I sat there with tears in the corners of my eyes, first from the joy of looking into their innocent, expectant faces. Then as time went on, the tears took on a very different meaning as I became outraged and terribly afraid.
The moment: I recently had the privilege of visiting with a group of first-grade students who had won an art contest. They designed butterflies using every color in the Crayola box, painting both inside the lines and outside, traditional designs and some more impressionistic, every one unique and beautiful. Along with their principal and teachers, they were being recognized by their superintendent in this moment of triumph.
Cut to the television news. As this was happening around me, all I could think about was the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the father I saw on the news, irate and confused and wounded in a way that he will never recover, saying, “Now I visit my daughter in the cemetery.” I remembered Sandy Hook, and Pearl, and Columbine, and I faced the profoundly disturbing reality that this tragedy will most likely happen again. I pray it won’t be these beautiful children and this wonderful school which I was visiting, and it probably won’t because of the laws of statistics.
It will, however, almost certainly happen somewhere, and aren’t they all our children?
I have heard this phrase spoken for years by those opposed to gun control: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Well, the more complicated reality is that this argument is untrue and true at the same time. It absolutely takes a person to pull the trigger, in the case of a mass shooter, a person who has become so twisted that right and wrong are blurred beyond recognition. If, however, that person could not get his hands (and they are almost always male) on an assault weapon to compound his mental illness or sociopathic tendencies, those children in Florida would likely still be alive.
True and untrue, and complicated.
I do not want to take my uncle’s squirrel gun away. I don’t even mind a licensed, safely-kept handgun for protection in a person’s home. I do mind walking around downtown and realizing that so many people around me are now exercising their right to carry concealed weapons, and I definitely mind a child who cannot legally buy a cocktail being able to obtain a weapon of mass destruction. In fact, I will take the position unpopular with some and say that I see no sense in anybody outside of the military or police, those sworn and bound to protect us, needing such a mighty weapon.
Still, I am tolerant of those with different views as I seek tolerance for my own, but I am willing to ask the hard question. Is our right to bear arms, arms which could not even have been imagined in their sophistication and ability to kill on such a wide scale when the Constitution was written, worth the lives of our children?
I got my answer reaffirmed watching a group of children celebrate victory in a simple art contest.
Contact David at beautifulwithdavid[email protected]