened and failed to. Would I do it differently knowing what I know now? I can’t say. I don’t have any good answers to the problem and that just frustrates me. I am a sinner who quite often is more comfortable being blind to it all.
Still, I do trust God and I do know that these problems are nothing new. They seem new because they are happening in our lifetimes., because media brings them to our hometowns and focuses on them for a long while. The types of weapons available to common people makes things particularly horrific. On TV we actually see the faces, we hear the voices of parents and children and community members. It snags your heart, it obsesses us. We live in a fallen world….but should we just end it there and accept the depths to which we all fall? No….we should see what we can do to get up and enact change and make it better. Because it can get better. And it is in trying to make it better that some of our purpose lies.
It does take a village to raise a child. Let’s not sit back and leave it to the village idiots. Let’s notice the children, notice our neighbors and get involved. There is help out there. Not enough help, but maybe if we fight for it to be more available, we can see a change in our lifetime. We’ll all be better, and both children and adults safer.