Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Done Asking What It Will Take

It has happened time and time and time and time and time again. And no matter who are the victims, or where the violence occurs, the cycle is repeated over and over and over again. As a country, when twenty innocent babies, six years old, were slaughtered by a deranged killer in the one place they should have felt most safe, elementary school, we said back then, “this could never happen again.” Twelve years and many mass shootings later, it has happened again, this time, nineteen innocent babies, aged nine to eleven years old, mowed down by over one hundred rounds of ammunition, by yet another deranged and evil killer.

How does this keep happening? Wait, that is a foolish question to ask, because we know the answers, and “answers” is pluralized because there are several factors. No. The question is “why does this keep happening?” The answers should be obvious, and the goal should all be the same, whether it be school, church, the mall, or a movie theater, we should feel safe in all of those spaces and more. The truth is, we lost that guarantee years ago.

It starts with a lack of common sense. We may think we know what common sense is. The term common sense in fact gets thrown about quite too easily, most likely with the assumption that we know what it means. Though the majority of us may know what common sense is, there are still too many who do not. Otherwise I would not be writing this post.

Merriam-Webster defines common sense as “a sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” For example, if it is raining, and umbrella would help to keep me dry. There were much larger meaning examples I could have used, but I kept it as simple as I could. Common sense. An umbrella covers you. So if it rains, it should protect you from getting wet. Common sense.

Common sense has been thrown out the window. With gun violence now the leading cause of death for children, just look at that, “gun violence the leading cause of death for children,” (as stated by the CDC), not cancer, not car accidents, GUN VIOLENCE! Cancer is not very preventable and car accidents are unpredictable. But gun violence is something that can be prevented. And yet, it is not. Our government leaders, lobbyists, and the ever powerful NRA shout “more guns”, “arm teachers” (would not have helped in Ulvade as the killer actually wounded three officers, and it is a stupid thought anyway), and both sides of the political spectrum are so dug in, I do not expect to see any reverse in gun violence statistics in my lifetime, which is so sad for my daughters, as they will raise their children with this violence. Most of you reading this are old enough to remember back in school, WE DID NOT HAVE MASS SHOOTINGS IN SCHOOLS! And before anyone chimes in, “that’s because we had Jesus and prayer in our schools.” No, we did not. At least I did not, from the years I was in school, from 1971 to 1983, there was no religion taught in school, and no prayers were spoken. None. And we did not have mass shootings on a near daily basis.

So enough with pissing on our shoes and telling us it is raining. These are not the solutions:

“more guns” = nope, we have more guns every year, and all we have seen is more violent crime and mas shootings.

“arm teachers” = nope, we need our teachers to keep our students safe, something that should not be that hard. Their attention cannot be to pursue the attacker leaving the children vulnerable. Again, trained officers were wounded in this recent attack.

“guns don’t kill, evil people will find a way to kill if that is what they want to do” = yes, that is correct, but all efforts must be made to reduce if not eliminate mass casualties. Depending on the weapon chosen, makes the difference between one person killed and nineteen children. Which is true. While the assault weapons ban of 1994 banned some assault weapons, it did not ban all of them. And while crime with an assault weapon did go down, use of other guns in violent acts did go up. So yes, if someone wants to kill, they will find a way. But there is no reason to have a magazine that can hold more than ten rounds. If you are defending yourself, and cannot get the job done with an AR with ten rounds, you need better training.

“if you ban certain weapons, we will lose all of our weapons” = nope, not even close. This war cry has been going on for decades. And not one president has kept a US citizen from being able to possess a gun, whether a pistol or a rifle. As a 2nd amendment supporter, I support the right to defend myself, and though I do not hunt, I do enjoy some of the treats my fellow hunters share in certain game meats. But in either case, self defense or hunting, I am baffled as to the need to possess a weapon that is used in war, such as an assault rifle. I have tried to ask my friends who have those types of guns, why they have them, and responses are nothing more than a “want”, than a “need.” But if there is that much of a desire to fire an assault rifle, then why are those owners not enlisting in the armed forces if they want that kind of power and destructions in their hands?

“mental illness, mental illness, mental illness” = buzzwords, but no solutions, by ANYONE! To deal with mental illness, we need universal health care, and well, we all know that is not going to happen. And what good is dealing with mental illness, if we ignore the warnings? As usual, it is now coming out, conversations by the recent killers, as far as many months ago, hinted something was seriously wrong. And no one did anything. But there is also the concern over free speech when it comes to someone making a threat to kill someone. Make no mistake, just as the 2nd amendment is not absolute (you do have a right to bear arms, but you do not have a right to own a howertzer), the 1st amendment is also not absolute (you do not get to yell fire in a crowded theater). If someone makes a threat to harm someone, there must be zero tolerance at this point.

An eighteen year old man, in actuality, still just a child with a developing brain, bought two AR’s and thousands of rounds of ammunition. He had over sixty magazines with thirty rounds each at his ready to slaughter. And the mistakes by law enforcement are unforgivable.

But the cycle will repeat. Need proof? Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, as he is known to respond during such tragic events, went as far during his monologue, to offer this rare and unusual request, to that of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has often been the brunt of Kimmel’s humor. He said, he didn’t think of Cruz “as some sort of monster” when it comes to this shooting, as Cruz has children himself. And he spoke to his audience that he really wanted to believe that, and for Cruz to respond properly. Well, I am expecting a different conversation from Kimmel on Monday night, because Cruz actually did what he has always done, while at the NRA convention in Texas, Friday night, zero compassion, defiance of anything that was meant to prevent mass shootings at the expense of the NRA. In other words, typical Ted, and he is a monster after all.

And it does not matter how many of the survivors they interview from this latest massacre, their horrific recall will still not be enough to convince our government to make any meaningful attempt to at least reduce the frequency of the massacres.

So while our leaders continue to spin wheels, go nowhere to even reduce the incidence of mass shootings, I do what I can for my daughters to let them know that not all adults have given up hope.

During a screening of the movie “8th Grade,” there was a scene in which an “active shooter drill” was executed. Keep in mind, in my education, all I ever had to go through was a bad weather or fire drill. My daughters said it was fairly accurate, that the film showed the way it was supposed to be done. However, after all these years, during these drills, and the mass shootings continue to happen, students are often found not paying attention (you know, like those on an airplane not paying attention to emergency instructions prior to takeoff). It was not the student’s behavior that really upset me, but the reason why. And I could not believe this came from my daughter, and yes, students now feel this way. “We know these drills may save some kids, but not all. We just accept that if it happens here, the drill is not going to keep us from being shot.”

My God! It is one thing for us to have grown numb to these mass shootings. But I have no doubt, my daughter was sincere in her assessment. She goes to school every day, with the knowledge that a mass shooting could happen at her school. But if it does, she could die. And there is nothing she can do about it. We have failed our children.

Now I know I will have some respond, “oh, you’re just being dramatic. It won’t happen here.” You mean in a town of 15,000 people. Big violence doesn’t happen in small places? In a small populated area in Pennsylvania, called Upper Perk, on May 24th, 1993, a 15 year old student walked into his classroom, and murdered another student. I know this story personally, because I knew children from that school, who then had to deal with it back then. And the statements are always the same, “how could that have happened here?” Violent crime happens everywhere. It does not matter how big or populated an area is. And it is the wrong reason for a place to become famous, or infamous, like Ulvade, Texas.

While we wait in futility for our government to come up with a solution, we need to have conversations with our children, not just about how to deal with any feelings of despair, anger, hopelessness. We need to have conversation about events like what happened at Robb Elementary School.

Dr. David Schonfeld, according to his autobiography, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, among many other credentials such as the director of the National Center For School Crisis And Bereavement. The point is, he is well respected, and well utilized in his knowledge of handling crisis like Ulvade just went through. He has actually been involved in these efforts going back more than thirty years.

Dr. Schonfeld states that we must have these uncomfortable conversations with our children, to help them through these crisis, even if it was not their school. Because just as with my daughter, who believes that it could be her school some day, has feelings and thoughts that need to be dealt with. It serves no purpose and actually harms our children, if we have them just bury their head in the sand like an ostrich, and protect them from hearing anything like the news coming from us. Our children will hear of tragedies like this, one way or another, social media, word of mouth, or the news. But who should be the most trusted of all when dealing with news like mass shootings? The parents. By not making ourselves available to talk to our kids, will only result in them becoming more upset, because they need to hear the truth from us, their parents.

According to Dr. Schonfeld, we as parents need to help our children cope, listen to what our children have heard. You will be surprised what they actually know. Their concerns will be different than those of their parents. The doctor also states that it is important not to minimize the distress (like “you have nothing to worry about, it won’t happen here”). That distress is real. You must not dismiss that distress or tell them they should not, or have no reason to feel that way. A parent needs to make themselves available to listen to their child in times like these. And just as important, the parent not hide their own distress from their child. Kids are very intuitive, I know mine are. Hiding things from them only will serve to develop mistrust from the one person they should have unquestionable trust from.

I am tired of what has not worked to at least reduce these tragedies, political talking points, meaningless tropes such as “hopes and prayers” which do nothing to bring back the dead children and other victims. I am frustrated that my daughters will never know, and likely their children will never know what it is like, to just go to school to learn, never giving a thought that today could be the day they die in a school shooting.

Something needs to be done. We know it can be. We know the 2nd amendment will not be sacrificed by any regulation to prevent ownership of certain weaponry and ammunition. We know that people are hurting, and that may lead them to do awful things, so we need to pay more attention. The chances are, someone’s ill feelings will be over our heads, and it will be up to us to do something, just like the mantra “see or hear something, do something.” But this cycle of shooting, hopes and prayer, Democrat this Republican that, forget shooting, and repeat is the true definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It is not working.

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