There are moments in everyone’s life when the pain is so deep, the sorrow so bottomless, that words can never express the hollow emptiness and feelings of powerlessness. That has been the last 48 hours for me. I have screamed, cried, pounded my fists and nothing helps. Nothing helps.
I try to sleep and am awakened by visions of 20 families, getting up on Christmas morning, only to see unopened packages under the tree, a stocking bearing the name of a little child that will never be pulled down from the mantle by chubby little fingers and the breathless anticipation uniquely expressed by children of ages five or six or seven. On Christmas morning, how will a mother find the strength to walk past the room of her little girl, with the ragdoll her little princess had kissed good-bye and carefully positioned between the pillows on her bed, just as she had every other morning since school started? How can a father walk past his son’s room without kneeling next to the little boy’s bed that still has that wonderful “dirty dog” smell little boys have and not be shattered? How can those parents walk down the stairs to a tree without their special little someone who still believed in Santa Claus, yet hadn’t gotten old enough to become embarrassed when mom kissed them good-bye in the school parking lot? I don’t know. I don’t understand how anyone can bear that kind of pain and move on. I don’t understand how a mother or father can find much comfort in anything after having their babies taken from them. Twenty of them. Twenty babies. Gone in an instant.
In the past few months, after every such mass shooting, I have made an effort to try to find some logic or reason. After every such mass shooting, the Fundamentalist Christian nut bags have come out to say that it’s simply a matter of America not being “Godly enough”. They say it’s “God’s retribution on our country for ‘the gays’”. They say it’s because we’ve turned our back on God. For the last two days, they say it’s because we’ve ‘banished God from our schools’, so we can’t blame Him for refusing to stop a madman in a building where He’s not welcome. I’ve been in a lot of schools. I’ve witnessed many children praying, reading the Bible and participating in religious activities. These were public schools, and no one stopped them. No one told them what they were doing was wrong and no one stopped them. I believe the Bible says God created man in His image. What we have witnessed are men creating God in their image – cold, vindictive and bigoted narcissists who, when not being lauded with enough attention, prey on the most vulnerable members of our society – in this case, kindergarten children, the adults who sought to protect them and ultimately, their parents. That’s who is hurt the most by their rhetoric. If that’s the definition of their God, then they shouldn’t wonder why I’m an Atheist.
They don’t really believe God has been banned from public schools. They know better. What they’re really whining about is that all public school children aren’t being forced, against their will and the will of their parents, to be indoctrinated with Fundamentalist Christian dogma. Forcing kids to pray. Forcing kids to abandon logic and reason and for dog’s sake, science. They don’t want them exposed to anything that will allow them to learn to think for themselves – it tends to cost them cult members. Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer are the guiltiest of the Fundie wing nuts out there, but there are plenty more – these two just have the biggest microphones and stuff the most cash in their own pockets by doing so. As for you, Reverend Huckabee, while you’re spouting my character flaws to the world, you might want to extinguish the flaming bag of dog shit on your own steps first. I haven’t forgotten your son was one of two young men who tortured and killed a dog. Yeah, you claim you never used your influence to cover up the facts of the case, but covered up they were. You whine that your poor boy has been ‘dealt with’ (and excused his behavior because he was a ‘minor’, carefully omitting the fact that your little darling was within two weeks of turning 18) – but seriously, shouldn’t society be worried about what you have created, Reverend? Isn’t the torture and killing of an animal common sociopathic behavior displayed by mass murderers and serial killers? I’m not saying your son is one, but Reverend, if you want to tell the world that my Atheism is the cause of these babies getting murdered, then let’s scour each others’ closets and see who can dig up the most dirt. You won’t like it.
Many fine and thoughtful Christians are praying and have asked for prayer for the victims and their families. They do this sincerely. If they find comfort in this, then that’s what they should do. Perhaps you are one of them. I will not join you in prayer, but would ask that you give to the person next to you, all the love and comfort you yourself need at this time be they family or stranger. I’m kind of thinking that’s something Jesus would do.
And now that I’ve dispensed with the
religious nuts, it’s time to turn a steely eye toward the gun fetishists out there, whose mania is being fed by Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, among others. Wayne LaPierre and the NRA would have you believe that the government is coming for all of the guns to enact a total gun prohibition, leaving civilians defenseless against the United States Gub’mint because we’ve all been living under cruel and tyrannical despots for decades here in the good old U. S. of A., right? After every such mass shooting, instead of citizens laying down their weapons, they race to the nearest gun shop, pawn shop, gun show or private dealer and arm themselves to the teeth because this just may be the mass shooting that tips the scales toward sanity, though none ever have. And people like me are scolded after every such mass shooting because I want to have a conversation, not about shotguns or hunting rifles or even most handguns. I want to have a conversation about military grade assault weapons with extended clips – most certainly not designed for hunting but for killing as many human beings as possible in as short a time as possible. But I never get to have that conversation, because someone who watches entirely too much television demands to know how, when I’m being held at knife-point by a rapist, I expect to be rescued by John Q. Public if he’s not allowed to be packing heat? Let’s just say, one of us has an understanding that my chances of being in that situation are infinitesimally smaller than the chances of my being gunned down at the local mall by someone who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and decided his father was a distant prick and his mother was smothering and turned him into a sissy – and the one with that understanding is me.
The one thing I will not do today is share statistics with you. I’ve done that plenty of times and right now, any schmuck with an internet connection and a desire to know the ugly truth about America’s fascination with guns and violence can look it up. The numbers are everywhere, but if you’re challenged, look here. In the ensuing 48 hours since the mass killing of those beautiful babies and the brave teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, several things have happened for sure:
There are two dead when on Friday, a man entered the Las Vegas Excalibur hotel, shot a female employee and then himself.
On Friday, a Bartlesville, Oklahoma high school student was arrested after attempting to recruit other students to assist him in carrying out a mass shooting and bombing in the school auditorium. The plot was foiled when other students notified school administrators who then called the police.
Yesterday, in Newport Beach, California, a man was arrested and the shopping mall was in lockdown after a man fired more than 50 rounds in the parking lot. Thankfully, no one was injured.
Yesterday, a northern Indiana man who threatened to “kill as many people as he could” at an elementary school near his home was arrested by officers who later found 47 guns and ammunition hidden throughout his home.
And finally, today, as if those grieving residents of Newtown, Conn. hadn’t had enough, someone found it necessary to phone in a bomb threat to police that the Catholic Church would be blown to bits with everyone in it.
Let’s make one thing clear here: I own a gun. A hunting rifle. At this moment, it is unloaded, broken down and in a locked gun case bolted to the wall. The ammunition is stored in a separate area of the house. If the government asked me, I would gladly register that weapon and the ammunition. I take no issue with the Federal government knowing exactly what I have in the way of firearms. And this evening, I’ve come to an important conclusion. People like me who own one gun, or even several guns, aren’t really the problem. It’s people with 47 guns that are the problem. It’s people who can buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition completely undetected, as with the Aurora shooter that are the problem. It would seem there is in inverse equation between the number of guns owned and the relative sanity of the owner. This, of course, brings us to the issue of mental health. No one is questioning the absence of sanity of people who commit these crimes. The gutting of the mental health system in this country is without comprehension. But the Newtown shooter didn’t own a gun – he killed his mother and took her guns to commit the crime. Takes the wind out of the sails of those who claim if only she owned a gun, she could have stopped this tragedy, doesn’t it?
Several people have sent suggestions for reasonable gun regulations. I don’t for an instant believe the ‘leaders’ of our country will gather the stones necessary to stand up to the NRA, but here is the list:
1. Close the Gun Show Loophole in our gun legislation.
2. Reinstate the automatic weapons ban with a mandatory government buy-back program.
3. Enact legislation mandating that all firearms be secured.
4. Full background checks prior to the purchase of any firearm – anywhere.
5. An immediate ban on extended clips, making it a felony to possess one.
6. Enactment of a law making unsecured firearms resulting in theft a Federal crime (felony) AND you lose your right to own a firearm (just like any other felon)
7. A single Federal database to track the ownership of all guns.
8. A limit on the amount of ammunition per firearm that can be legally possessed.
9. For each model of weapon owned (not kind) the owner must be licensed to own that model of weapon. Ownership of a Glock AND a Lugar would require separate licenses. – not one license for all.
10. Enactment of a law limiting the amount of ammunition that you can own per weapon. You must turn in spent shells to buy more ammunition. 1 for 1.
Keep in mind – this isn’t my list, but suggestions submitted by readers. I’ll accept any suggestion and will offer an update next week. But if I had my way about it, I’d then take a page out of the Republican anti-abortion playbook and start putting huge and unreasonable requirements to operate any business selling weapons.
For the gun fetishists who want to take me on and tell me about your constitutional rights, bring it on. There is nothing in our Constitution’s Second Amendment talking about a “well-regulated militia” that covers the incidents that have occurred in the past 48 hours. If you want to leave a long rant or threaten me, feel free to send your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that any and all death threats will be forwarded to the local police, who I can assure you are better trained and better armed than you.
To the families of the slain children and staff of Sandy Hook, please know that I will remember you and your beautiful babies.
“Weeping will endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I will fight for legislation to make sure this never happens again.
If you would like to join the fight to end gun violence, contact the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence.
Carol Baker is a free-lance political writer. She is a regular contributor to Here Women Talk.
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