If you’re over the age of 40, you didn’t grow up with school shootings. Mass shootings were something that happened once or twice in the past, and became sort of a grim urban legend. A case in point, the 1984 San Diego shooting, that occured in the neighborhood of San Ysidro. Where 41-year-old James Huberty killed 21 people and wounded 19 others. For just over an hour, Huberty fired hiz 9mm Uzi machinepistol, two shotguns, and a 9mm pistol with impunity. He would eventually be shot and killed by a SWAT sniper, bringing an end to a reign of terror that still haunts survivors to this day. I remember this event, I was 8 years old. I also remember the fear that it invoked in my parents and their peers. For the first time in my young life, we were afraid to go places. These things simply did not happen. Not in America. What a different time it was.
I’ve taken just a week off from my writing duties here at The Post. I had hoped for my next piece to be something funny, or maybe even inspiring. Yet, here I sit. The early dawn of a Saturday morning, and another American High School is stained with blood. More dead teenagers and teachers, more shattered lives.
The progressives, no doubt, are already calling for gun control, or laying blame at the feet of Mr. Trump. Hell, the other day I heard a woman saying that “gun owners should be rounded up and thrown into prison.” I find this rhetoric not only alarming, it’s insulting. I happen to be a gun owner. I have been a gun owner since I was old enough to vote.
And while so many people move to demonize the object, the gun. They completely overlook the common factors in every one of these cases. Mental illness, blatantly ignored warning signs, and in my opinion, bad parenting.
I won’t delve into conspiracy theories. That’s not my field. I have to approach situations like this from a rational stand point. Especially considering the sensitive nature of the topic. It’s grim. Pardon my French, but I’m fucking depressed writing about this. And beyond tired of reading about it in the headlines.
Believe me, I wish we lived in a fantasy utopia where people saw no need to kill one another. I wish the rifle was merely a tool that put food on the table, or put down the occasional marauding bear. But that’s not the case in our times. And as easy as it would be to put the blame on the object alone, it’s never that simple. Because when one is dedicated to the act of violence, the tools are never out of reach. Be it from theft, or other nefarious means, criminals will arm themselves.
Consider last year’s shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. When 26 year old gunman Devin Patrick Kelley shot and killed 26 people. Kelley (a former Airman) had been court-martialed in 2012 on two charges of assaulting his wife and their child. He was jailed for a year, and given a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force in 2014. Yet, he was still somehow able to legally purchase the very rifle that he went on to take so many lives with. So, in a situation like this, where do we place the blame? I would also like to mention, that he was eventually stopped by a law abiding citizen, armed with an AR-15. An inconvenient fact to those who would again demonize the object, but a fact none the less.
I have friends who suffer from mental illness. I surely would not want them to have access to a firearm. As much as it may shock some of my more progressive peers. I do believe in common sense gun control. Simply put, the mentally ill should not have firearms, in any capacity, ever. Yet they still seem to find their way into their hands.
Consider Columbine. Two obviously disturbed young men. Eric Harris, whom was taking medication for anger issues and depression. And Dylan Klebold, who had a known history of depression and self harm. Despite several ominous online threats, and run-ins with the law. Both of these young men plotted and armed themselves, right under their parent’s noses, for nearly an entire year. Multiple warning signs. And a very open history of mental health issues. Yet somehow this tragedy still happened.
Sandy Hook: 20 year old Adam Lanza, murders his mother in their home, with a bolt action .22 rifle. Then goes on to kill 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with his Mother’s Bushmaster XM15. Again, how was this disturbed young man able to obtain a firearm? Where do we lay the blame? With the object, or with an owner, who clearly should have known better?
Or the 2017 shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise. Where 66 year old James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on a baseball game, with an SKS. A radical leftist, distraut over the election of President Trump. Hodgkinson was known to law enforcement. And for his unhinged social media posts. He had even threatened a neighbor in the past with a firearm. So again, what was Hodgkinson doing with an SKS? And why were so many blatant warning signs ignored, yet again?
There are measures, and systems already in place. It would seem, they’re failing. I have no problem submitting to a background check. I collect antique firearms. I’ve purchased firearms online many times, and had them transfered over long distances. All legal, all by the book. Phone calls, faxes, Serial Numbers, 4473 forms, NICS background checks. Even with all these protocols in place, men like Devin Kelley, Adam Lanza, and James Hodgkinson still found a way to arm themselves. Some seem to just walk right through the cracks of Federal firearms legislation, just as easily as they slip through the cracks in the FBI’s investigations on potential threats to publicly safety.
I believe that’s where the genuine reform needs to begin. The system is obviously broken. Banning the mere object will have no real impact, other than pissing off law-abiding tax payers. Love or hate the gun, it’s not going anywhere. It is, sadly, very much part of who we are as a people. It’s why we’re a nation. And we live in a changing world. A “New Old West” as I call it. The gun has become as common as the smart phone. More civilians carry now, than in previous decades. Why? Because of the rise in crime rates. And although crime rates have dropped as a whole, assaults and break-ins in suburban, and rural areas have become much more common. A side effect of the opioid epidemic. Simply put, more people are carrying. Especially young women.
People like their security. Not all of us have the luxury of gated communities, and private security forces. Yet those that do, seem to always be the first to lecture the working class. I’m tired of hearing it. And I’m tired of being made to feel like a criminal. We need reform, and we need solutions. If that means putting four cops in every school, do it. The NICS system needs to be updated and revamped. How any of these people could have slipped through the standard FFL call to the NICS system, is infuriating. You wan’t to talk about gun control? Well there’s your start. Fix the broken systems that you already dump your taxes into yearly.
I think the saddest aspects to many of these cases, are how easily some of them could have been avoided. Had many of these weapons been stored in a proper safe, access would have been much harder. If not impossible. It’s not difficult to secure a firearm. That’s gun ownership 101. It’s also not hard to see warning signs. Yet they are overlooked again and again. By teachers, parents, and law enforcement. So again, where do we put the blame?
Because as a law-abiding man, and gun owner, I’m tired of that blame being thrown at my feet. As a parent, and a human being, I also want change. I want this madness to end. We need armed, well-trained guards in our schools. It’s yet another sad aspect of life in the 21st Century. We no longer have the luxury of our false sense of security. The “terror” that we so often speak of, is no longer hiding behind the filter of the TV screen. It’s in the schoolyards and the theaters. It’s no longer the fanatic despot, sitting in some forgotten desert. It’s the kid next door, it’s your coworker.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t even claim to have any. We can argue politics, and gun control until we’re blue in the face. At the end of the day, we need to take a cold, hard look at the facts. We all need to start talking, and we need to start asking a lot more questions.