Friday, December 14, 2012

Broken Heart and Open Letters

I would normally post my weekend links post tonight, and in fact I have it all written and ready to go. But it seems almost obscene to put up a post with links to holiday gift guides when so many families in Connecticut are living one of my worst nightmares. My heart breaks into a thousand little pieces for them. There just aren't words to express my sorrow.

We do not have the full story of what happened in that school and why, so I won't jump to conclusions. But here's one thing I know for certain: the death toll would not be so high if the man who did this didn't have access to a gun, particularly one capable of firing so many rounds.

I do not normally post about politics and current events. But I am done with sitting silently on this one. It is time to stop pretending that there is nothing we can do to prevent tragedies like this. There is something we can do. We can fix our gun laws. There is no great mystery about what we might do here, just a lack of political will.

I am all for initiatives to improve mental health services. I am all for more research to help us understand and treat mental illnesses. But let's be frank: other countries have mental illness without quite so many mass shootings. There is nothing uniquely American about mental illness. There must be something unique to America that explains why we have more mass shootings than other countries, and I think it is pretty obvious what that is: our gun laws, or lack thereof.

Treating mental illness is necessarily complex, because the illnesses are themselves complex. Fixing our gun laws is only complex because we allow it to be.

I have family members who are hunters, and I work with a man who is a gun enthusiast. They are all decent, rational people who I am sure are as horrified as I am by this event. I am confident that if our society put its collective minds together and made an honest effort to find a set of gun regulations that would decrease the likelihood of events like today's while still ensuring that hunters and gun enthusiasts could safely engage in their hobbies, we could do it. I'm not sure what those regulations would be, but I know we could find them if all sides really wanted to have the conversation about how to fix this problem. But we don't have that conversation, because the extremists have taken over. The NRA has our politicians too scared to take on the topic. I think the decent, rational people outnumber the extremists. But we've kept quiet. It is time we spoke up. I am at a bit of a loss about what to do to fix things, but I've decided to at least make my opinion known. I'll be sending some letters, which I've copied below.

Dear NRA,

I was horrified by the news of the Sandy Hook school shooting today. I am sure you were, too. However, unlike me, you are in a position to help prevent such events. You have long made the argument that you oppose all gun control because it is a "slippery slope"- to what,  I don't know. People like me coming and "taking away your guns" I guess.

I think you should consider another scenario, in which people like me who own no guns get so disgusted by our inability to take even small steps to prevent tragedies like today's that we foment a landslide of change against you. We non-gun owners are currently a slim majority of Americans (a Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150353/self-reported-gun-ownership-highest-1993.aspx) found that 51% of Americans have no gun in their household). I'd be willing to wager that a fair number of the people who do own guns would be open to restrictions, as long as they could still pursue their hobbies, be they hunting or gun collecting. I think that all it would take would be someone with the willingness and savvy to organize us and the impetus provided by an event like today's and we might be able to come together and make you irrelevant. In fact, I think that given our current trajectory of horrifying tragedy after horrifying tragedy, it is only a matter of time until someone does find the correct formula to organize a viable force to oppose you.

It doesn't have to be that way. Let me state right now that I have absolutely no interest in "taking away your guns." I have family and friends who are hunters and gun enthusiasts, and I want them to be able to continue to enjoy their hobby. I only have an interest in keeping people from using guns to kill other people. I assume you are decent people and have the same interest, but you do us all a disservice when you pretend that the easy access to high-powered guns that we have in this country is not part of the problem. You are correct when you point out that we are not Europeans, and European solutions will not work here. But we can find an American solution to this problem if we try.

I urge you- no, I beg you- to step up and show true leadership on this issue. Let it be known that you will no longer unleash attacks on any politician who discusses gun control. Work with those politicians to craft a workable solution that would protect your members' rights without bargaining away innocent lives to do so. Then explain to your members why these regulations are a good thing, which actually help to protect their rights. I hope you will do these things. But if you won't, then I hope that people like me figure out how to successfully oppose before any more lives are lost. Change is coming. Will you play a part in shaping that change, or will you fight it every step of the way and ultimately have to accept the change that the rest of us decide on for you?

Sincerely,
(Cloud)

Dear President Obama,

Like you, I am horrified by the news of the Sandy Hook school shootings today. Like you, I have two beautiful young daughters, and I hugged them tighter tonight because of this event. However, unlike me, you are in a position to help prevent such events. I can understand why you have had to steer clear of gun control until now, but I urge you to find a way to put this issue on your second term agenda. Have faith in the American people to see through the bullying tactics used by the NRA. To be honest, I feel powerless in the face of the NRA's lobbying power, and that is wrong. Please give people like me a voice. If you take on this issue, I will do everything I can to support you and the other politicians who join with you, and I will urge my friends to do the same.

Let's not just hug our children in response to terrible events like this. Let's take action to help make all of our children safer.

Sincerely,
(Cloud)

I will send a variation on the second letter to my congresspeople, too. I also plan to give to the Brady Center.

If anyone wants to join me, here is the address for the NRA:
National Rifle Association of America
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030

Or if you have the stomach for the follow up emails, do it online here: https://www.nraila.org/secure/contact-us.aspx.

Here is President Obama's address:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Or you can send email via an online form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments 

Update:

There is a petition on WhiteHouse.gov that calls for a discussion about gun laws. If you want to sign that, it takes only a few minutes to create an account (they just need a name and an email address) and sign:
http://wh.gov/RN6U


Or if you want to try to improve mental health resources in this country, this link has a list of charities:
http://www.mhfederation.org/charities.php

10 comments:

  1. One of the links at the bottom of the page when I read the story on cnn was, "Knife attack in Chinese school wounds 22 school children." Horrible, but even more horrible the juxtaposition between 22 wounded and 27 dead.

    Words cannot express how awful this tragedy today is. I feel so terrible for the families and the community affected by this horrific event.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this, Cloud. I feel I am still just at the point where the only thing I know to do is to hug my kid and cry for those families who cannot hug theirs tonight. But those things alone won't change anything, of course, and the actions you've taken are good ones. Thank you for providing information to make it easier for others of us out here who believe we should, to act on this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. oilandgarlic9:10 PM

    I think we definitely make gun control a bigger issue than it us. what works in other countries esp. Europe can be applied here. human lives should be more important than false freedoms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes.

      Hunting is hugely popular here in France: so much so that, on a trip in late October I counted scores of hunters carrying rifles through open fields along the A10 motorway.

      Yet we have gun control that, if you compare the statistics, works. It isn't that mass shootings never happen -- witness the tragedy in Toulouse earlier this year -- but there are extraordinarily rare compared to in the United States.

      I definitely agree: "Human lives should be more important than false freedoms." Amen.

      Delete
  4. I've never understood the opposition USAians have to gun control. Thank you for these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally agree, SM - it's just not part of the Canadian culture, so I just don't understand it at all.

      Delete
  5. The President's tearful press conference was very moving. I love him as a human being. I pray he does what needs to be done about guns in this country.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous7:04 PM

    Excellent write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website. Stick
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    ReplyDelete
  7. Lisa F.7:29 PM

    thanks for this Cloud.

    ReplyDelete
  8. paola2:51 AM

    I truly hope something can be done so that future tragedies like these can be avoided.
    You are making a difference Cloud.

    ReplyDelete

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