What Do We Do? – Emily Henderson

We spend years of our young kid’s lives desperately avoiding their preventable deaths. We sign up for questionable swim lessons where our babies are thrown in a pool in hopes that should they stumble in, they won’t drown. We can’t prevent all genetic diseases, for instance, but once something becomes frequent society tries to do something about it (crosswalks, helmets, tempered glass, etc.). But the so-called “randomness” of mass shootings has become so common that despite its unpredictability it feels preventable. Yesterday, parents like us, dropped off their kids at elementary school hoping for a normal day, maybe even a good one. And hours later their never-ending nightmare began. Grocery stores. Concerts. Flea Markets. Nightclubs. Churches. High Schools. Elementary schools. What do we do? At this point, in the “gun debate” we know that nothing will change. Nothing. We don’t know all of the specifics about this particular shooting yet but we can generalize enough because we are all too familiar with this story. And we live in a politicized country that can’t seem to change it, controlled by the gun lobby. Do we accept it? Of course not. But we, the citizens for common-sense gun laws, can’t seem to change it and more and more people, kids are dying.

I won’t say anything new here, except this basic idea – dangerous things should be hard to get. For example, when I was in my twenties in New York I dabbled in recreational illegal drugs (which I would not do if I were that age now with the fentanyl scare – but that’s a totally different story/fear/epidemic). But it wasn’t always that easy to get, and if it had been I would have done it a lot more. Thank goodness for me it was illegal so it never affected my life too negatively because drugs can be very dangerous (as we know more than ever). We not only have laws but parental controls, even “age gates” controlling who has access to things that are dubbed “dangerous” for our kids to prevent bad things. I recently listened to a podcast about the link between access and use – it shows that when something was common in a neighborhood it directly affected how often kids did it – illegal drugs, prescription pills, underage drinking, guns, etc. It’s not that kids who lived in neighborhoods without those things couldn’t get their hands on it, of course they could, but it was just a lot harder. So much more effort had to go into tracking it down so the overall use was greatly diminished. It’s common sense that’s backed up by two generations of geographic data through this study. It negates the whole “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” bullshit that most of us don’t believe anyway. In this country, we love to blame individuals, as we should to an extent – we all have agency and should be accountable. But when something is “around,” common, normalized, and easy to get your hands on it, you are more likely to buy it, have it, and use it. Of course, this 18-year-old was mentally ill or evil if you believe in that, obviously. But guns make it easy to kill a lot of people – they aren’t recreational drugs, they are much more dangerous.

I know I’m preaching mostly to the choir here, but our values are so upside down when you can’t get the birth control pill over the counter, forcing pregnancies for those without easy access and yet in many states, including Texas, you can go into a store and simply buy a weapon that kills other people, a gun! Without a background check or permit! You don’t even need a prescription! Riddle me this, America? What are we doing??? We all know this but the hypocrisies are sometimes too shocking to not write down again and re-read. You can’t buy birth control over the counter, but you can buy a gun.

It’s all too much. I listened to another podcast that suggested a good coping tool for dealing with the tragedy of others is to learn about it, recognize it, help where you can, and then say to yourself “Ok. That’s bad. But that’s not my weather” so you can actually function. It’s selfish, for sure, but ruminating and catastrophizing about faraway problems you can’t solve isn’t healthy – not just for you, but your kids (a growing contributor to the anxiety problem). But the grocery store in Buffalo is our weather. The elementary school in Texas feels like my weather – every parent’s weather. These aren’t natural disasters 7,000 miles away or even problems in other countries that we can’t prevent. This is America’s weather. And its a really, really bad. If we accept another Sandy Hook – another mass elementary school shooting – without changing our gun laws, what happens next? To what end? And do we want to live here, risking the “randomness” of a mass shooting every day?

This. Is. Preventable.

Four years ago I learned a lot about why many of you own guns in this post and empathy was built. But like most of you today I feel really hopeless, helpless and so unsafe. The gun lobby rules our politics in this arena and Republicans are too scared of their funders and constituents to push back. I’ll desperately settle for harder access to guns for a diminished probability of a shooting happening near my family. I will sign the petitions and donate to Every Town, of course. But then what? Voting? Marching? What?

Why don’t we file a class action suit – American parents versus NRA? Lord knows they care about money so it would hit them where it hurts and there are a million lawyers who would battle it. If the politicians are going to be too cowardly to do anything a massive suit might curb their efforts. If you trace how most mass shooters have gotten their guns, there are enough that show how easy it is to get if you are mentally ill, underage, with a record, and not to mention can purchase the totally unnecessary semi-automatic cartridges that should 100% not be legal to in the first place. The majority of Americans want common-sense laws!

Those of you in Canada and Australia I know are again horrified and baffled that we remain in this situation. Maybe the Hendersons will join you sooner than later. Until then this is my version of yelling and screaming into the ether and praying that the families of these kids and all mass shooting victims might someday see stricter gun control. I’m just so sorry that we are collectively unable to prevent these mass shootings of children because we continue to normalize the ownership and use of guns by individuals in this country. Things that are dangerous, legal or not, should be hard to get. These deaths are, in fact, “preventable”.

Here is the link to the Moms Demand Action site and you can join a local Moms Chapter by texting the word ACT to 644-33

(P.S I focused on access to guns because to me it’s a common-sense doable gate and hard to argue with. Of course its also about mental health, toxic masculinity, racism, politics, and more.)

Opening Image Credit: via Time

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