The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was the worst thing I ever witnessed — I wasn't there, of course, but watching it unfold on 24-hour media and social media was close enough. My perspective on this was as a father, with several children who were elementary-school age, or close. I was affected in a way I could not express. I did not speak to another adult the rest of the day — fortunately my job doesn't require me to, most times.
(Two thoughts: Several years removed from this, there are people who claim that this tragedy was invented to promote gun control. Like a tiny version of Holocaust-denial. These people who promote this idea are world-class scum. And I wonder if enough has been done for the first responders to this tragedy. If they have to pay for therapy — if they even have to be bothered to fill out paperwork — we have failed them terribly.)
Now in the aftermath of another national tragedy — the worst thing ever witnessed for many — I've been silent again. Fact is, I've been mostly too disgusted to speak.
But I know you guys are missing my thoughts on this. Here are 10 things you should know.
1. In the plainest words I have: If you hide behind the shield of the Lord so you can stab with the devil's pitchfork, you are a terrible Christian. Given to strong drink and profane words, I am a terrible Christian, but then I do not post both Bible quotes and hatred on my Facebook page. If you see yourself as a better than me, maybe you should act like it.
2. In fact, if you use the Bible to justify your hatred, then you better live every page of that Bible. If you are going to use the Bible to justify hatred of homosexuals, then when one smacks you upside the head, you better turn the other cheek. If you quote the Bible, but don't go to church, don't follow the 10 Commandments, don't refrain from drunkenness and poor behavior, don't practice forgiveness and humility — then you are not a Christian, you are a hypocrite.
(On the other hand, if you are gentle and compassionate person who lives the word of God to the best of your ability, with concern for your neighbor instead of malice, then I will absolutely leave you to your business, even if I think some of your business is not good for modern society.)
3. If you share or comment positively on racist things on Facebook, then you are acting like a racist. This might not bother you, but it bothers me. Perception is reality for the perceiver.
4. Banning the sale of what common parlance refers to as assault-style weapons (don't annoy me with your spiel on classifications, I will not be distracted) absolutely will not end gun violence in America. A determined man with a dove-hunting shotgun can wreak horrific damage on a crowd of people. But banning the sale of the AR-15 is a good idea, if only to show the world that we are willing to do SOMETHING about gun violence.
(AR-15s already out there will be available on the black market. And you cannot confiscate the guns already sold, of course. This is America. Anybody who honestly believes that Obama or a Democratic successor is actually going to TAKE your guns is stupid. And playing directly into the hands of people who are interested in playing you for a fool so they can protect their wealth.)
5. Look, I own one shotgun, two rifles and a handgun. I will have more guns, but they will all be passed down from my father. I enjoy having them and enjoy shooting them. (They are stored in a full-scale gun safe, of course.) None of them are semi-automatic, I guess save for the double-barrel shotgun, which will fire twice with two pulls of the trigger. I have fired an AR-15 and it was fun, but I have neither the land nor the money to own one. And I have no reason to own one. Should a hard-working rancher be allowed to blow off some steam or more effectively kill varmints by shooting an AR-15? Absolutely, if he already has one. Should the next home-grown terrorist be allowed to legally buy one tomorrow? No.
6. I do not discount the Call of Testosterone. I still would like to fire an M-60, the stuff of my childhood Rambo dreams. But I'm old enough now to realize that if I ever wanted to do that, I should have joined the military. To many men, having a big truck and a big gun makes them feel like a big man. We all have our delusions of grandeur — always I start these essays thinking they will have more of an impact than costing me a handful of Facebook friends. But honestly, these bros who think that owning a badass-looking gun makes them men are the people I trust the least. Personally, I believe I should have all the guns I want — which is not many. But I have serious doubts about most of you.
7. God, guns and guts DID make America great. But things change. This is no longer the agrarian, patriarchal society of our forefathers. We are a different nation. Now old men misuse God to push their godless agenda. And young bros play with guns with little understanding of their safe and discriminating use. And those with the guts to practice the independent thought that was once deemed essential to the American character are condemned by those with little such character or courage.
8. The most important thing to remember is this is not a black-and-white discussion. The answer is not zero guns or more guns. The answer is not Democrat or Republican. The answer is not Christian or Muslim. It is somewhere in between. That is the nature of America, after all. (If you say anyone different from you is wrong and should be persecuted/deported/executed, I would ask you why you hate America.) There will be no answers to any of our most pressing questions until the left and the right are willing to discuss issues rather than shout sound bites and are willing to make compromises rather than ultimatums.
(Easiest compromise of all: Sure, let the Texas GOP require IDs to vote. But let the Texas Democrats set up a program for citizens to gain easy and cheap access to IDs.)
9. Sadly, the Internet and social media are making us stupider rather than more well-informed. When news stories are only judged by clicks rather than content, then certainly the most bombastic and inane politicians are going to get the most attention. When people are easily and anonymously able to voice their most hateful opinions (comments, Twitter), they are going to do so ever more vociferously. When people are able to easily find other people who validate their own hateful and heretofore socially unacceptable beliefs (Facebook), those beliefs will be amplified. The Internet was supposed to make us smarter. Instead it's a bullhorn for idiocy (says the guy posting this essay on Facebook).
(Just because someone does not understand the mechanics and classification of a firearm does not mean that their argument lacks merit. For the same reason that someone's argument is not negated by their failure to use proper grammar and spelling or their ridiculous punctuation — although when I see someone bashing muslin's and promoting gun's ... well, it doesn't help.)
10. If I have offended you, yet you have read this far, I applaud your tolerance and willingness to examine things you do not agree with. You and I could have a reasonable discussion, I'm thinking. There will be things you are correct about — things I have not looked at in the right way. There might be things I could convince you to change your opinion on. That's the magic of reasonable discussion. However, if you gave up after looking at the picture and reading the first few words, then, yes, I was probably talking about you.