Friday, December 21, 2012

Monsters at Your Door

I used to be a fan/page member of several pages on Facebook that provided me with a wealth of news articles that weren't always top loaded on my news.google.com feed. Most of these pages were centered around women's rights and promoting equality for minorities. They used to have a lot of really great information.  They were indignant when many politicians were talking about doing whatever they could to take away women's legal rights for particularly controversial medical procedures (abortions), they lobbied hard when the Susan G. Komen foundation decided they wanted to cut ties with Planned Parenthood, these groups celebrated when states granted same sex couples the legal right to marry, and I loved them for this.

So why the "used to be" you might be asking? Where has the love gone?

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings earlier this month, these pages have fallen from their missions of protecting individual rights that were granted by the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings, and the voice of the people, to being raging anti-gun pages. I understand, we lost a lot that day, it wasn't fair, and personally I can't stop crying over it. Every time I see one of those 20 children's faces my eyes fill up and it's all I can do to not let them spill while I'm at work. I feel the trauma of losing my brother who died a few years ago all over again, and while his death was due to a violent crime it wasn't gun related, it doesn't matter, loss is loss no matter how it happens, especially when it's unexpected. Everyone needs someone to blame for the tragedy. They look for monsters in the world.  They blame the NRA, violent video games, Hollywood, Walmart, the media, developmental disorders, and a host of others for the shootings. They have taken the conversation from being about stricter gun control laws and more availability for mental health care access to being about a total firearm ban. They use fear mongering techniques like "would you trust a stranger with a gun?" polls and belittling posters who have different opinions about how to make the country a safer place.

First, let's place the blame where it's due. The 20 year old man who brought the guns to campus and killed those people is where the blame lies. He did it, it's his fault, it was his choice. Callous? Maybe... but it's true. There are millions of people in the country battling illness and don't shoot up kindergarten classrooms. If you want to take a wider scope, let's look at his mom, otherwise known as Victim #1. She knew that her son had problems and still had firearms throughout the house and they were easily accessible to her son, she taught him how to use them, and took him shooting. I haven't heard anything about his father. Where was he? I'm genuinely curious. I'm not one of those people who feel like single parents are the cause of all evil, but just because someones parents are no longer with each other doesn't mean that one parent is allowed to check out on their kid. Did he die? Or just not around?  If the shooter was not getting treatment for his illness, why aren't there more means to get help for adults who don't want to help themselves?

Do you still need something to be afraid of? How about how hard it is to get help when you're mentally ill? How about being afraid of parents who would rather be their kids' best friend instead of an authority figure? How about being afraid of people who would happily take away your rights because they make them feel icky? How about looking to history and seeing what similar bans have done (think Stalin, Castro, Hitler)? How about wondering where it will stop once they start taking rights away?

Personally I think there need to be stricter enforcement of the laws we have, and consider making them federal laws so that they are the same across state lines, review "Stand Your Ground" laws to make sure they really work the way they are intended to and not a blanket excuse for killing people who could potentially be threatening, new policies demanding background checks for firearms sales, a review of what types of firearms are available to the general public, mandatory safety courses for firearms users, a licensing program that needs to be renewed on a regular basis much like a driver's license, and harsher penalties for violating these policies. Granted it won't keep criminals from obtaining weapons illegally, but it might make certain weapons harder to get in general. Law abiding citizens might be more inclined to keep weapons locked and out of sight when not in use. I also don't think that it should stop at gun control, there are many violent crimes that are committed daily that you don't hear about because they're on a smaller scale, but their impact is still felt. There needs to be a way to prohibit violent crimes in general. How do we take control back from the thugs on the streets and the abusers that hide behind their locked doors?

I don't think schools need to be turned into prisons to keep children safe, but having security and a police officer on campus at all times isn't a bad idea. Kids need to be able to enjoy school and look forward to learning and I'm not sure that would happen in an environment where fear rules.

A few of these pages are looking to dismantle the 2nd amendment, calling it archaic and unnecessary, however my feelings are that once you start taking away some rights, the others will be just as easy to remove. Why stop at the second? The first amendment causes a lot of trouble too, and who gave women and minorities the right to vote? We can't base our laws on emotions.

The same people who were against George W. Bush trading our freedoms for security post 9-11 are the trying to do the same now. I'm not saying there doesn't need to be changes, I'm just asking that we make them based on logic and not fear.  Stop looking for monsters under the bed when there are bigger ones knocking at your door.