When I write blog posts, I normally take time and effort to research and establish facts that substantiate and support my arguments. But the shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, threw all basic fact-finding reasoning out of the window. I decided that this must come from the heart. On my recent Facebook page I lamented the fact that both sides of the gun issue are at fault. The Gun Control lobbyists harp on gun control; making us believe that we can easily gather millions of guns off the streets like cleaning confetti after a 4th of July parade. The staunch 2nd Amendment group take on the cause like a hall pass to everything that has a barrel and shoots. Both sides talk and protest after every school shooting; then we pray, we vigil, and eventually go back to square one: doing nothing.
Suggestions are running rampant from the possible to the inane; including arming our teachers in the classrooms. I somehow find it hard to imagine some of my teachers or my kids’ teachers packing while attempting to teach math. In the States, teachers are the least paid professionals despite the fact that in the last 30 years their job has become more difficult and often dangerous. In the ’50s and ’60s, teachers’ problems added up to students with long hair, tight jeans, and possibly smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. Now teachers are expected to diagnose a child with deficiencies and allergies, mentor, report abuse, and somewhere in between: teach spelling. Asking them to carry guns is like asking a doctor to carry a stretcher. Equally inane.
However, there is something to discussing security in schools which is currently lacking. We protect public buildings, banks, airports, and dignitaries; but we fail to protect our schools and our kids. Those bent on doing as much killing as possible do not attend an NRA (National Rifle Association) rally to go gun crazy. They chose unprotected venues that have little chance of fighting back. Therefore, and maybe; protecting schools like we protect everything else might deter someone from taking an arsenal and start shooting. The security has to start at the entrance to the school. It also has to continue inside the premises. At the moment, no one knows what kids carry in their backpacks or keep in their lockers. The right to search indiscriminately is a sore subject for Americans. I can hear the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) banging at the school door as I speak.
But maybe, it is time that we sacrifice some liberties to protect children and teachers; two vulnerable demographics that have become exposed to violence from within and without. But, are schools willing to tell parents that their kids will be searched prior to entering the premises, or that their lockers will be periodically subject to searches? Will parents be held responsible for what their kids bring to school? Will the schools have enough cajones to proceed with any of the above?
The hard core 2nd Amendment folk and libertarians told me off when I suggested that semi-automatics should be banned from private purchase. I brought up the example of Germany; where guns are very popular for hunting and sport. But they are controlled on both the law enforcement and licensing side. Germans must keep privately owned guns locked in pre-approved cabinets. Gun owners are held responsible for any incidents that involve their private firearms; often regardless of the consequences. You own it, you therefore are responsible for keeping it safe. No one in Germany would dream of owning a semi-automatic assault rifle for private use. By virtue of its name; this is an assault rifle and manufactured to kill. I fully understand the significance of the 2nd Amendment; we would not want to ban guns for protection or hunting because eventually only criminals would own them. Any sane person knows that criminals do not commit crimes with traceable guns. More carnage would ensue. At this point I was also reminded that in the South, kids always drove their trucks to school with hunting rifles in the back, and none of them shot up anyone. True, but hunting rifles have been replaced by semi-automatic assault rifles and grenades. So, what changed?
The world as we knew it changed. Parenting is now a past time. Having kids while both parents work is the “in” thing to do. We bring children into the world to raise themselves. To add insult to injury; schools are now void of discipline in response to pseudo intellectual social thinking that punishment is somehow bad for a kid’s psyche. The Pledge of Allegiance was no longer welcomed in our classrooms or schools. Prayer was removed. The Ten Commandments were removed. God was removed. What was left? Google, FaceBook, Yahoo, X-Box? When we removed the primal guidance to order and discipline, we left the kids with nothing to hang on to; just social media and Hollywood. We have also taken away their ability to fail and replaced it with “good feelings”. We gave them trophies regardless of whether they won or lost. We gave them carte blanche to disrespect anyone in authority because they had rights. We are responsible for raising inadequately prepared young adults for the unfairness and pain of life. So, they seek alternatives. In cities like Chicago, they seek gangs as an alternative to a family. The Florida shooter turned to White Supremacist kooks who probably nurtured him into becoming the animal he eventually turned into. Yet we still lament while another shooter plans the next carnage.
I personally cannot fathom the need for an assault rifle in anyone’s life except a soldier, but I might be a gun ignoramus. However, logic and stubbornness still compel me to ask: why do we need them in our homes? What exactly is the purpose in owning these rapid shooting machines? We are now all too familiar with the comeback of “humans kill and not the guns”. Well, it still takes a gun to kill, like it still takes an automobile to run over someone. If we make the acquiring of a gun as difficult as getting taxes back from the IRS we might be able to protect a few people! Why is it so hard to realize that we need to consider eliminating assault weapons from the gun market? What earth shaking purpose do they play in our lives? No one has an answer for me. No one wants to go down that road. American society is enamored with weaponry. It is glorified in movies and television. We all rah rah the good guys when they shoot down the bad guys. It is a culture that grew out of necessity to build the nation. When the West was won; pioneers defended themselves against everything from wolves to bandits. It is inherent to our country and culture. But in recent years it has become an incredible burden on America and Americans.
A few years ago I visited Israel for the first time. While having a drink in the hotel bar in Jerusalem, two young people entered carrying weapons across their shoulders. They proceeded to sit down and order a drink. We found it strange but the lack of interest in them from the rest of the people told us that it was obviously the norm. Curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask the bartender if they were security forces, because they seemed very young. He nonchalantly explained that in Israel it was legal to carry openly for protection. Obviously, one is going to think twice in engaging those two. The recent personal attacks in Israel were against unarmed Rabbis: one was gunned down and one was knifed. Would both have survived had they been armed? The Rabbi that was gunned down would not have been saved had he been armed because he was in his car. But maybe the latter would not have been attacked in daylight had he been packing. Israel is no stranger to unprovoked violence on its soil. Protection is not only reasonable but imperative. Israel is always brought up as an example of how a country should protect its citizens. Defense forces and law enforcement protect everywhere and everything. I can vouch for that because I was searched prior to entering a swanky mall in Jerusalem. Did I feel that my liberties were being infringed upon? Hardly. I was actually thankful that the country took the time and effort to protect me and my friends. Sometimes we might have to give up some libertarian comforts to stay safe. I am one who does not argue at airports when searched. I like the idea that someone is looking out for me. And that is the difference between Israelites and Americans. The former are ready to sacrifice “rights” for the right of staying alive. But Americans want their bread buttered on both sides. They demand security without intrusiveness. They want the guns but not the consequences. They want to control guns but have little clue on how to protect. How are they going to disarm the gangs, the drug dealers, the “bad guys”?
Like everyone else on the block, I have no answers either except perhaps by raising the age to 21 before applying for a gun. If a guy cannot buy a beer why should he be able to buy a gun? Ban assault weapons, and strongly urge those who already own them;to turn them in. If licenses were given legally, it should not be difficult to decipher who owns what. There must be a database of ownership somewhere. Compensate at face value, like a car. Then destroy the guns like the military does: run over them with a tank. We have disarmed the Taliban in Iraq why can’t we disarm Americans? Put in place stiffer penalties for possession and sales of assault weapons. Share the responsibility and the blame. If a kid has the ability to bring an arsenal to school; whoever provided him with that arsenal needs to share the blame on any carnage thereafter. Hollywood needs to be put on notice as well. If they go after violence in movies the same way they went after alleged sexual harassment, they could make a difference. They get paid to glorify vulgarity and over-the-top violence while insidiously demean religious affiliation as mental illness. Video games are also big business; gun violence in video games is off the chart. A teen or a young adult participates in a fantasy world where violence has no consequence: the game can be turned off and the next day the violence is repeated. Reality escapes most of the kids who take video-game vengeance a step further into real life.
I also strongly believe that the disintegration of the family has contributed to unprecedented youth violence in America. When a child is raised by television and video games, he or she can only relate to the fiction rather than the reality of life. Children are sheltered from the realities of life to compensate for absentee families. They are now unable to handle “unfairness” in life. Combine this with 24/7 social media and instant technology gratification; and we have a recipe for a clueless generation. Kids are drugged at an early age to excuse bad behavior and explain it away with convenient deficiencies. Years ago, bad behavior was punished, now we give it a pill. The line between reality and fantasy is so grey that it is almost non-existent. This generation of children cannot handle the simple disappointments in life. Why should a teen kill himself because his girlfriend left him? Why should a teen kill herself because she is bullied on social media? The lack of sensible parenting and responsibilities drive our children into the abyss of despair. In despair enough to gather assault weapons and shoot fellow students without remorse.
The country is floundering in political and ideological divisions that impair solutions and resolutions. I am sorry to say that America is no longer great. America has always been complicated but it has always managed to sort out differences for the good of the many. Unreasonable partisanship is destroying dialogue and the chance to find a solution to problems like gun proliferation. We must be serious in wanting to solve the gun problem. We must hold both sides responsible for allowing political agendas, deter discussions on guns at the expense of our dead children. Whichever way the wind blows your sails; we have to agree that the mass killings need to stop. We need to send a message to all politicians from the White House down; that we demand solutions.
Law enforcement must also be held accountable especially when a possible perpetrator is on their radar, and they chose to ignore all the signs that he might be a problem. If the FBI had acted on the Parkland’s school’s actions against the student, and taken his blatant rants on social media seriously; 17 people might still be alive today and we would not be having this conversation. However, the FBI like any government organization in recent years has become a bad caricature of itself and a law enforcement joke. But that is a story for another day. Final message to our politicians on both sides of the fence: don’t give us lip service any more. Do something. Anything; because as so eloquently put by Peter Finch in Network (1976): “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”