So today's a regular Thursday, after a regular Wednesday that was otherwise regular other than the fact that it was Valentine's Day, and in the blur of headline notifications that blip on my phone - and everyone else's phone - was the school shooting headline, arriving from a few different news outlets. Again. Another death headline. Too gruesome to think about, the day went on. Back home, my husband walked through the door, asked me if I saw the headline. Yes I did, and he announced that he wouldn't watch the news last night because our kids were up and around us. So. No details.
On this Thursday, I was in newsletter mode (we call it the NL), and I was bound to finish it today so that our team would be all clear tomorrow and not needing to slide through another Friday afternoon putting on finishing touches. But as I ate breakfast after taking my kids to school, and before going to the office, I found myself in one of those moments of silence when thoughts that you're keeping away refuse to stay away, and rush in. Suddenly I was mad. Had I just experienced numbness from children dying? I did! There have been too many shootings - of any kind - in our lives.
Legislation can clog systems. It can unnecessarily complicate something. But what continues to stupefy me is why it is harder to get a driver's license than it is to buy and use a gun over the years. Why is it more regulated to drive a car (no cell phones, no texting while driving, DUIs, etc.) than it is to buy and use a gun over the years? Why can a random person off the street (or a vengeful spouse or partner) call CPS to report a child issue, and CPS can come into your home and check your refrigerator and interview your children, yet it's easier to buy and use a gun over the years?
I'm pro-gun. Own a gun! Clean it! Hopefully you won't accidentally shoot yourself in the face, like my husband's grandfather - a war veteran - did! Hopefully you won't shoot yourself in despair, like my great-grandfather did! Hopefully you won't shoot yourself out of love-sickness or loneliness like my other great-grandfather - a hunter - did after his wife died! Hopefully you'll have fun with it - go hunting , shoot clay pigeons - heck, maybe you'll even make a potato gun. But why such little protection around it? Why is it harder to build a garage in our backyards because of local zoning laws that protect your neighbor's sightline or run-off or something, than it is to buy and use a gun over the years?
But heck. I was on deadline, so I needed to shake off the mood to get back into a happy place to keep doing my job. So I went jogging. I put on peppy music so that I could get back into NL writing mode - which requires excitement and a good mood. But then I got an email from a small-business friend, Jackie Berlowski in Parkland, FL, who decided to email her business newsletter for GreatHerGood about the situation. This is what she said, and this is when I cried at my desk:
"We are beyond shocked and saddened over the Parkland school shooting yesterday. We live in Parkland (about a block away from the school) and lot of our good friends live in Parkland as well. We know several teachers, coaches, and kids in the area especially our friend's kids that go to that school. With each hour that goes by we learn about someone else we know who has been affected.
"We heard helicopters and ambulances all afternoon into the night from my office. Luckily, our son Tyler goes to a different school down the street. However, other parents were not as lucky. I scrambled to pick up my kid along with every other parent. As I tried to get back into my development with Tyler safely in the car, I looked over and saw a couple sobbing by the side of the road, people looking frantically for their child, I saw people leaving their cars right where they were stopped, I saw the SWAT team flood the streets as the local police redirected the traffic, and I saw triage tents set up right on our corner. As my 6 year old son noticed the intensity of the situation, he got teary eyed and asked what happened. As a Mom and a human being, how do we keep explaining this to our kids?!
"I remembered this quote. It's an oldie but a goodie from Mr. Rogers... and it seemed to help. "Look for the helpers." Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.' It seemed to diminish the doom and gloom of a scary situation.
"I know people say this is not the time to discuss guns. Bullshit. Enough is enough! This is the exact time to discuss guns. How many people need to die to force our politicians to ignore the temptation of accepting gun lobbyist money and finally take action, create change and implement common sense and new gun control policies. Yesterday's tragedy hits WAY too close to home and it wasn't just that one day. It's this morning, it's tomorrow morning, it's in the weeks to come as families try to move forward. As helicopters were still hovering overhead for the 11pm news last night and continue to this morning (right outside our window), my husband and I struggle with how a young, troubled person can obtain a gun let alone an assault rifle.
"This is the 18th school shooting this year alone. It's only February. Are we getting numb to this?! These are real families just like yours that are impacted for the rest of their lives. This is where my son will go to middle and high school.
"To say I grabbed my son a little tighter yesterday and this morning is a massive understatement.
"Today my longtime friend from sleep-away camp is grieving because her fellow teacher, Scott, was shot protecting the kids in his class. Our good friend's daughter was in one of the classrooms as all of this occurred and is in shock today. It's just the beginning, we will hear more each hour with every text, every phone call and every update.
"We need to change this culture in America and I encourage everyone to spread the word that change is NEEDED and there is a better America out there for our children!"
- Jackie Berlowski
If you're a parent now, your kids go to Lock Down Drills. In those, students get trained to hide from a gunman. Do you remember doing tornado drills? Me too. That was the extent of our threats. Now, as parents, we get to think about how our kids are being trained - is it smart that they are being trained to hide in a closet? Should they be trained to go out a window? Is it disturbing that 5-year-olds and teachers are being trained to learn how to distract a gunman, or to throw things in his face in order to buy one more second of time?
It's too much burden to put on a teacher, to not only teach and help shape our kids, but to save their lives by sheltering them with their bodies. It's too much. God bless teachers. These heroes. All of the small people and big people angels in these events.
Police across the Hudson Valley are hosting learning sessions. Sergeant Phillip Roloson, of the Town of Lloyd (Ulster County) Police Department, held a workshop in October 2017 on what to do when an active shooter is in the building. His teachings contradicted some strategies in the public school. So who is right? Why do we need to think about this? Why do we need to live with this? Of course, it's always good to learn self defense.
A determined yet delusional person is always going to get their hands on what they want, but why make it so easy?
[EDIT 2/15/2018: When this article first published, an illustration was included showing how easy it was to buy a rifle online at Walmart. The rifle pictured with this article was a BB gun, so to not confuse the argument, the illustration has been removed.]
[EDIT 3/5/2018: Walmart pulled that rifle BB gun that a person in the Comments at Facebook questioned and brushed off as irrelevant after a company announcement was made on February 28, 2018 "Walmart Joins Dick's Sporting Goods In Tighter Limits On Gun Sales." Now that Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods thing it relevant, this online rifle purchase has been placed back into this article.]
Here is how easy it is (was) to purchase this pink rifle online at Walmart:
Look closely at the picture, and you'll see that the Walmart website is (was) asking for Y age. That's a typo. It didn't matter what was typed in. Age didn't matter. Insurance could also conventiently be purchased for one low price.
When a person uses their car to plow through people, at least we know that they didn't just buy the car from Walmart so easily. If a person gets into a stolen truck or bus, at least we know that people need licenses to drive the truck. Not that it would have prevented them from driving the truck, but at least we all know that it's not OK for untrained people to drive huge vehicles. There is at least that basic comfort. And like I said, the troubled person will still do what they do. But in many places, there's no such requirement for any would-be gun buyers.
Before typing this, I texted to Marilyn, who edits the Things To Do In Beacon Guides, letting her know that I was hugely distracted and trying to get in the mood. She suggested we write about being thankful for the close-knit community to connect with. And she's right. The major part of this problem is people's unhappiness. As parents, we need to listen to our kids, help them feel heard and respected and supported. Give them alone-time, but stay aware of what they are doing. Make sure they are tapped into what they are showing passions for. As a community, we need to be curious about people we don't know. We need to learn about their cultures and habits because they are different from ours. To stay healthy, we need each other, to support each other, so that the delusions of wanting to be a gunman don't surface.