On Monday, I posted about an abandoned rifle
that I found in a foreclosed home. Yesterday, a friend commented to me that the post seemed inappropriate in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. "You could have, at least, provided some context and commentary to go along with that post," she said. "As it is, it looks like you're turning a blind eye to a national tragedy, and even tacitly supporting gun use. It just seems like bad taste."
She was right. My intention was never to ignore the gravity and heinousness of last Friday's crime in Connecticut. But I did. The barrage of mass shootings over the last two decades has desensitized many of us to these terrible events. Gun violence has become a regular part of life in America. According to the Center for Disease Control, 31 people are murdered with firearms ever day
, on average. Look at any news source for any period of time, and you'll hear about families being torn apart by gunpowder and bullets. I've seen it affect friends and their families. I've seen it happen in the street. I have not experienced a more frightening, helpless feeling than after seeing a flash and hearing the report, the screams, and the sirens. Lives change in an instant.
At the same time, I recognize that there is a long tradition of responsible gun ownership in this country. Ours is a nation built on expansion into the frontier, a nation of 40 acres and a mule, a nation that holds exploration, self-reliance, and individualism as core values. The Second Amendment is a treasured part of our national persona, and hunters have long been proponents of environmental responsibility. I do not foresee an America in which gun ownership is illegal. It's too ingrained in who we are.
Still, there must be a reasonable balance. The NRA has suggested that armed guards be placed in all of our schools
. There are nearly 100,000 schools in the U.S
. If we assume that the average salary, benefits package, and equipment for a police officer is at least $75,000
, we're looking at adding a minimum of $7.5 billion in expenses to our cash-strapped educational system.
Placing armed guards in all of our schools (and, by extension of this logic, our movie theaters, workplaces, churches...) is a reactive measure. If we want to get to the core of the problem, however, we need to take a holistic preventive approach. Early-childhood education and nutrition, poverty eradication, readily available mental-health services, and greater accountability with our weapons would be a start. That's easier said than done, of course. Monied interests and divergent political viewpoints complicate progress.
Guns are a part of our country. At the same time, our reverence of guns is out of control. This much is obvious. But when our judgement is clouded by a spate of terrible events, sometimes we need to be told the obvious explicitly. The time for honest, open dialogue is now.
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