Killing Children

Like everyone else, I grieve over today’s events in Newtown. Unlike too many I see, especially on Facebook (because where else do we vent these days?), I resist the knee-jerk, sanctimonious response.

I have an eight-year-old. I just walked her back from her school grateful that I could do that today, unlike those devastated parents in Connecticut, who will not have anything close to a joyous Christmas this year or for years to come.

I have to admit that I first heard the news about Newtown a few hours before I grasped its gravity. Thanks to the recent shooting in Oregon and those previous senseless shootings in general, a numbness had set in, and I didn’t respond with any emotion to it until my wife texted me about it. A quick jump to the New York Times website and the headline declaring eighteen children dead left me dumbstruck.

After every other national tragedy, I often find myself unnerved by the public response, and this was no different. Obviously those who hate guns will use the opportunity to advance their agenda. Using bare numbers to prove their point, they promulgate their wishful thoughts that a ban on guns or still-stricter measures will somehow stop the killing.

Those of us with children will wonder if we do enough to protect them, never mind the lengths we already go to by locking down schools, hovering over our kids, and taking extraordinary measures to buffer them against any kind of injury or misfortune, often at the expense of their very childhoods.

This was the vengeful act of an individual hell bent on killing. Details will ultimately emerge about his motives and methods, and people on both sides of the issues will pick it all apart for those aspects that justify their stances. I see most of that discussion as irrelevant. Someone who wants to kill will find a way. Guns aren’t the only tool in the box. Just ask the victims of all those suicide bombings in the Middle East.

I understand the hatred of guns. The sheer violence of it belies our civilized nature. Death by gun is bloody and painful. The thought of it evokes a highly charged emotional response. Most of us know statistically that air travel is safer than taking a shower in our own bathrooms. What scares us isn’t so much the likelihood of dying, but the method. A blunt trauma kills us in a moment. A plane falling from the sky takes about a half minute, where we have plenty of time to ponder our horrific fate.

I do not own a gun. In fact, I can say that I have never once in my life discharged or even held a firearm of any kind. I have nothing against guns per se. The opportunity to wield one has never presented itself to me. I have no real agenda when it comes to guns, though. Unlike too many other people, I only see a gun simply as yet another tool that serves a purpose, and in the hands of the wrong person, can do great harm to the undeserving.

Our very humanity requires that we apply reason and logic to whatever response we draft on response to this tragedy. We must discern exactly its real causes.

I know, for instance, that my daughter is in far greater danger of dying riding around in a car than she is being gunned down in her classroom. According to the CDC, 758 kids died in motor vehicles in 2010 alone. Does dying in the backseat of the mini-van make it any less tragic than taking a bullet in school? We don’t ban children in cars because of the impracticality of such measures. We instinctively know that danger lurks out there and we find an acceptable level of risk without depriving individuals of their freedoms. (Or at least we once did.)

That said, I do not envy the president of the National Rifle Association today. If I could offer any advice, I’d suggest he shut the hell up for a while.

I close with the words of William S. Burroughs, who said, “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”