Every time a mass shooting happens in America, we talk about how we need to have a discussion about gun violence, and how to prevent it. But, we say we'll have the discussion "later," when the emotions from the latest shooting die down.
I still get emotional when I think of the fact that my best friend's family left Trolley Square at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2007. They parked near where a young man with a gun had parked. Had they spent 15 more minutes enjoying their dinner, they may have been victims of the shooting. Two days later, instead of getting married, he could have been preparing for a funeral. Or, the funeral could have been his own.
I still get emotional when I think about turning on the TV after picking up my nephew from Kindergarten on December 14, 2012 to see that someone killed 20 Kindergartners. Even though it happened on the other side of the country, it still hits as close to home as Trolley Square.
And, about the time we start to forget about one mass shooting, another appears on our TV screens. Let's face it, the emotions are never going to die down.
After two people set off bombs made by pressure cookers at the 2013 Boston Marathon, we set about changing policies to make sure that this type of thing never happens again. But, when it comes to gun violence, it's never that time.
There are several things that we need to look at, the first is gun regulation. I'm not talking about taking away your right to own a gun. However, the four most overlooked words in the US Constitution come from the Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia...." Our militias are far from well-regulated.
Next, we need to stop glorifying the terrorists. Googling "timeline of gun deaths" brought me to a handy interactive timeline from the LA Times that went from a shooting at a McDonald's in 1984 to the latest shootings in California last week. I'd link to it, but it highlights one of the problems we have in reporting gun violence: it shows the faces of the perpetrators. We know everything about the people who committed the crimes, but nothing about the victims. Do the names Daniel Rohrbough, William David Sanders, or John Tomlin sound familiar? Probably not, but they are linked to two more familiar names: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrators of the shootings at Columbine High School. We've seen a lot about the ranting and writings of the guy in California last week than we'll ever hear about what kind of people he killed.
We also need to look at the violence that is so often accepted as a cultural norm. There was a play produced at Pioneer Theater that generated some controversy recently. You see, Pioneer Theatre publishes "content advisories" for all of the plays they produce so that you can have a pretty good idea if there is going to be anything "objectionable" in the play. In this particular play, two men kiss right before the end of the first act. This generated some complaints, especially since it was not included in the "content advisory." It was not included because this particular scene is a major plot twist, As until this point, the only two male characters we've met (and there are only three men and two women in the entire play) are an older playwright and a former student of his. What nobody complained about was what happens before the kiss: We believe we see the playwright viciously murder his student, only to discover that it is part of a plot to kill the playwright's wife so that he and his student can live together happily ever after. In other words, killing your wife, that's OK. Kissing another man: Horrible. And, it ignores the fact that they gay couple are the bad guys. Look at the box office charts for nearly any weekend. Over half of the movies are rated PG13 or R for violence. And the MPAA will tolerate much more violence than it will sex or language.
Lastly, we need to have an honest, open, adult debate about this. For far too long we've allowed the fringes of our society to dictate the political debate. Taking away everyone's gun won't make us any safer than arming everyone will. But somewhere in between is a solution.
What that solution is, I don't know. But it's a discussion worth having.