Twenty-eight people. Twenty of them children. Between five and ten.
Two blocks from my house is an elementary school. When I take the dogs out during the day, I can often hear recess–shouts of joy, high-pitched gleeful small voices. When I go on my morning run, Miss B and I run past little ones walking to school, parents shepherding them anxiously. Schoolbuses full of them.
When I don’t drive the Princess because she overslept, she comes into my room to say goodbye before heading for the bus. Each time, I make sure the last thing I say is “I love you.” When I drop the Little Prince off at school, I make sure the last thing he hears before he slams the door and runs is “I love you.”
I love you, I love you, I love you. You can’t ever say it enough.
The teenagers come home first, since the high school lets out earliest. Ill-behaved, some of them, as teens always are. They’re well on their way to becoming the adults they’re going to be, but not…quite…there yet. They walk in the middle of the road, I roll my eyes and mutter sometimes. Get out of the damn road, kid. And yet they are still so fragile, so heartbreakingly vulnerable. Looking back from the years I’ve acquired, I remember that time of uncertainty. I can see, so clearly, just how breakable they are.
I walked up the street today when I knew the Princess’s bus was due. I could not wait for her at home. I had to be there to see, to hug her and know she’s all right. I cannot even imagine finding out from the news or from the cell phone that…it’s unthinkable. What little of it I can imagine frightens me so badly I am shaking as I type this.
Every day I park near the Little Prince’s school, and I walk to the classroom door to wait for him. I’ve done my fair share of keeping the peace. “You know you’re not supposed to act like that. We walk here, you know that. Good job! How are you today, kiddo?” And when his class pours out of the room, I can name every child. They know me, too. Today: Hi *Little Prince’s name*’s mom! I’m gonna be a writer too! My baby sister lost a tooth! When is *Little Prince* going to ride the bus again? Why do you wear those funny sunglasses? Have a good weekend!
Each one of them cheerfully oblivious to what happened all the way across the country.
Some kid brought a gun to an elementary school in our district just this past week. A local writer–a man who hangs out at the bookstore–was at the Clackamas Town Center when someone opened fire, the same day I drove past there with my writing partner. Scary.
Whose children will be next? Mine? Yours?
You need training and a license to operate a car, or you suffer legal consequences. A police officer undergoes a lot of training and mental health screenings before s/he’s allowed to carry a gun. And yet every time there’s another mass shooting (and how terrifying is it that you have to say “not that recent shooting, the other one”? As if it’s normal. As if it’s sane.) some paranoid jackasses start trumpeting about how we can’t “politicize” it, about how it’s “not the time” to talk about the fact that it’s easier to get a gun than to get care for mental illness in this country. And another jackass says “this is why we need to be ARMED ALL THE TIME, even in schools!”
When did I wake up in a country where the answer to the death of children is to carry guns into schools? When the fuck did that ever become acceptable? Who are these people more concerned about the privilege of buying ammo over the internet than dead children? What world do they live in where this is the answer?
“If you take our guns away, we’ll be helpless against criminals!” they howl. Bullshit.
Now, you’re saying, “But this is going to make more effective criminals.” To which I say, not likely. Criminals are going to get effective in their own ways. They’re not going to do it through a licensing system where they and their firearms are going to be tracked.
You might then say, “But criminals don’t need to be regulated or care about regulation,” which is another version of the “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” saying. And that’s true. But it’s true of everything, isn’t it? Bombs are illegal, so only bombers will have bombs. Last I checked, criminals are always willing to do things we’re not — that’s why we create laws that ideally prevent and ultimately punish them for the transgression. “If we make rape illegal, only rapists will have rape! And murder, too! And they can shoplift! OUR FREEDOMS ARE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK DAMN YOU OBAMACARE.” (Chuck Wendig)
This is the world I woke up in this morning: Twenty-eight people. Dead. Twenty of them, children.
Helpless, vulnerable children, full of the potential of lives that now will never be lived.
Is this the world we want to give them, a hail of gunfire and appalling mass attacks the new commonplace? Is this what you really want for them?
Our kids. Yours, and mine.