Like many Americans, I'm devastated by the murder of twenty children, and six adults at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut yesterday.
Like others, for years now, I have been calling for stricter gun control legislation. Understood that Connecticut already has tight restrictions on firearms, but what happened yesterday was just another in a long series of examples of why states alone can't be allowed to make decisions on this issue. There needs to be federal gun control legislation.
Yesterday, I posted a comment to a social media site expressing my profound sorrow, and outrage that an event like the mass murder at a public school should happen yet again. . A commenter wrote: "This is not a gun control issue. It is a mental health issue." Right, guns don't kill people; mentally ill people do. This is simply a more sophisticated gun apologist argument.
Try telling a youngster in East Oakland, Chicago, or Compton who has just watched his brother get blown away by a handgun by a rival gang member that guns don't kill, mentally ill people do...
Try telling that to parents, and youngsters alike in the suburbs, in Florida, in Detroit, in a coffee shop, in a bar. According to the Violence Policy Center, more than 30,000 people a year die as a result of gun violence.
And, according to the Washington Post, the U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other country in the industrialized world.
I'm tired of hearing excuses about why mass murderers commit these heinous crimes, that they suffer from this mental illness, etc. Over the past 30 years, we've seen several horrific mass murders in Aurora, Virginia Tech, and elsewhere, but every day in every city of every state in this country, someone is faced with the prospect of being the victim of a loaded gun.
While the focus is on these beautiful young kindergarten children from a white middle class suburb in New England, it is just as devastating when we lose African-American, and Latino youngsters in working class neighborhoods all over America. And, sadly, this happens every day.
Shootings are routinely reported on local evening news. Citizens of this country have become so accustomed to hearing about people getting shot, and killed every day in some squabble or other that they mentally reach for the mute button.
And, no, Martha. This is not a mental health issue. This is a gun control issue, and a social health issue. First, we need to make guns less readily available, less convenient, and less opportune, and then, as a nation, we need to have a conversation not just about violence, but about our collective anger management issue, an anger management issue that has led to eleven years of non-stop warfare, and a sociopathic addiction to military assault rifles, drones, and other weapons of mass destruction.
This isn't about personal mental health issues, but societal mental health. Even if it were possible to wave a wand and make each and every individual in this country magically sane, we would still have a problem with gun violence. Violence is deeply embedded in our collective consciousness, whether it be instant results achieved from a firearm, or immediate impact of bombs, and remote-controlled killing machines.
So, please, stop trying to personalize this. Stop looking for this or that psychiatric disorder to explain a problem that belongs in the public domain. Stop trying to find new and ingenious ways to not blame firearms. Stop thinking because a state has sane gun control laws, that's all we need.
No, we need federal legislation to regulate firearm sales and use. At a minimum, we need to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. We need to stop sales of firearms on the Internet and at gun shows, and most of all, we need to recognize that this is about our national mental health, and not that of a lone gunman.