From my May 27th post to the Facebook page:
I'm writing this from Romania as we visit my wife's family, having just attended the wedding of a mutual friend, in a beautifully rustic setting a little bit outside of Bucharest. While I would like to say that I'm appalled at the lack of surprise with which both we and our friends here reacted to the news of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, TX, news of such shootings – in schools and other public places in the US – have become such commonplace headlines that any surprise is disingenuous by now.
Thoughts and prayers are what we offer people whose country is being invaded. They are what we offer people in countries suffering from a massive earthquake, tidal wave, or devastating weather event. Thoughts and prayers are what we offer to the victims of incomprehensible, unanticipated atrocities when we are powerless, either personally or politically, to try to fix what has happened or prevent it from happening again.
Thoughts and prayers should not be what we offer as the sole consolation to victims of a problem which overwhelmingly exists only in the nation which loves to tout itself as the greatest on Earth.
Thinking locally, our area of Maine has a long and generally safe history with the ownership and operation of firearms. Though far before my time, our Sumner Memorial High School once offered a Rifle Club. Now, my father was not a hunter and consequently I never got into hunting, but I know many of my classmates did and still do hunt, and have done so since very young. I respect hunting as a recreational activity as well as one that does provide sustenance for many families. I also freely acknowledge the role that firearms play in defense – that of both self and private property, from aggressors both animal and human.
That being said, we do not boast a spotless record and though most instances of injury or death by firearm in our area are accidental, this does not negate the fact that they occurred. One early example: in the 1958 Sumner yearbook, a would-be sophomore was memorialized following his death in a gun accident. Yes, in our communities, this is the exception more than the rule and I would say most of the people who I know who own guns do so responsibly.
One could say that since a major problem does not exist here, that we shouldn't worry about trying to find a solution. But the problem didn't exist in Uvalde until this week, and the problem didn't exist in Sandy Hook until ten years ago. It didn't exist in Columbine until my junior year of high school, but I guarantee people worry about it there to this day.
Many will claim that mass shootings are the result of mental health issues, and that may very well be true in many cases, but not all. Many will claim that they are the result of a culture that glorifies violence, and certainly, ours has, but as anyone who has played a video game or watched a movie or television show which incorporates violence can tell you, there is a very big leap from experiencing fictitious violence and committing it intentionally oneself.
Almost any object, if used in the right way, can be used as a weapon. Some are designed to be. We regulate who can drive cars and institute highway rules, so that vehicles are operated in a way that protects the driver and those around them. This does not mean that a person who should not drive cannot in some way get behind the wheel and either intentionally or not, cause injury or death. And the fact that regulations do not prevent all vehicle-related deaths does not compel us to remove those regulations. No one is truthfully blaming inanimate objects for actions committed through them, but only those willfully ignorant or callous in their responsibilities as part of a society would suggest that objects that possess the distinct possibility to cause harm, to say nothing of those designed to do so, should not be carefully regulated.
I do not believe that there is any one action that will end mass shootings in the US, and certainly not gun violence in general. Those intent on causing harm will always find a way to do so and yet, that fact should not prevent us from trying to ensure that it is made as difficult as possible for a person with malicious intent to acquire a tool that will allow them to accomplish it most expeditiously.
I believe we will likely need to attack this issue from both sides - mental health and guns. And certainly, since many recent mass shootings seem to have targeted individuals based on race, it is evident that one of our challenges is not mental health specifically, but generational hatred, and make no mistake: this is not a mindset that one falls into accidentally – it is taught. Ask yourself, if parents are teaching their children, explicitly or implicitly, to hate a group of people based on their ethnicity or skin color, where and how are we to combat this?
I do not know the answer. I do not believe it is banning guns. Turning a blind eye is equally useless. As I am working toward being your representative in Augusta, I would ask you what your thoughts are. Unfortunately, due to the divisive nature of this topic, I fear direct comments on this post could become combative very quickly and so I am turning of commenting for this post. I truly encourage you to message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com with ideas for ways we can try to address these issues. All constructive suggestions will be considered in whatever opinion I eventually form.