I think most of America is feeling one or all of these emotions right about now. When we're faced with the reality of another school shooting, the emotions run high and strong. We may not all agree on the solution (OK, let's face it. We vehemently disagree, America.), but surely we all agree that we don't want our kids to live in fear. We don't want schools to be a place of violence. We are frustrated with our current state of affairs and we're fighting mad. Or maybe just hopelessly sad. Either way, not a fun or productive place to be.
Personally, I've been quietly stewing on this topic for a while. I've dug into the statistics. Tried to understand patterns. Looked for easy, solutions. Prayed for guidance and wisdom. Sadly, the magic cure has not presented itself to me. I have not developed a solution that will end gun violence in America.
What I have gained is clarity on the fact that this issue is firing me up. And I'm tired of waiting around for the magic bullet that will fix this mess. I'm tired of feeling overwhelmed by the complexity and volatility of this problem. I'm tired of not talking about it because we don't want to offend, or it's not the right time, or we'll never agree. It's not working for me.
So, I'd like to share with you what I'm going to do. Maybe you'll love this list. Or maybe you'll roll your eyes and be fired up enough to make your own, different list. Or perhaps you'll take a look and find one nugget of commonality here that you can latch onto.
Either way, we're all in this together. Agree or disagree on the solution, I think at this point it's safe to say that we all agree we have a problem. And it's not something that one person is going to solve. It's going to take lots of people, lots of tough conversations, some compromise, some money and a hefty splash of creativity.
I'll be quite honest. My first gut instinct, knee-jerk reaction is to just make all guns illegal and be done with it. But, it's not up to me. And I'm sane enough to realize that this idea is probably not viable nor is it truly a solution. (So please stop screaming about how it won't work, and keep reading....) As difficult as it is to dig in on a problem that looms so large and clearly above my pay grade, doing nothing is not an option. I am one person. One mom. One wife of a sensible gun owner. And today I'm rolling up my sleeves and committing to do my part.
1. I'm going to make sure my elected officials know that I do not support Concealed Carry Reciprocity. This bill would bring all Concealed Carry state laws down to the lowest common denominator. While California has common sense Concealed Carry regulations that require background checks and training on safety and permissible use of a firearm, many states do not. The bill has passed the House (check your Representative's vote here), but it still needs a win in the Senate and the President's signature. (Find your Senator's contact info here)
2. I'm going to talk to my kids about mental health and suicide. As much as I hate the idea of my 6 and 9-year old children even knowing that suicide exists, I am doing this. Because, God forbid, if one day they feel a sense of despair so massive that they consider ending their own life, I want them to be able to identify this feeling as an illness. I want them to know that those thoughts are not normal, their brain is sick and that they can get help. The time for mental health taboo is over. Brain health is just as important as physical health. If we can make our kids brush their teeth and visit a doctor for annual checkups, we can extend their preventative care to include mental health as well. Not sure where to start? Here are some pointers.
The primary reason this is on my list is because I read the book, A Mother's Reckoning, written by someone I never imagined taking any lessons from, Sue Klebold. Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine High School in 1999. In my mind, she was a terrible mother that should have known a monster was living in her house. Until I stopped to read her book and try to understand her story. Which leads me to my next "to do"....
3. I will try, so very hard, to listen and be curious about the stories of others. I will try, so very hard, to not jump to conclusions, place labels that don't belong, or make sweeping assumptions based on one piece of someone's story. This, my friends, is hard work. But I think it's time for us to start talking. Like adults. And listening. Like our lives depend on it. I know I have friends that will give me a big thumbs up on this post. And I have friends that will squirm. And some that may be tempted to write me off entirely. I know, because I'm tempted the same way when someone suggests that we give machine guns to teachers so our kids will be safe at school. It makes me want to run away as quickly as possible.
I believe this is part of our problem.
We have lost the ability to listen, learn, debate and talk to each other like civil human beings. We're stuck behind our screens, tapping out bold messages that are easy to justify with the support of a cute meme or link to a snappy editorial that supports our opinion. But actually sitting down with a cup of coffee to discuss our perspectives? THAT is not happening. And THAT is part of the problem. This is hard work that requires us to be vulnerable. Creative problem solving requires collaboration. I will stumble on this one a lot. But I am committed to keep trying. Because I do believe that somewhere between "guns for all the people in all the places" and "No guns for anybody", lies a workable plan that will decrease the violent use of firearms in the United States.
4. I will make damn sure the guns in my home are stored in a locked safe. This is not anything new. This is how we roll in our house. But I'm saying it out loud because the presence of guns and the unsafe storage of guns increases the chance accidental shootings and death. Safe gun storage can save lives. If you find a statistic that proves easy access to guns makes children safer, I'd be interested to see it. Because, see #3. As horrific as school shootings are, more children are killed by accidental gunfire. If we're getting fired up about school safety, let's also get fired up about keeping children safe in our homes.
5. I'm going to support common sense gun reform with my voice and my money. I firmly believe we can create safer communities without abolishing the second amendment. A background check seems like a reasonable expectation for someone that wants to own a gun. If you're a domestic abuser or violent criminal, no guns for you. We can do better at preventing accidental shootings. We should be gathering, studying and openly sharing statistics about gun violence so that our solutions can be rooted in facts and not rhetoric. If you agree with any or all of this, maybe you would like to join up with an organization working for common sense gun reform.
6. I'm going to pray and think and pray some more. I believe that our leaders need prayers for wisdom, compassion and strength. I believe our broken world needs prayers for truth, reconciliation, civility, and hope. I believe our children need prayers for comfort and safety. I believe that miracles happen and I will boldly pray for peace.
So, that's my plan. It may not change the world, but then again, perhaps it will. I refuse to sit in fear and do nothing. I refuse to pretend there are no solutions. I refuse to send my kids to school with a bullet-proof backpack and hope that it's enough.