A few weeks ago, Bob Costas went on television during Sunday Night Football and talked about the perils of gun violence. In the wake of the murder-suicide by some guy who I had never heard of who played professional football for the Kansas City Chiefs, Costas took advantage of his nationally televised air time and spoke of the need for change to the gun culture. We’ll talk about how we’ll learn from this tragedy, Costas said, until the next tragedy comes along.
Costas was figuratively blasted for his comments, in the immediate aftermath of them. I know because I thought to myself, I wonder how THAT’s going to fly, and spent the next 20 minutes refreshing Twitter under the hashtag #SNF. Shut up, stick to football, who let this liberal on the air, stick to what you know, on and on and much more colorful.
Over the next few days Costas backed down, nearly apologized for what he said. He’d pissed off gun owners. God forbid you do that.
When someone on the facepage updated on Friday, Dec. 14 that there had been a school shooting, I thought, “AGAIN?” It was probably another 30 or 40 minutes before I even turned the television on to see what they were talking about. That was when the number of dead children was 18. EIGHTEEN. Children. Within the hour it had been upped to 20.
I cried. I shook. I gasped. I texted my husband who told me to go for a walk. I did. With my smart phone. So the updates continued. I walked for two hours. In the end I stopped at my son’s school to pick him up. Jim came home early, as he was already planning, but I suspect he wanted to see the boys as quickly as possible as well. And many of us standing outside that school all but assaulted our children with hugs and kisses as they emerged safe and sound at the end of the day.
Jim can tell you that I have always been a little bit of a nervous mother. I can be irrationally snappy if I am not 100 percent sure where he is at any given moment when he has the children with him. That emotion itself has always been enough for me to be, if possible, overly empathetic to tragedies with children. Everyone is saddened when a child is hurt or killed. But I have always had a terrible habit of putting myself in the position of that family.
The thing is, like Bob Costas said, I would think about it, then eventually, the next one would come along.
But what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is so much different. So much worse. So much more than just empathy. I hurt. My heart hurts. My head hurts. My body hurts.
I think that part of the hurt stems from the connection I have with every last parent who lost a child that day, which is, my baby came into the world at the same time their babies did. All of those children were born in late 2005 or up until the summer of 2006. My youngest son was born in April of 2006. I was pregnant at the exact same time as all of those mothers. I am the mother of a first grader. I know exactly how small they are, exactly how you have to practically wrap your arms around them twice to hug them. I know that they are “big kids” but you can still pick them up. They still need boosters in the car. They cannot pronounce words. They cannot quite reach the counter. They cannot for any reason brush their hair or manage to keep the toothpaste in their mouths, yet they have advanced skills on video games. They’re learning to read. You can finally read their handwriting. They fall down and jump up and yell “I’m okay!!”
These children aren’t just the children of Connecticut. They are my kids. They are your kids. They are the kids next door.
Bob Costas tried to talk about the need to do something about gun violence, and was stopped cold for some inexplicable reason. Can we please freaking talk about it now.
Look, I know this is a layered problem. Everyone has spoken about mental health issues and access to services and care, and those are certainly part of the overall issue. But the fact of the matter is, when people continue to blow people away with weapons capable of firing off hundreds of rounds per minute, I don’t care if they all wear tin foil hats and chew on lithium like it’s candy and talk to Zeus while wondering how they got pregnant with the king’s heir. Guns are still a part of the god damn problem. And they are the part that we have the MOST control over.
Yes, there’s the Second Amendment. And yes, the Supreme Court has continually upheld that while the language of the Second Amendment does not specifically allow for personal use of guns, the spirit of the amendment is just so and thus, civilian ownership of guns is legal. And I’ll be clear, I am NOT at all opposed to personal gun ownership. I think that protection of your person, your family, your home, those are legitimate reasons to own a gun. I think hunting is a legitimate reason to own a gun. But I have heard a lot about sport shooting. Why is shooting bottles and steel plates a sport? And why in the world does someone need a clip with 100 bullets in it to do that?
A lot of people have talked about assault weapons, and that word is confusing. It is my understanding — and I acknowledge I may be wrong — that the main components that classify something as an assault weapon is that it is automatic (can fire off continually with one squeeze of the trigger) or semi-automatic (reload on their own but you have to pull the trigger each time you want to fire), and they can hold more than ten rounds.
Sweet freaking mercy, why in the world does anyone need more than ten rounds?
We’ve all heard that story about the granny in Texas who is sitting at home when some scoundrel breaks into her house, and she protects herself with a revolver or a shotgun that her long-dead fourth ex-husband left under the bed when he moved out. But the thing about granny is, when she stops that guy, she ALWAYS does it with one shot. And she almost never kills him. She takes out a knee and stands over him yelling obscenities while the cops come, ensures him that she will shame him in front of the junior women’s club and Jesus and his Mama and gets him to cry about how sorry he is, maybe confess to a few other crimes in the process. But it’s one gun. And one shot. If you need more than ten shots to hit your target, you are a terrible marksman and should give up firing a gun immediately because you are only going to hit the wrong thing. Or be disarmed. Which is worse.
I have yet to hear a legitimate reason why assault weapons should be legal, especially in the wake of what happened here. I have heard the argument that cars can kill, what about that? Well what the hell about that? How about we make an agreement, that as soon as cars are used in mass killings in shopping malls and schools, we go ahead and ban those too. One of the strongest arguments people make is “but I am responsible.” I think it’s clear that the shooter’s mother likely thought the same thing.
Tactical shooting is not a legitimate reason to keep assault rifles around. Because there’s no legitimate reason to engage in military style combat drills and competitions which sharpen up your skills on how to commit mass murder unless you ultimately hope to commit mass murder. No one shoots an intruder from 100 yards away. That’s not self defense, that’s being a sniper. There’s literally no need to have that skill. And practicing something over and over that essentially proves you capable of exploding someone’s head while they are in a moving vehicle while you are three blocks away, well, that’s not a hobby. That’s a dream that you can be as awesome and snazzy as Lee Harvey Oswald. Congrats. What an accomplishment.
Gun advocates have argued that it’s too soon to talk about this. Come again? The time to NOT talk about tragedies involving guns is in the midst of cleaning up a bullet riddled school, and burying the bodies of bullet-riddled children? THIS is not the time? When the hell is the time?
This massacre has made me nervous as all hell to parent my children. If I hug them any harder they might start swinging. If I continue to cry when they leave for school, they are going to develop a complex. I am afraid to discipline them, because I am terrified that the last memory of me will be that of crabby, yelling Mom. Tonight, in the car, they were engaged in a spirited game of “how far does YOUR neck stretch?” On the interstate. You know what, that’s something to holler about. But I felt immediate guilt as soon as I did it. There are 20 sets of parents in Connecticut who never get to sit in a car with their children ever again.
I am going to go upstairs now. I am going to hug my 10-year-old. I am going to hug my 6-year-old. I am going to pat my husband on the head because let’s face it he kind of farts when he sleeps and I don’t want to squeeze that.
But for those of you who kiss your assault weapon goodnight, shame on you. Shame on you that the right to play with military weaponry has so trumped the rights of others, that owning that weapon is protected, while the 20 kids next door lie cold and dead.