Valentine's Day

My anniversary is Valentine’s Day. My “dating” anniversary, I mean. When I was 17, this sweet guy I had a crush on left a handmade valentine in my locker. 

13 years later, in Parkland, FL, a kid with known violent outbursts, mental health issues, and a YouTube comment reported to the FBI went into a school he was expelled from and killed 17 people (not to mention the others injured, and every single student and faculty member who will remember this day for the rest of their lives).

It was Valentine’s Day. At least a handful of people were probably starting new relationships, or reeling over the sweet flowers and chocolates their boyfriend/girlfriend so sweetly got them. Maybe they’d been together since 6th grade and were celebrating many Valentine’s Days together. And then their whole world was shattered - maybe someone never even got to see the secret Valentine card stashed in their locker because they were killed.

What can we do for those victims, the survivors, and all of their families? Of course we think of them, put them in our thoughts and prayers. There is nothing wrong with this. After such an incident, I feel extremely powerless, and I know I can’t do anything, especially from so far for people I don’t actually know, to instantly fix or ease their pain. So I think of them. I hope they can find someone to hug. I hope that, if there is a heaven, it’s beautiful and these children and teachers are now angels looking over their loved ones as they grieve. 

But time after time, our thoughts and prayers aren’t fixing anything. If thoughts and prayers truly worked by themselves, what happened in Parkland, FL, on February 14, 2018, would not have happened. But it did.

I forget who said it - but the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, that’s what America is doing. So we need to try something different. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, but do more. 

As a citizen who can’t directly enact new laws, I contact my representatives. I read, research, share articles on Facebook that speak to me, in hopes that they’ll reach just one more person, and maybe help them see that we need to do something else in addition to thoughts and prayers. In my mind, it’s obvious what to do. 

“But Kathryn,” you say, “what about self defense?” To which I give you the following scenario:

You own a shotgun. You keep the gun locked up and the ammo in a separate place - because you’re a responsible gun owner. Someone breaks into your house. How long does it take you to unlock your gun, with fingers shaking, and then find your ammo, load it, and shoot? Do you have to try to get past the robber in order to get your gun? Doesn’t seem like very good defense, to me. 

Ok, another scenario, but with your loaded handgun:

You’re in a mall, and you’ve got your concealed carry permit, and you start hearing shooting. If it were me, I think I’d probably run the other way. Fight or flight…I’d probably go with flight. Your gun is useless.

Ok, maybe you’re super brave and heroic, and you run toward where the shooting is happening. You see the gunman, and you shoot. Are you a good enough shot that you get him? Do you miss? Do you accidentally shoot someone who is trying to flee and save themselves? Does a cop see you with a gun and think you’re a bad guy?

Now imagine a 1st grade teacher is armed with that gun in case an attacker enters the school. This teacher went through a couple hours of training, so they understand how the gun works. But they’re not a trained soldier. Their aim might not be the best. Heck, they might even freeze with fear, or run away out of instinct. The gunman shoots students, maybe the teacher can shoot a round or two with their hands trembling, tears streaming down their face. Maybe they can get the gunman, maybe not. There’s still dead kids. Maybe the teacher dies, too, especially if they’re in front of the kids. If we’re lucky, the teacher incapacitates the shooter enough so that the shooter can be apprehended without any more casualties. Notice I said “any more casualties”.

Now imagine that same teacher on a regular day with no school shooting. The gun backfires and hurts a kid. A kid sees it and panics. Worse, a kid sees it, knows how to use it and somehow does. Even worse, the teacher decides to use it. Why would we ever want a loaded gun in a classroom with our children? I don’t even have children yet, but I’d like to someday, and I’d like to not be afraid to send them to school.

Yes, a good guy with a gun can potentially stop a bad guy with a gun, but I think that’s being very idealistic, and too many people still die. Caleb Keeter tweeted just after the Las Vegas shooting about how useless the guns their crew had on stage were. Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show did a segment about being a “good guy with a gun”. Watch and let me know what you think.

It feels like we should ban weapons that were designed for soldiers to use in combat. I’m not great with automatic/semi-automatic/assault rifle distinctions, but I do know that the gun used in Parkland was designed to kill lots of people quickly. I’ve heard they’re super fun to shoot, but if that’s your primary reason for wanting to own one, you need to sort out your priorities. The thrill of shooting a gun should never take precedence over an innocent person’s life.

Also, we need to make it so anyone who wants to buy a gun has to pass a background check. Make sure they’re not criminals, make sure they’re not violent or mentally unstable, that they're not on the no-fly list. Let's up the age restriction to 21 (you can’t have a glass of wine, but you can buy a gun? Sure, that makes sense). Heck, I’d be up for making them like cars - you have to train, pass a test, get your license, and then register any vehicle you own. Maybe there should be a 3 day waiting period. An angry human could have time to cool off before getting that weapon in their hands. You could still get your gun, you just have to know how to use it and be responsible with it.

“But Kathryn, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Well, yeah, duh, the gun didn’t just get up and shoot people by itself. I’m not saying that. But a person WITH A GUN killed 17 people. If we had stricter laws, like I mentioned above, I’d imagine some of those mass murderers wouldn’t have had such an easy time killing innocent people.

“But Kathryn, people will always find ways to get guns illegally if they really want them."

You may be right, but why not make it at least a little harder for them than just waltzing into Wal-Mart on a random Tuesday? Make them jump through hoops. Make it so they understand the gravity of what they're purchasing.

“But Kathryn, people can kill people with all sorts of things. Bombs, swords, knives, ropes…”

Sure. And I’d hazard a guess that bombs are pretty much illegal everywhere - you can’t buy that at Wal-Mart. And as for swords and knives… well, sure you can kill people will them. But you have to be right next to them. You can’t be in a building way up above, or even across a classroom and still kill a dozen people with a knife within seconds. The two are not analogous. 

“Ok, Kathryn, I see what you’re saying, and I actually agree about AR-15s and background checks. You don’t have to convince me of those things. But I voted Republican in part because I don’t want all my guns taken away, and the NRA keeps telling me that’s what democrats want to do.”

The NRA pays your Republican congressmen (and congresswomen) very heavily for their loyalties. Republicans in the 2016 election cycle got 5500% more money from the NRA than Democrats. Any threat to any sort of gun-ownership is blown out of proportion and seen as the government taking away all guns and completely doing away with the 2nd Amendment. The fact is that a vast majority of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, want common-sense gun control. But we’ve been pitted against each other, so any action is seen as drastic rather than something we could do together, for our children, for the future. The gun lobby shouldn’t have such a hand in helping our elected officials. Our representatives should be able to say what they want, protect citizens, without caring that they’ll loose millions of dollars from NRA donations.

And speaking of the 2nd Amendment, have you actually read it? Thought about it? Noticed all those strange commas? It was written in a completely different world than we live in. At the time it was legal to own people, women couldn't vote, and guns this powerful didn't exist. The constitution is meant to be a living document, open to interpretation and able to change (FYI the word amendment means "change" - literally). I've read the stupid sentence (yes, it's only one sentence) more times than I can count, and I still don't fully understand it, but I really don't think it meant that just anyone should be able to buy an AR-15.

So, we can march, we can peacefully assemble, and we can vote for the people who care more about their constituents than their big donors.

I was in elementary school when the Columbine shooting happened - less than 40 miles away in Boulder. We even had a bomb threat at our school not long after that. And the fact that things not only haven’t gotten better, but have gotten worse and worse, breaks my heart. I beg that our administration listens to the kids speaking up. Many of them will be able to vote by the 2018 midterm elections, and even more by the 2020 election.

To my friends who might have a knee-jerk reaction to this and discount everything I’m saying because I’m just a crazy libtard with a progressive socialist agenda, I at least ask you to think of this in terms of the value of life. You claim to value life, so much so that you identify as pro-life, yet you don’t call upon your god-fearing, Christian representatives to take any initiative when we keep seeing innocent lives taken. What would Jesus do? Would he just tell you to pray? Or would he have you take action? I guess that’s a hard question because guns weren’t around in Biblical times. Also, I’m not a pastor or anything, nor have I read the whole bible. However, the fact that one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill,” and these guns are specifically made for killing, begs the question of why so many Christians are so protective of the 2nd Amendment.

I Googled gun control and the bible (like a true millennial) and found:

Exodus 22:2-3 “If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder. But if it happens in daylight, the one who killed the thief is guilty of murder.” (http://biblereasons.com/self-defense/)

Ezekiel 33 “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.” (http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/articles/should-christians-own-a-gun.aspx)

Now, I can’t tell you exactly how to take this or say that they perfectly echo my sentiments, but I do feel like pointing out that killing the attacker at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would have happened in daylight, so the Exodus passage says that’s not ok (plus the whole "thou shalt not kill" thing). And according to the Ezekiel passage, if we know evil is out there in the form of bad guys being able to legally and easily obtain guns, isn’t it our responsibility to try to stop that evil, or else that blood is on our hands?

If you’ve met me, you probably know that I hate saying mean things, that I try to be nice to everyone, and that I want people to like me. Well, if saying that I value the lives of innocent people more than I value an American’s right to “bear arms” makes you mad and makes you unfollow or unfriend me, so be it. Right now, I'd love to just be snarky, because I feel I'm just using common sense. But I also know that snark won't change minds, or open someone's eyes to my way of thinking. I’ve tried to address the common concerns I hear, and I do understand them, but I feel like my counter arguments have value, and that the least you could do is hear them and try to understand where I’m coming from. I know it’s hard to listen to anyone on the other side of any argument. We’re programmed to be very stubborn and to not change our minds easily. I’m trying very hard to listen to all sides of an argument and base my opinions on fact and compassion, all while conveying my thoughts clearly and calmly. I hope that everyone else would try to do the same. I don’t know if you’d be able to change my mind, but maybe changing yours would result in a few less casualties due to gun violence.

Valentine’s Day will always be special to me, but now my heart breaks for all of those who will only be reminded of the worst day of their life.