To my fellow citizens,
It breaks my heart that our children are exposed to school shootings. However, upon the heels of the March for Our Lives held in Washington, D.C., and around the world, I am hopeful that positive change is on the horizon.
After the shooting in Florida I began a conversation on Facebook with “my community.” It was a long, civil conversation with disagreement throughout. I took the conversation off-line with someone who is former military and a police officer who presently works as a resource officer in a Washington state public high school. We talked about many issues that surround gun violence today, but I wanted to understand his opposition to changing gun laws. We talked and to my relief, we agreed on several points.
We both agreed that no law will solve all of our problems. We agreed that parents need to be present, to be aware of their children and sensitive to their needs. We talked about the need for better mental health access. We agreed that social media often doesn’t play a helpful role in the lives of teenagers. We talked about guns.
We both grew up in a same town where hunting was the norm. I asked him how he felt about training as a prerequisite for gun ownership, similar to that required of owning a car. Laws requiring licensure and registration of car and driver don’t prevent bad drivers, but the intent is to create a safer environment. Why can’t training be built into buying a gun? Just as with buying a car, when shopping for a gun you plan on similar requirements. Will this stop illegal gun ownership? Absolutely not. Would this reduce illegal guns and help reduce crimes committed with guns? That is the hope. I also liken it to medication, cancer research and treatment. Not all drugs work on all patients, not all cancer treatments work on all patients or even all of the time, but we still use them with the hope of saving a percentage of lives.
Recent studies have shown that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until at least 25 years of age. The current law allows an 18 year old to buy a rifle and a 21 year old to buy a handgun – without supervision or training. The military accepts soldiers at the age of 18, but they are closely supervised and constantly in training, key aspects to their decision-making. My friend volunteered that he has no issue with increasing the age for gun ownership. Compromise. Understanding that legal, responsible gun owners are not the issue, but realizing that guns are part of the equation.
Many variables involved in gun violence cannot be legislated, but through public campaigns and service announcements we can remind people of the power of social media and the need to speak responsibly and respectfully. We must talk to others whose opinion we may not share as a means to create better understanding and to work for the common good. These aspects cannot be overlooked, but neither can the access to guns be ignored. Too many lives are lost daily across this country.
Please step back and reflect on the number of deaths from gun violence — mass shootings and the daily killings. Our children are exposed to unacceptable situations and we are creating an unacceptable social norm. Our youth created an amazing March For Our Lives with remarkable, passionate speakers from across the country. They have hope which gives me hope. Join their cause, make it our cause and let us bring wholeness to this country.