There is a grainy cell phone video circling the web in which you see whimpering children huddled together in a corner of a classroom at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shooting last Wednesday. There are whimpers as they wait. Of course there are whimpers. And then the swat team bursts in and tells them to put their hands in the air and they do. And that sea of shaking hands wrecks me.
I have no answers. I can’t explain what goes through a boy’s mind when he walks into a school of his peers and opens fire. I can’t begin to imagine the agony of a family like the Hoyers, who waited and waited for word of their son, not hearing until 1 am that he had been killed, even as their hearts surely knew long before that he was gone. The thought of mothers and fathers wrapping their arms around their babies who have been terrorized and will never be the same and the mamas and dads whose arms are empty…its all horrible and I can’t make sense of any of it.
I didn’t grow up around guns, but my kids have and my love did. We have guns, emptied of ammo and locked in a safe in our basement. They are taken out and cleaned, used for target practice and hunting. Our kids have learned the language of gun safety since they were teeny. They will teach it to their children, this right to bear arms for protection and hunting. Someday one of my sons might walk into a gun shop and purchase his first handgun. If so, I hope that he is put through the wringer. That if he has ever had a mental illness, an arrest, any kind of brush with the law, any indication that he is even a smidge less than stable that the law will prevent him from getting his hands on a weapon. We need this. I’m not interested in a debate here, you can peddle that on any of about a million facebook posts right now. I’m simply saying as a mother of children who have been raised to respect and care for guns, that there is no down side to making it harder for everyone to get their hands on a weapon. If you are mentally healthy, you have nothing to worry about. If you have a clean record with the police, you have nothing to worry about. If you have never had a violent strike on your record, have never been accused of domestic violence, this won’t affect you. If you have taken the necessary gun safety classes and have proven you know how to handle and store guns, you will be in the clear.
You will possibly have to fill out more paperwork, take another class and repeat it every few years, pay a bit more and put yourself under scrutiny, but there are 17 families in Florida who will tell you it is a small price to pay and they’ve footed the lion’s share of the bill with the blood of their children. Please don’t insult them by supposing that having a few more hoops to jump through to get your hands on a weapon is any kind of imposition because they will spend the rest of their lives tithing their tears to a government that has refused to more carefully vet prospective gun owners.
If we have any response to this new tragedy, let it be this: that if our leaders find the balls to put stricter gun regulations before congress, we keep our mouths shut, even when we suspect it’ll cause us some small inconvenience. That we not tantrum when they ask us to pay more, attend classes or even if they reject our application altogether. If we have any response to this let it err to the side of grace and respect for the lives that have been lost already and the lives that will surely be lost if we continue on this reckless path. If we have any response to this latest school shooting, may it be to never forget the names: Alyssa, Scott, Martin, Nicholas, Aaron, Jaime, Chris, Luke, Cara, Gina, Joaqiun, Alaina, Meadow, Helena, Alex, Carmen, Peter.
If we have any response to this latest school shooting let it be to thank our teachers, who didn’t sign on for this job with their lives but who are daily laying them down to protect the precious children in their classrooms. Who walk into school each day and mentally remind themselves of the action plan put in place should there ever be an active shooter in the school. Let it be to pray for this nation that is so broken in this world that is falling to pieces. And for our schools, which have become battlegrounds. For the love of all that is holy, if we have any response to this latest school shooting, let it be on our knees, claiming this promise: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”