We’re getting it wrong, tragically, terribly wrong

by cathrynbauer

2012-12-15 17.22.54

Darkness just seemed like the appropriate image for this post. 

The sight of kids getting off a school bus in my neighborhood and being whisked into parents’ cars just about brought tears to my eyes, certainly an uncomfortable prickle.  I can’t imagine the world they live in, truly.  I never liked school particularly, but from preschool up through my B.A. and court reporting school, the possibility of an intruder with a gun breaking into school was pretty much the furthest thing from my mind.  Kids played outdoors and knocked on doors to find someone to play with.  My next-door neighbor is wonderful about spending time with her two daughters outdoors and leading games with them.  But I do not know that I have ever seen those girls, who are I think about 7 and 10, on their own outdoors.  They are not allowed to go in the woods behind our houses.  I can’t imagine it.  My mother was famously paranoid, even regarded as such by other parents, yet it would not have occurred to her to impose the restrictions that are taken for granted by kids today.  What inventiveness, accomplishment, daring can there be in the world after these children grow up?  It’s like they’re living during wartime.

There is a lot of focus on guns right now, but despite the howls from the various opposing factions, that looks to me like the easier part of the problem.  We don’t need assault weapons, period.  I learned this AM that Lanza’s mother was, in fact, concerned about her son’s introversion and introduced him to weaponry in an attempt to draw him out.  She taught him to use the type of firearms that are used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons that she is believed to have obtained legally!  We need to ban those.  They’re for war zones.  And why isn’t there testing and licensing for firearms?   We require that for another potentially deadly weapon, the car, so why not for guns?

There were a lot of guns where I grew up.  Sacramento, California is surrounded by marshlands, and there was a lot of hunting.  There was also a fair amount of gun safety education in school.  My father’s hunting rifle was stored way out of reach, and there was lock on the case.  When my younger brother was at a stage of wanting a toy rifle, my parents unenthusiastically bought it for him.  But he couldn’t have it right away.  My father spent a fair amount of time training him to use it as if it were a real gun.  And it worked; for the brief period of time that it held his interest, I never saw him use it improperly.  To me, that’s the spirit that needs to be present if you’re going to be permissive about guns.  And it isn’t present.  We can’t take for granted that people will treat guns responsibly, the way that I saw growing up, not only at home, but at friends’ and neighbors’ houses.   If you want a gun, you should have to prove that you know how to store it and clean it and handle it safely.  Yes, you should have to pass a test, and you should be subject to having the thing impounded and other criminal penalties if you possess one without also having a license that says you are qualified to take care of it.

In my heart, I would love to see the repeal of the Second Amendment.  But I present the above as my solution because I do not believe that anything more strict is feasible in this country.  If guns were suddenly outlawed, there would be a huge black market and even fewer controls over weaponry than we have now.  America really needs to grow up and get over the fascination with guns.  I recall a conversation I once had with a California friend’s son, age seven at the time.  “I really like guns!” he announced to me.  “Really,” I replied.  “Guns kill people and animals.  Is that something you want to do?”  He was quiet, but I could see the wheels turning.  Too many people in this country never get past them.  They’re cool, they’re exciting, they’re loud, they’re masterpieces of engineering and physics.  Okay, but they kill people and animals.  We need not to forget.

But that’s even IMO the easy part.  Lanza was known to be troubled, and he made his peers uneasy.  Supposedly he never threatened violence, though.  It is hard to know where to draw the line between responsible intervention by authority and wrongful intrusiveness.  Columbine and Sandy Hook and all the rest of them are what happens when a society doesn’t have that figured out.

Onward, ever onward.   I wish I could believe there would be real change.