When does the merry-go-round stop?

By Story of America Team

Steve Heminger and his sonI am a retired teacher and the mass shooting in Newtown CT today hit me very hard. My prior career was as a Navy Aircrewman and at times while a taught I felt I was safer in the air than in a school.

I had a hard time watching the news reports and finally I had to turn off the TV. I hugged my 14 year old son today when he came home from school and I watched him as he did his homework and I wondered how the 20 some families were coping. I felt guilty for feeling relieved that it wasn’t someone I loved today, but I also felt a bit apprehensive realizing that for the Grace of God go I and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

That said, I’m determined to look for a way to prevent a parent or child to lose a family member in the fashion those in Newtown did today. We’re America, we’re better than that or so we would like to think. But once again reality slaps us in the face.

I was hit, while I watched the TV, with the fact that the announcers were saying the same things they had when reporting each incident since Columbine. When are we as a nation going to finally stop using the Second Amendment for political gain? When are we as a nation going to realize that we are allowing the innocent to pay the price for our inability to work together as a nation to solve this problem.

I’ve come to realize that the answer to this “sickness” we face is not black and white. I don’t believe there is a dark and evil conspiracy to take all the guns from the citizenry, I firmly belief it wouldn’t work and I hope my Government is wise enough to see this. Nor do I think this is caused by our society turning away from God and taking him out of the schools. I found it very easy to sit silently for a few minutes and pray prior to eating. No big fanfare, just me thanking my maker for the bounties he has given me. I’ve come to realize that all these things serve as a smokescreen and block us from doing anything.

No one person is wise enough to solve the problem and we as a whole will have to stop demanding our rights to the exclusion of the rights of others. It will mean that no one will be totally happy with the outcome, but then fewer will die because we couldn’t solve the problem at hand. In my life I have been what could be described as a Conservative and as a Liberal. That’s okay by me because I know why I felt the way I did then and now. Today, I want to be described as an American, proud of what we stand for and I admit there are days when I’m not too proud.

Many say your right to own a gun should end before the bullet you shoot kills another human being. I’m guilty of stating this, but I changed somewhat in my view. To just take the guns out of the hands of the sick or evil and not let them own them is not the quick and easy answer. I’ve come to think the answer is much deeper and began many years ago.

For me, a portion of the answer has it’s roots in the 70’s when the mental health care system was gutted. Soon after they were released many ended up in the penal system and did not become a threat to our society. Many became homeless and some were taken in by family.

What does this have to do with mass murders and gun control? We currently don’t have a way to predict when and if a person will execute a heinous crime on the innocent, but then we currently don’t have annual Mental Health check ups like we do for our physical condition. We also have a society enforced bias against all those who have a mental problem and sadly this includes those who suffer PTSD.

I’ve come to realize that we must not just address the issue of guns, but we have to also face the fact that there are those who should not be allowed to own or use guns despite their Constitutionally granted rights. In many cases the very ones who can not get the mental health care they need. Because of this we are forced to continuous episodes our country experienced today. Because of the bias, family members are afraid or ashamed to speak out before it’s too late. Today’s incident is not completely known, but we do know that the killer is responsible for the death of his Mother and one can assume that she knew and was afraid for whatever reason to take the needed steps to make sure her son got the help he needed. Because of this, she and many others paid the price for our disjointed mental health care system.

I don’t profess to know how we can accomplish this feat, but I know that when America in the past was in a position that called for “out of the box” thinking we came together and found a solution.

Plus the argument that since we can’t stop all the killings it’s useless to try; guns don’t kill people, people do; knives can kill too; or it’s my right and “you will have to pry my gun from my cold, stiff hands” does not and will not solve our problem.

Every life we save is precious, as precious as those who died today. To continue on as “Business as Usual” is an insult to the memory of those killed and salt in the wound for those who survived. We need to mourn the loss, but we also need to begin to take steps to stop the violence. So I say mourn today, mourn tomorrow, but start today to find a way to stop the killing so tomorrow no parent need fear the phone ringing.

In today’s society we have become too individualistic in our views. I’ve got “mine” and I”m going to make sure you don’t get mine and if possible I’ll get some of yours if you are not careful. We as a nation have to break this trend or we will cease to exist as a nation in the future.