In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, there were many questions asked. And although the questions grow fewer and more silent with each passing day, one answer keeps growing louder. We need more guns. We need guns in our schools. We need them on our hips. We need them in our homes.
To be fair, I’ll state up front that I’ve never owned a gun. I don’t hunt. And as far as protection goes, I’m not one who believes that our government wants to disarm and take over its citizens, and even if they did, I’m not sure how well citizens armed with handguns and semi-automatic weapons would hold up against tanks and nukes. The US government is well armed. If it gets to that point, I’m willing to wave my white flag. Home invasions, yes, there are home invasions. But I’ve been blessed to live in neighborhoods over my first 49 years where they just don’t happen. I do realize others are not as blessed. They are trapped in neighborhoods where gun violence is an epidemic. They, ironically, wish guns would go away.
Is it possible gun violence could one day come to my neighborhood, to my house, I suppose so. But the “possibility” a gun might provide me protection is not worth as much to me as the “certainty” that one of my boys exercising the curiosity of a boy won’t use the same gun to accidentally shoot themselves or someone else.
But that is just me. Those are my thoughts on me owning a gun. My thoughts on you owning a gun are this: if you want to own a gun, or feel the need to own a gun to protect your family, you should have every right to do so. There. I said it.
However, I’ve also got to say this. When a young kid uses guns to steal the lives of children, it is not irrational to ask about our gun laws in this country. I’m afraid, to me, the answer isn’t as simple as “guns don’t kill people – people do.” Call me stubborn, or maybe something stronger, but I won’t buy that 11,000 gun murders a year have nothing to do with guns. And please don’t go all cars with drunk driver on me. I still fail to see the comparison.
More frightening to me than the simplistic “guns don’t kill” argument, though, is the official NRA response to the Sandy Hook shooting that included this belief: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And there you have it - today’s America. No middle ground. In the response to a mass shooting utilizing guns, one side can’t say soon enough, even before the next of kin have been notified, that the answer to the problem is less guns. The other side is more thoughtful before saying, no, we need more guns. The only casualty in this tragedy greater than the suggestion that there might be middle ground is dead elementary school children.
We seem to love little more these days in America than to disagree, which is sad. Especially in this case, when there are deeper issues and likely more productive solutions than good and bad guys with guns. It’s possible the answer might not be guns at all, but it’s becoming clearer every day we’re going to spend our time talking about just that.
One of the questions I’ve asked myself in the aftermath of this tragedy is why I’ve never shot my way through the secured doors of a school building and spilled the blood of innocent children alongside the blood of my own troubled life. That question is only as nonsensical as your belief that some humans are born to slaughter children and some are born to love them. I don’t happen to believe that very strongly.
What I do believe is Sandy Hook caught our attention for two reasons. One: dead elementary school children. Two: it seemed like the perfect ending to a grossly violent movie, only it looked too much like the real-life scenes we’ve seen over and over lately, so the possibility exists that the movie has only just begun. And we have no idea when it might end.
I know when the violence ended in my life. It ended before it ever began. I thank God that I had something in my life growing up that so many young boys don’t have. I had a father. We live in a society that somehow understands that if a young man is going to be a good basketball player, he has to be taught to play by someone who knows how to play basketball. A future musician has to learn from a musician. An artist from an artist. But in spite of that understanding, we continue to believe that our boys can learn to be men without being around a man.
On Father’s Day in 2008, President Obama spoke the following words to the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago:
Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.
Boy, how I wish we could have a national discussion about those words alone.
I wish the statistics of fatherless children could be included in the tally of guns and shootings. The ones that indicate how much more likely it is for a boy without an active father in their life to drop out of school, end up in a life of poverty and go to prison. The problem is we’re so sensitive now to discussions about what a “family” is, and to the many single moms out there who are doing a great job raising their sons and daughters, that we are hesitant to address the undeniable consequences of the 45-50% of the children in this country living without their father. And to do so is to fail to address the most likely cure to the culture of violence in this country.
Don’t get me wrong.
I believe if we tightened gun laws, it would help, but I don’t believe it would end the violence.
If we limited the kind of violence in our movies and on our television to the kind of violence that wouldn’t disturb us if it happened to our own children or families, it would help, but I don’t believe it would end the violence.
If we sent our kids outside to ride bikes and climb trees instead of shooting their lives away in the video game world, it would help, but I don’t believe it would end the violence.
But I do believe this stronger than any of the possibilities above. If every man in this country rallied around one right, the right of every boy to have a father or father figure in his life, we would be closer than we’ve ever been to saying never again to Sandy Hook – and being right.