No. No. NO! Not another one. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. How could this happen? What the hell is going on? Does every city have to be tortured with the horror of a massacre? Every time there’s a shooting, I cry, but this time I wept…a lot. Something about it being in a place close to home where I have friends, where I lived and rode my bike to college just shook me in another way. The news of the shooting in Isla Vista made me ache and took me back to my feelings after Sandy Hook. As a teacher and a mother of a fourth grader, I panicked just thinking about the possibility of that happening in my world. I rushed from work, desperate to see my son walk safely from his classroom. Tears ran down my face when I saw him.
“Why are you crying, Mom?”
“Just happy to see you, honey.” I hugged him tight.
No way could I tell him why I cried. He didn’t need to know that so many people would not stop crying for years because their children were murdered. I don’t know how those parents survived after hearing that their child had been shot to death at school. I would die.
This week more parents must hear that their child was killed while at school, UCSB, my Alma Mater. No parent should ever hear such news. I cried while I watched one parent of a murdered young man rage publically. He yelled and screamed, demanding to know why nothing’s been done since Sandy Hook to prevent such tragedies. He shouted in honor of his son’s life and in honor of all the young children killed before. I wanted to yell and scream with him because I never want to be in his shoes. I never want anyone else to walk in his footsteps, but what do I do? What is the answer? You’d think a society full of as many intelligent people as we have could figure out how to prevent the mass murder of its citizens, but we can’t…or we won’t.
The tragedies will continue. It’s only a matter of time before someone else’s plan comes to fruition. Whose city will be shot up? Whose children, family, or friends? The news will be shocking, but will we shocked anymore? Are we becoming so used to it, that we turn our heads and count our blessings that it wasn’t our family, friends, or city? After a few days, another news event fills the headlines and we move on. We forget so we can live. We forget so we can still take our kids to school and send them off to college or just go see a movie without a bullet proof vest. Forgetting is our coping mechanism, but it’s preventing us from uniting and finding a solution. We are all vulnerable and our children are too. Our society has created its own version of the suicide bomber, the suicide shooter, and we need to do something about it. WE, all of us.
Nobody seems to have the answer, but at least we need to look for one. We can’t stop the discussion in the quagmire of gun control controversy. Some think the answer lies in gun control, but the truth is that there will always be access to guns and weapons. Plus, people can kill with anything. The previous killing in Isla Vista was with a car. Sure automatic and semi-automatic weapons make it easier to commit the crime, and we can wish those weapons away, but that’s like teaching abstinence from sex to teenagers and thinking it will prevent teenage pregnancy. Guns will never go away, but teaching responsibility and training gun owners might help. The gun industry could provide some training to those who buy guns. They could require a class or seminar that would help weed out those who shouldn’t own guns. That’s right, some people shouldn’t own guns. Why not require that people bear arms responsibly? What’s so wrong with that? Anyone who buys a gun should have to be accountable for some training and proof of competence. Yes, proof of mental health and stability. If someone recently spent time in a mental health facility or has posted YouTube videos about killing people, maybe he or she shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. Just a thought. When we apply for a job, employers often do background checks and internet searches to learn more about us, why couldn’t the gun industry do the same? It could save lives. Sure it would be complicated and some privacy issues would come up, but just like our bags have to get searched to board a plane, our personal baggage should get searched to own a lethal weapon.
The bigger issue at hand is the lack of mental health care in this country, the stigma that surrounds issues of mental illness, and the unwillingness of people in authority to take mental illness seriously. All of us who know and believe that something needs to be done to stop this continual violent rampage must not forget this time. We must continue looking for solutions that address mental illness across the board. We can’t pretend like it doesn’t exist in our neighborhoods, schools, or homes. It’s everywhere. Just be honest about your own depression or someone you loves’ anxiety and people will talk about their issues. Mental health issues are everywhere. Everywhere. We need to talk about it and demand help. We need to educate ourselves about it. Everyone. We collectively created this mess. We collectively need to solve the problem. No one gets a pass. No one is safe from mental illness or the results of mental illness. It’s all of our responsibility to embrace this issue and start finding solutions. The clock is ticking. Someone else is planning another shooting. What are we going to do about it?