Mission Impossible

It was never my intention to write something political.  I was on Facebook this morning and saw a posting about the murders that occurred in Isla Vista, CA and went to the link posted.  As I read the report I became filled with a sense of overwhelming sadness for the parents of these students… and then the sadness turned to panic, and fear and rage.  I have two daughters that are the ages of these young people.  My oldest is living in Hawaii and my youngest is living with me in California. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of them and say a pray for their safety.  Most days it is just a cursory thought, and whenever my youngest leaves the house I habitually say, “Be safe.”  They are making their way in this world and I am an observer of their journey.  My dream for them is that they live productive, happy, full lives.  It is every parents wish for their children.  I do not imagine that when my children are out making their way there is danger lurking because it is too painful to consider, but I know it is there.  I cannot even begin to imagine the horror, the pain, the extreme anguish of losing one of my children.  It is with those thoughts that this rambling came together.

 What are we doing?  Where have we gone so wrong?  When do our rights as individuals become so important that these rights infringe on the rights of others?  Their right to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  STOP right there.  I am a firm believer in the 2nd amendment but I believe that we should strive for a reasonable balance between what the Gun Rights Advocates and the Gun Control Advocates are pushing and demanding.  Both sides are so intent, so myopic, so stubborn about their views that they are unwilling or unable to step back, take a breath, open their minds and come to some reasonable, workable solution. I’m so sick of hearing the rhetoric, the melodramatic comments and words said only to insult and belittle those with differing views.  I know that both sides of this debate can quote statistics, can share stories that support their views, they can assert their right to demand what they feel is best for them… but is it really in the best interest of ALL concerned?

 There can be reasonable solutions.  I don’t necessarily know what those solutions are, but I do know that like parenting, a little trial and error is required.  Try something, if it works then go with it; if it doesn’t work, change it, try again.   But for the love of life, please TRY.  Try to extend yourself, try to think outside your backyard, try to imagine what your views would be if you were on the receiving end of the call from the sheriff’s department, informing you that your child had been gunned down by a previously law abiding citizen with an axe to grind.  Maybe your views would be the same, maybe not.  But the point is to consider, just consider, how the other side thinks and feels.  You don’t need to agree with them… just try to UNDERSTAND.  I am trying to understand why folks believe it is okay for everyone to own a gun.  Honestly, I am trying. I am reading stories on the internet, I am looking at statistics, I am personally asking gun owners what their views are.  I’m finding that gun ownership is a lot like religion…. lots of different views, some reasonable folks and some nut jobs.

Here’s what I know based on research:

*Between 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings and 1/3 of these victims were under the age of 25.

*States that have higher number of guns have a higher number of unintentional gun injuries and deaths.  For kids ages 5 to 14, the mortality rate is 14 times higher in high gun ownership States and for infants and toddlers, ages 0 to 4, the mortality rate is 17 times higher.

*Statistics prove that States with more guns have elevated rates of firearm homicide, and this is after controlling for poverty and urbanization.

*Homes where guns are kept are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide attempts.

*For every ONE time guns where used in the home in a legally justifiable shooting or self-defense there were 4 unintentional shootings, 7 criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 suicide attempts.

*A federal government study showed that 8% of unintentional shootings were caused by children under the age of six.  1,300 victims were under the age of 25.

*33% of U.S. households own a gun.  Under half of these homes lock their guns up safely and 40% of the folks who do not lock up their guns safely have children under the age of 18 living at home.

*The prevalence of firearms and questionable storage practices (for example, firearms that are kept loaded and unlocked) are associated with higher rates of unintentional firearm deaths.

 These are facts… not rhetoric.  Does this mean that I believe guns should be illegal?  NO, not at all, but I do believe that we can come up with some reasonable solutions to the epidemic of gun violence.  There are Federal gun laws and there are individual State gun laws.  Maybe the first solution would be to unify the laws and then actually uphold them.

 In the case of Elliott Rodgers, someone being treated by several psychiatrists, and doctors, whose parents stated he had Asperger’s Syndrome, we find a man that was legally able to own firearms.  Three, 9mm semi-automatic handguns, and almost 400 rounds of ammunition; all purchased legally and all registered to him. I find something extremely wrong with that picture.

 My friend Jake struggled with depression and anger.  He made an ill stated, stupid comment to a company he was frustrated with and temporarily had his firearms removed from his possession.  He was charged with making a terrorist threat for stating, “Damn, I could just kill you guys.”  His intention wasn’t to kill anyone… He was frustrated and made an ignorant comment.  20 years ago that comment was common… after 9/11 we started reacting differently to those words.   Jake eventually took his life with a 9mm handgun.  Untreated depression and anxiety pushed him to the edge.  Would he have taken his life if he hadn’t had access to the gun?  Most likely.

 So then, what is my question? Are handguns the problem or are people the problem?  I would have to say the answer is YES.  However there is a solution, we are just too tied up in our own self-righteousness and fear to work together, to come together, and create a reasonable, bipartisan solution.  This is really what makes me sad, and makes me fearful for my children and for future generations of children.

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