A year ago tomorrow I was driving home from a lunch with two old friends in Milwaukee. Mary Tyler Son was giggling in the back seat and I called my husband to let him know when we would be back in Chicago. He was audibly distraught and asked if I had heard the news about the latest school shooting. I hadn't.
I waited until my boy fell asleep and then I turned on the radio. It didn't take long for me to start crying. I didn't have to see any footage of desperate parents or scared children. Just the idea of what had happened a few short hours earlier was enough to cue my tears.
For a few days there, my little corner of the Internet sobered up. We empathized when we picked up our children from school that day. We collectively strategized about how to discuss a school shooting with little ones. We confided in one another about our fears and our vulnerabilities. And then, well, life went on.
Except for a lot of families in Newtown, Connecticut, life has not gone on as before. Their lives are forever changed after losing someone they love, twenty of them children, to gun violence. Their lives are a shadow of what they were before that December day. Those families have forever lost their innocence.
One of the details that has stuck with me is hearing from parents of slain children what it was like to have the clothes that their child was wearing the day of the shooting returned to them. The clothes tell the story of what really happened in those classrooms. They have holes that shouldn't be there and are covered in blood that shouldn't be there.
The clothes tell the truth of what guns do and how they kill.
Something changed for me that day last December. I spoke up about guns. As a blogger, guns are sort of like religion and politics -- they are taboo. They provoke too much intensity on the Internet to create discussion. Instead, when you mention guns in your blogs, people tell you you're an idiot and threaten to teach you about why you should own a gun in the first place. They talk about knowing your address and how many kids you have.
It's scary, to be honest.
But enough is enough. Something needs to change.
You can argue that the problem is really about mental health. I won't disagree with you. Our mental health system is as broken in America as is our gun regulation. I dream of a day the mental health lobby is as powerful and feared as the gun lobby. We will all be better off.
Today another school shooting occurred in Colorado. A high school student brought a gun into his school and harmed two students before killing himself. Not an hour after that was reported I am already starting to see status updates blaming the mental health system for failing the shooter, his gun a seemingly insignificant detail.
Give me a freaking break.
Enough is enough.
We need to do better. All of us. I don't give a flying fig if you own a gun or not. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, if you feel the need to do so. Have at it, folks.
But if those arms can be bought without any sort of delay or registration, yes, I have a problem with that. If those arms are the type that soldiers use in combat, yes, I have a problem with that. If they are left out in a place that kids can access them, yes, I have a problem with that, too.
Common sense gun laws.
The impact that the children and families of Newtown had on me was significant. Some would say, living in Chicago, that my response is hypocritical, as gun violence is epidemic in my hometown. That's a fair assessment and I own that. Somehow, it's been too easy for me to chalk up Chicago violence to gangs and drugs -- things that are well out of my day-to-day life. Newtown helped me to see the global aspect of gun violence on children, including those in my own back yard.
Here's the thing. You read my words. You're reading them right now. My blog is a part of life for some of you. That is some hard core stuff. And so, I use my voice now, when the spirit moves me, to write about guns. I worry a little about if that could hurt me or my family in some way. I worry more about staying quiet about something so important.
Right now, Mary Tyler Son is standing over my keyboard asking the question, "What are you writing?" "Well, I'm writing about guns, and how they hurt people," was how I responded. I want him to know, just as I want you to know, that we need to do better in America where guns are concerned. And I will keep writing about it, too, until we do.
Since last December 14, here are the posts I have published about gun violence:
- Newtown, Old Story: Resources for Discussing School Violence
- Angels and Automatics: Lessons from Newtown
- Guns in America: When Moms Get Mad
- A Letter to the Moms of Newtown on Mother's Day
- Do You Have a Gun at Home?
I get that I'm one mom blogger in a sea of thousands. I know that while 25K folks might follow me on the Facebook, I'll be lucky if two thousand of you read this post. I'm not curing cancer here, I'm not testifying before Congress, I'm not organizing protests or leading marches. But I am doing what I can to educate and start a discussion about the impact of guns on America. And the reason I am doing that is because of the 26 people who died on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.
I write for Charlotte Bacon and Daniel Barden and Rachel D'Avino and Olivia Engel and Josephine Gay and Dawn Hochsprung and Dylan Hockley and Madeleine Hsu and Catherine Hubbard and Chase Kowalski and Jesse Lewis and Ana Marquez-Greene and James Mattioli and Grace McDonnell and Anne Marie Murphy and Emilie Parker and Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner and Caroline Prividi and Jessica Rekos and Avielle Richman and Lauren Rousseau and Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto and Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt.
I write these words because sometime after that horrible day, the families of the people who died got a package containing clothes worn by someone they love, most of them children, and that clothing had holes and blood that shouldn't have been there and that blood and those holes told the story of how their loved one died.
And nothing about that is okay.