On Friday, when everything was wrong and senseless and unfair and terrible, and news was coming out of Newtown slowly and frequently inaccurate, a piece of information struck me.
The shooter had used his mother's licensed, registered guns in the attack.
And he had started by shooting her, in her home, in the face.
Some people believe passionately that this is about mental illness, and that people who are mentally ill need better resources, and their families need more support.
And some claim that increasing the regulation and banning of firearms won't eliminate gun violence, declaring that anyone can get around gun control laws if they are determined to get their hands on a gun. Some suggest that if there had been an armed security guard at that school, that things would have been different. More guns - not less - is the answer. That people are going to have to pry the gun out of their cold dead hands. I am pretty sure the shooter's mother felt the same way. She was reported to be "a gun enthusiast", owned multiple weapons that her family claimed she kept for personal safety, and frequented shooting ranges for target practice.
Some people are arguing that this isn't just about mental illness, and that gun control needs to be taken further than it ever has before. That if guns were outlawed completely, we would all be safer. That no one needs a high-powered assault rifle for any reason, ever. That if you need one of those extended clips, then maybe you should just work on your aim so that you don't require hundreds of bullets to hit a target. That, as a law-abiding, target shooting gun owner, the shooter's mother wasn't any safer than the unarmed teachers in a locked school.
Somepeople are concerned about our growing numbness and exploitation of violence as entertainment - movies, video games, gun toys, Airsoft and Paintball - and our increased comfort with the act of shooting another human being, whether bullets are involved or not.
The only thing uniting all of those very different positions is that EVERYONE is outraged and ready to defend and promote their point of view in an effort to make us safer.
We can pick sides, and we can argue with each other and be self-righteous and protest and howl in frustration. But if we don't actually do something, this is going to happen again. It happened TWICE THIS WEEK, young men in a public space at opposite ends of the country shooting innocent people. This is not a coincidence. And we can't allow ourselves to become numb. To accept that evil just can't be stopped. We can't change the channel, can't change the subject, can't move on and let it fade away.
Folks, everything about what happened on Friday is wrong. Everything that happened in the mall in Oregon, and the movie theater in Colorado, and in all of the other locations in this country where innocent people were killed by a stranger while they thought they were perfectly safe......it's all wrong.
If you want to focus on gun control to solve the problem, fantastic. If you want to focus on mental health services, wonderful. I think that you should focus on whatever inspires you to get up off you ass and do something to make a difference. Because obviously, something needs to change. Everything needs to change. So whatever speaks to you, whatever you feel passionately will make this world a better, safer place - honey you just go on ahead and fight the good fight.
But for the love of all that is good and right in this world (that which is disappearing faster than I think we realize) don't attack each other. Don't focus on the negative - put all of your energy into finding a solution.
Don't blame these tragedies solely on mental illness - clearly the shooter would have to be mentally ill to walk into a first grade classroom and kill all of the students. Are we arguing that? Is anyone really going to argue with you about that? No. But now what? What the hell do we do? What is the bar for locking someone up because they might kill their mother and then go to the neighborhood school and shoot 20 six year olds?
And by the same token, don't blame these tragedies only on gun control laws. None of us know for sure that tighter gun control laws are going to end our nation's proclivity for shooting each other. We do know that countries with tighter gun control have less killing. It's a fact. You can't argue with it. It's there in numbers and they aren't made up or twisted around - the United States, with our right to bear arms, bears arms against each other on a regular basis, and a whole lot of US citizens are dead because of it.
Don't talk about how the kid should have been hospitalized - we don't know his medical history, and you cannot lock up every socially awkward, depressed, emo young man you come across. I am sure that if his loving, educated, present and accounted for, actively parenting mother thought he was a risk to himself or anyone else, she would have addressed it already. And she obviously felt safe enough to keep multiple guns in her home where her son lived.
Sorry. I shouldn't tell you what to think or how to feel. After all, I am writing this because I am tired of being corrected myself. Tired of being told what I should focus on and worry about. Tired of hearing about the constitution, and our rights, and the rights of others. Tired of signing petitions that go nowhere. Tired of telling my kid that he cannot download violent games onto his tablet. Tired of holding signs on the side of the road drawing attention to a cause or candidate. I don't know what to do. I don't have any suggestions of where to go or how to help.
For now, I am focused on remembering 20 first graders, whose rights were taken away from them.
They had rights too. Their teachers had rights. The mother of the shooter had rights. The shooter himself had rights. Those rights did nothing to keep anyone safe. So we need more. Different. Better. Safer......something. But what? Help Lines? Security systems? Laws? Hospitals? Asylums? Prisons?
I don't know. I am tired and fearful of the not knowing. But at least I am alive, and I have a voice, and I am not huddled in grief. I am ready. I am willing. I am able. And I am angry.