Guns. If You Are Still Reading ...
I just needed to get that out there, in case you’re one of those who hears the word and automatically turns the page. If you think everyone who owns one is the spawn of Satan, go ahead, turn the page. And if you think anyone who can actually pronounce the word “control” is a worthless, bleeding heart nutcase, go ahead, turn the page.
For the rest of you, could we have a conversation?
If so, we will at least be ahead of the Florida state legislature who voted overwhelmingly this week not even to allow a conversation. Not even a conversation – because you know how dangerous it is for grown adults, elected to serve the common good, to have conversations. That courageous and visionary decision was made as the rest of the world was being inspired by the young people from Parkland, who had just survived the latest round of our homegrown, signature terror.
Heart-broken, outraged, chests pounding in breathless fear from their lucky or fateful escape, the sound of that brutal, battlefield machine still ringing in their ears, these students spoke with eloquence and power. And one teenager’s protest sign spoke for all: “Why are we being the adults?”
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not mental illness.
Recently, mental health experts have been borrowing the phrase, shouted repeatedly at one of those high school rallies: “We call BS on this!” Studies show that only a small minority of mentally ill patients are violent. While many of our now-infamous mass killers were undoubtedly distressed, depressed, unstable, unhinged, most were not actually “mentally ill” when they started shooting.
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not a failure of protocol.
Yes, the FBI admitted they missed some signals, but the local authorities had already visited that teenager multiple times, and he still became a crazed gunman. Yes, on a YouTube post he claimed, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” but the first amendment is as constitutional as the second. Are we really going to arrest everyone who says something stupid on social media?
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not about background checks or assault weapons bans.
Yes, it hardly seems unreasonable to do a simple background check on anyone who buys any kind of gun, anywhere, anytime. It only makes sense to improve that system. One would think it would be at least as difficult to buy a military-grade weapon as a handgun – but the opposite is the case. Some avid gun owners even agree that if you want an AR15, you ought to “sign up and serve your country” – but even with a complete ban on assault weapons, anyone who wants one badly enough will find a way.
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: surely we cannot believe that arming our teachers is the answer.
Yes, if every teacher in Parkland had owned a gun, Nikolas Cruz might be dead today – but he would not be the only one. If a crazed gunman knows teachers are armed, you can imagine who has the first target on her head when he starts unloading a magazine in her classroom. I heard an “expert” say recently that the most important thing we can do is concentrate on the first five minutes AFTER the gunman starts killing our kids. Really? Are we that powerless? Are we that ready to admit defeat, to concede that the best thing we can do is kill the lunatic before he kills too many of our children?
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults.
After so many of these tragedies it ought to be obvious that the problem we have is not a mental health problem, not a gun control problem, not a policy problem, not a response problem. But if we are talking like adults, we owe it to ourselves to be honest: we just have too many guns.
So, please, don’t just turn the page.
I didn’t say I don’t believe in the Second Amendment. I didn’t say you can’t own a gun. I didn’t say policies aren’t necessary. I didn’t say I hate the police or the military. I didn’t say laws aren’t important or can’t make some difference. I just said when there are 300 million guns in the country, anyone who wants a gun, of any kind, to be owned for any reason, will have one – no matter who they are, no matter the laws, no matter our preparedness for response.
Until we can admit the obvious, nothing will change. But when we have the courage to admit the obvious, adults acting like adults will be able to have a conversation about what we can do to let reasonable people own reasonable guns for reasons that make sense. That conversation will allow us to slowly change the mentality of violence, that has always only led to more violence. Until we can be honest, and act like the adults our kids need us to be, there will be no end to our madness. We’ll just have more…
(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He co-pastors Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte with his wife, Rev. Amy Dean, a native of Clinton and also a graduate of CHS.)