Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some Stories. And a Soap Box Alert.

The Child and I discuss a lot of things. One of the things I hate discussing the most is violence. War, murder, these are very unpleasant topics. But she's out in the world. She hears things. And it is important to me that she knows she can talk about anything with me, even unpleasant or difficult subjects. Plus, I want her to hear stuff from me first; not because I can always spin things to sound like no big deal but because it's my job to make her feel safe. And when you hear about a shooting, even one clear across the country, it rocks your feeling of safety.

I had just heard about the Virginia Tech shootings as I was going to pick her up from school yesterday and the radio was on when she got in the car. So I told her what I knew. This morning, after reading the NY Times, we talked about it some more.

Her first connection was to the murder-suicide that happened on the University of Washington campus just a few weeks ago. We talked about how they weren't related. (I wouldn't want her to think that going to college is a bad idea). Then we talked about how twisted and desperate some people get and how that's really sad.

"Maybe that guy got really bad grades so he wanted revenge," she posited.

"Maybe. They really don't know yet. Whatever it was that made him do it though, it wasn't right. And," I added, "most people don't pull a trigger every time something doesn't go their way. But when it's on the news like this it can make you feel like they do".

Then she asked why they hadn't locked down the campus after the first shootings.

"Good question. A lot of people are asking that right now".

She knows about lockdowns. When she was in the first grade there was a murder in town. The gunman fled and as the search for him spread, schools in the nearby area were locked down. Including hers. She remembered the teacher getting a code from the office and how they all had to sit on the floor by the wall, away from the windows. The kids didn't know what was going on. They were having fun, not doing school work and just having stories and singing time.

I remember that day, too, arriving at school to find Sr. M standing outside the building, directing parents to the one unlocked (and guarded) door to pick up our kids. And I remember thinking how comforting it was to know that the administration had acted prudently to protect our kids. 'Cause that's their job.

Unfortunately, The Child is not unaccustomed to gun violence. The next year I had to tell her that a school-mate had been murdered by her father. That wasn't any fun. The child in question came from a troubled home (duh) and had her own set of issues. But she'd always been kind to The Child, always gave me hugs when I saw her. She was a needy, sad little girl who tried to wring some joy out of her miserable life. And then she was dead, through no fault of her own. Murdered by her own father. It still gets me. And every year, on Dios de la Muertos we light a votive for Tiffany.

When I told her about that incident, after we cried together, The Child asked if I'd ever known anyone who'd ever been killed like that. And sadly, I did. My senior year of high school one of my best buds, Joe, was murdered. One beautiful spring morning his brother got up, loaded a gun and walked through the house, killing his parents and his brother as they slept.

I remember coming to school and finding cops in the hall, talking to my best friend Barb. (Her locker was next to that of the gunman). Little knots of students were standing around, whispering. I couldn't believe Barb would be in trouble with the law.

Then my friend Becky came up to me, ashen faced. "Have you heard? Joe is dead." Joe, crazy Joe, who was always, always coming up with some good natured joke. Brilliant Joe, the go-to guy when you didn't get something in your homework. One day, in AP English, he had drawn a cartoon bubble on the chalkboard and stood so it looked like it was coming out of his mouth. Brian, who always had a camera ready, started snapping pictures. It happened to be Joe's birthday so I started playing. He wrote a cartoon bubble that said, "Hi, Lori!" I drew a piece of cake and a bubble that said, "Happy birthday, Joe. Have some cake!" and posed accordingly. Brian took the picture. That was the shot that was used on the "In Memorium" page of the yearbook.

It occurs to me that I'm rambling, that I should edit this and compose my thoughts into something coherent and meaningful. But when people kill people in random, senseless acts, me not so much with the coherence. I get angry. I get sad. I get frustrated and then I get angry again.

This would be a good time to warn you that I'm going to rant right now and that you should also be advised that you'd best spare me any "guns don't kill people, people kill people" crap. I'm not buying it.

I get angry that it is easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver's license. I get angry that there are enough guns in this country to arm every man, woman AND child. I get angry that the NRA consistently thwarts even the most common sense measures to assure gun safety. There are always going to be guns and people who will use them to do harm. I also know that someone bent on destruction will figure out a way to do it, with or without a gun. I'm not stupid. I also know that most gun owners are sensible, law-abiding citizens who know how to handle their weapons, how to store them safely and don't own them so they can take out other people. I also know the difference between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic weapon. And until the day I die, no one will convince me that an average, law-abiding citizen needs to own such a thing nor should they be able to purchase one. You don't hunt duck with an Uzi. You just don't.

Growing up on a farm, everyone had guns. Sean Connery had one. It was kept in his bedroom closet. It was used for putting down animals. It was a part of life. It always gave me the heebee jeebees but that was probably a good thing. It meant that I had a healthy respect for the thing. And my brother, George Clooney, had a BB gun. We were taught how to use it, how to shoot it and at what. If he had ever so much as pointed at someone with it, the folks would have taken it from him forever and probably smacked him on the ass with it. Guns were serious business. We knew that.

The Spouse once suggested getting a gun, I don't even remember why, and I told him that when he lived alone he was welcome to it but no gun was every coming into my house. That's just me. Which is all to say that I don't have a problem with gun owners. I have friends who own guns and I support their right to own them. I just choose to exercise my right not to have one. And to insist that this country still needs to do a hell of a lot more to control guns. Me, for gun control. Deal with it. And all that said, I know that the deeper problem isn't with guns but with our hearts and with the root causes of violence. Which is a whole other topic.


Ok. I think I'm cycling back into my sadness mode now. My heart goes out to the victims and families of the Virginia Tech shooting. My heart goes out to all of us.

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19 Comments:

Blogger rosemary opined...

To borrow your word.....AMEN! said loudly.

April 17, 2007 10:58 AM  
Blogger jp opined...

Yeah, if and when I have anything to say about this story, gun control will be my theme.

April 17, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

I'm sure the gun lobby is already mobilizing to argue that gun control isn't the answer to these sorts of situations. And the problem is deeper. But geez. There's a big difference between controlling weapons and criminalizing them. Wish the NRA would start making that distinction.

April 17, 2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger Jon opined...

You mentioned your brother again. . .

April 17, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

That was for you. Just remember. He's married.

April 17, 2007 12:24 PM  
Blogger Renee opined...

Guns are scary.
William will not be allowed to hunt with his grandpa because they scare me so much.
People are scary too, sometimes, and scary people with scary guns is even more scary.

April 17, 2007 12:30 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Very, very scary.

April 17, 2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger gina opined...

I might be in favor of control of semi-automatic weapons. I haven't decided for sure yet. What concerns me is that once "they" start to control guns, it's not much of a leap to ban them altogether, or require all guns to be registered and licensed, and I'm not excited about the idea of the government knowing so much about people. My dad is a gun collector. He has probably 50 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, handguns, target shooting guns, hunting rifles, etc. What's to say someone in the government isn't going to decide that 50 is too many and he needs to get rid of them? It concerns me. On the other hand, the vast majority of people have no need for a Glock. But how do you draw the line? We already have waiting periods for handguns, background checks, etc. That doesn't stop someone who is hell bent on using a gun in a crime from getting one, so I'm not convinced controlling them more will help. What I DO think we need is gun education. If guns weren't so "mysterious" to so many people, if people learned to use them responsibly and respected guns, they wouldn't be "scary" to people, and we'd have a lot fewer accidents involving kids playing with guns. I grew up in a house full of guns and ammo, usually very accessible to all four of us. We would not have dreamed of going near them. They held no particular cachet for us. We were taken shooting a lot when we were kids, had to clean the guns after using them, reloaded ammo, etc. We knew they weren't toys. I think the problem is we want to shelter our kids from guns rather than educate them about them. Too many adults buy a gun and hide it, thinking junior doesn't know where it is. Junior is all intrigued (forbidden fruit) so when Mom and Dad are gone, he gets the gun out to look at it....and someone gets hurt.

I wonder...if handguns were not available, would this guy have used a shotgun instead? Or a 22 rifle? If he was hell bent on killing people, he'd have found a way, gun control or not.

I don't think people should own Uzis or AK-47s.

April 17, 2007 1:58 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Where do you draw the line? At automatic weapons. No one outside of law enforcement or the military should be able to put their hands on one.

The slippery slope argument that controlling certain kinds of guns will result in the criminalization of all guns is specious, at best. In most states it is harder to get a driver's license than a gun. That's just ridiculous. You have to register your car, your house, your marriage. The government has plenty of information on us. I for one have no problem at all with them also knowing who owns weapons.

It should also be noted that Virginia has the weakest gun laws in the country.

I agree that gun education and gun safety should be stressed. I also think parents should ask other parents if they keep a gun in the house. I also agree that this dude would have found a way to cause trouble if that was what he wanted to do. But when you look at gun regulation in other countries and compare their murder rates to the US it's perfectly obvious that we aren't doing enough right.

April 17, 2007 2:10 PM  
Blogger Molly opined...

thank you Auntie Raine for teaching Dylan these things. For NOT being a 'quiet' woman like so many women in our family. Thank you for having a mind, and a passion, and a will to protect Dylan but not shove her in a bubble were nothing can ever touch her.

April 17, 2007 10:07 PM  
Blogger Red7Eric opined...

"Unfortunately, The Child is not unaccustomed to gun violence."

~~~~~

That's the saddest thing in your whole post. There's absolutely no reason why a kid her age should have so much knowledge of dying by guns.

By the way, I'm SO with you on the gun control thing. And also a greater emphasis on mental illness in this country. If we could have done those two things right, who knows -- the Blacksburg killing spree might never have happened.

April 18, 2007 4:49 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Gosh, Mols. Thanks? You're welcome? Right until I read your comment I wasn't sure it was even anything deliberate on my part but now that you mention it, that whole bubble thing didn't really work so well for me...

Red, yeah, that's what I thought when I wrote it. The wrongness of it is very, very wrong.

And I agree about the mental illness thing. I heard one of the gunman's English profs on NPR yesterday, who had alerted the administration etc. to some of his disturbing writings. And the decision was that there wasn't much to be done because of the legal ramifications. Hello? Something tells me that some sort of action might have been worth the legal risk. Especially in light of the potential legal ramifications of having least 31 bereaved and pissed off families comin' at you.

April 18, 2007 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

After reading your post and the comments herein, now I can toss in my two cents.

First, and you knew this was coming, I am a gun owner. Have been all my life since my Dad was a professional skeet shooter for some years. The house was full of guns - I guess gun lovers collect guns the way I collect shoes. Ohhhh so pretty. And in so many colors too! I was not too curious about guns. We've cohabitated since before I can remember. My Dad was also a hunter. My brother and I just were not interested in the guns. My parents encouraged whatever interests we did have at the time. I'm sure if either one of us had shown any interest in guns or shooting or hunting, my Dad would have taken the time to educate us on the proper use and care of them. But we weren't so they were considered Dad's property, ergo his responsibility. More crap to take care of? No thank you. We had our hands full with one dog and the yard.

Now, here I am married to a law enforcement officer. And yep - more guns in the home. Now with a little one, we have them all in a locked gun safe except one. That one sits on top of the armoire in our bedroom and is only for the emergency of a home invasion. None of our guns are Uzis or AKs. Those are military guns and their use should be prohibited to the military only.

I'm sorry, Lady L. But I have to side with those that say "Guns don't kill people . . ." I have lived and been in the presence of hundreds of guns in my 40 years and not one single one of those guns killed another human being. None of them shot themselves off to hurt anyone and none of them were used by humans to hurt someone. Hmmmm, what was missing in that equation?

I know - - the human being intent on causing harm to another human.

The Virginia Tech tragedy (and so many others like it) is NOT about guns. It is about our society as a whole. And you can't talk about one part of the cluster without including all the other parts: divorce, abuse, violence in media and entertainment, etc etc etc etc. Then stir in a good fat dollop of "unaccountability" and there you go.

I don't make the rules . . .

-jLow

April 19, 2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Jlow, No surprise. I would like to reiterate that I don't have a problem with legitimate gun ownership or gun owners. I have a (liberal Democrat) friend in Texas who owns guns. But I think that what happened at Virginia Tech is about guns. Not entirely. I acknowledged that.

However, in a state with weak gun laws a person who was known to have "issues" and who had been under psychiatric evaluation was able to get a gun. And the university was restricted from pursuing a course of action that might have possibly helped the shooter but would certainly held the possibility of protecting the innocent victims. Mental illness and guns are a bad combo.

And I understand that there are people, like yourself, who are completely comfortable with guns, know how to use them, store them safely, etc. etc. But the ratio of guns to citizens in this country is completely out of proportion.

And your right. Guns don't kill people. Bullets do.

April 19, 2007 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Inanimate objects do not kill. Killing happens with intent. And so far as I am aware inanimate objects are incapable of intent. Just like cigarettes are incapable of lighting themselves and forcing carcinogens into your lungs.

But you made a key statement: the university was prohibited from taking any course of action that might have helped the shooter and protected the victims.

Now we're getting in to the whole "civil rights" vs. "constitutional rights" - which takes precedence?

The shooter didn't want help and to force it on him would have been a violation of his civil rights.

And guess what? Up to that point in his life his worst offense was being a jackass. When he purchased his gun he had valid ID with a verified physical address and his criminal background check came back clean. When does the responsibility for his actions become HIS? When do "anti-gun" people lay responsibility on the person who used the weapon? The weapon didn't use the person.

And if we can't violate his rights by forcing mental health help on him, why should a constitutional (and an original one at that) right to bear arms be violated?

My husband deals with this issue on a very regular basis. Case in point, there is a mentally ill man who lives right down the road from us. His illness takes the form of very dangerous paranoia. It is to the point that his young adult sons are afraid he will kill their mother in her sleep. After a scary episode last week, his employer called my husband and said, "You gotta do something before he kills her." Okay - my husband can't do anything until someone in the house calls for help. My husband would be breaking the law by going in their house to check on them if he wasn't called to do so. After much convincing, the wife finally signed a statement and requested a protective order. The guy goes to the state hospital. The state hospital hands him a bottle of pills and says, "He's fine now." Now the wife wants him back home and is pissed off at my husband because the protective order is for 60 days. And the employer called my husband asking what can be done about the protective order because you know "we need to get these two people back together."

Given the VA Tech shooter's record, anyone who tried to refer him for a mental health intervention would have been laughed out the door.

This is still not an issue about guns.

This whole thing is a very stark and honest reflection of where we have gotten ourselves as a society. Between the "politically correct" crap and unaccountability (because EVERYTHING is somebody else's fault), events like those at VA Tech have become part and parcel of the society we have created. We were so busy trying not to offend this person or that group that we lost sight of simple right and wrong. Now what is right or what is wrong is barely a blip on the radar when any given subject or event is being discussed.

-jLow

April 20, 2007 3:52 AM  
Blogger Grish opined...

I'm always afraid to voice my opinion on things like this. I feel terrible for the victims and their families and anything said in contradiction to remorse can be taken as harmful and callous and I'm truely not either..

I am a little afraid that strict gun control would be uncontrollable though. I'm also a little afraid that all it would accomplish at this point would be to unarm the law abiding citizens while continuing to provide the crazies with weapons.

I don't think that there's any easy answers but agree that we need to try to figure out how to keep weapons from the aforementioned crazies...

April 20, 2007 4:54 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Jlow, Fully understanding that we're never going to see eye-to-eye on this one, and 'cause it's my blog, let me add a few things for the record. (You know, the one they will come looking for when I run for Queen of the World).

'K. I realize objects don't have intent. Cars, for example, also don't kill people. But we register them, license them and have rules about how they are to be operated like what side of the road you can drive it on, how loaded you can be when you drive, how old you have to be, how fast you can go, etc. All of these laws exist for our protection. When they are broken, someone usually ends up dead or hurt. And sometimes people end up dead or hurt not because of negligence or intent to harm. But we still try to keep the roads safe.

Guns can be used to inflict great harm by someone intent on using one. The fact that we don't bring anything remotely approaching a consistent standard on where, how and who can get one troubles me. ANd yeah, yeah, I'm all for states' rights but since we have open borders it would make sense to have some sort of federal standard that was common sense.

And don't tell me we do have a federal standand, it's the Constitution. Because I frankly interpret the 2nd ammendment "right to bear arms" in the old English sense...the right to have a coat of arms, a livery and be called Sir Pooktwaddle. (And wouldn't that just be a laugh if I was right).

I am not anti-gun so the one thing you have to do is not make this an us-them thing. I don't hate gun owners ('cause I love you) and I don't want to take away everyone's weapon. But there is no question that we need to have a more serious dialogue in this country, at the very least, about how to keep, as Grish said, guns out of the hands of the crazies. And yes, we aren't going to be 100% successful, just like our laws don't keep car accidents from happening. But we as Americans should be alarmed by the fact that we are among the world leaders when it comes to per capita gun violence. Shouldn't we?

And of COURSE I agree that the fundamental issue of personal responsibility is at play here. And I agree that our society is disconnected from that fact. Who was to blame for the VTech shooting? Cho. Or Chou or whatever his name is. He stewed in his anger, he got the guns, he shot innocent people. Get it. But as your story points out, this country needs to start having a very serious conversation about mental illness...causes, treatments, remedies. And yeah, you know what? Sometimes personal liberties are going to be challenged for the good of the community. That's how it works.

I need a tablet and a lie down.

April 20, 2007 6:38 AM  
Blogger Lorraine opined...

Oh, and Grish, hey dude. And don't be afraid to weigh in. Read the statements again. I am not against guns, gun ownership or people who legally and responsibly own guns. But yeah, I'd like to think we could all agree that crazies shouldn't get guns.

April 20, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger Grish opined...

:-)

April 20, 2007 1:31 PM  

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