I can still remember years ago coming home and watching TV, the news anchor stating “the following footage may be disturbing.” I had just turned 9 and Columbine was 1,200 miles away from my childhood home, yet the threat felt like it was suddenly looming in the background of every school gathering. When I spoke my fears about guns to my father, he graciously taught me how to handle firearms safely as well as how they work, alleviating the crippling fear that had taken hold of my adolescent heart. The most dangerous aspect, as I quickly learned, is in the hands of the wielder, not the weapon.
A phrase getting tossed around more and more often is that we need “more good guys with guns,” but when those “good guys” hesitate to act while lives are at stake, it’s unclear what we need to keep us safe. I’m not anti-cop. I’m not anti-guns. I, like so many my age, am anti-inaction.
Inaction allows tragedies to continue. Inaction breeds contempt for everyone touched by devastation, even if they’re not directly responsible. The idea of arming teaching seems ludicrous. Mandatory backpack checks seem like a violation of privacy. Posting the National Guard outside preschool classrooms seems like something out of a dystopian novel.
An article I saw recently had the headline, “School Shootings are as American as Apple Pie.” I wanted to negate that sentiment, argue kindness and compassion are also American values, but that also ignores the hard truth: This is a normal American experience. We can’t boast about having the greatest country in the world while there are companies designing bulletproof backpacks for preschoolers.
If I find myself in a situation that may likely be my last, my first thoughts will be if I hear my father’s laughter again, or see my mother’s smile. I’d call my parents as opposed to 911. If I can be brought to tears at the thought of leaving this world without hearing my parents’ voices again, what must those children have thought in their final moments?
I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. All I know is that I’m tired of my first thought when hearing about another tragedy is “again?” I’m tired of seeing the smiling, hopeful faces of children who have lost their lives by simply attending school or church services.
Humans deserve safety. They deserve comfort. To wish for both should not be a luxury.
Time to call mom and dad.