I hope I don’t offend a lot of people off with this post. It is not my intent. I’ve been wanting to write about a lot of things that have been happening lately but I’ve found that when I sit down to write, the right words don’t come to me.
So I realize that writing about Sandy Hook almost 6 months later is probably, well, behind the times. But I’ve finally figured out what I want to say, so here goes.
I want to explain why I – as a gun owner – am deeply conflicted about what to do. I want a common sense solution – one that keeps our children safe while still allowing access to the fundamental right that so many of us hold dear. I grew up around guns. I’m a soldier, so I’m comfortable around guns. When I deployed to Iraq, I had my weapon on me at all times. I remember coming home and looking for it in blind panic at one point, only remember that no, I’m not in Iraq any more. Not a PTSD flashback but an oh my God where did I leave my weapon sinking heart feeling.
I want to tell you two stories.
The Aftermath of Fort Hood
I came home from Iraq a month after the Fort Hood shootings, when one of our own wearing our rank and our uniforms walked into a building full of unarmed soldiers and civilians and started shooting. He did it to prove a point – he wanted to target soldiers in his war against us.
So when I came back to Fort Hood with my little girls – who were six and four at the time, it was to enroll my oldest in kindergarten. She had started her school years in the same elementary school that I’d attended as a little girl. There were maybe 50 kids in that whole school. It’s the kind of school where the kids you start with will probably be the kids you graduate with years later. It was small. It was, in my mind, safe.
Then we rolled up to my daughter’s new school. It was massive. There were 700 elementary school kids racing through the halls. Fourth graders who looked like giants next to my little girl.
But I asked about security. How did they keep people out? Did they have active shooter drills? They answered yes to all of those questions and I – with my husband’s hand on my shoulder – had to release my six year old into an unfamiliar school filled with strange, big children and pray that no one would target a school full of military kids to wage a war against our soldiers’ families.
Helplessness in Command
My second story takes place a very short time before I left company command. A company commander has a lot of power and influence. I promise you there is no job out there that gives me more access to medical information, police records. I can know almost everything about you. I am charged by my directives to use that power for good and to never abuse it.
But part of that power comes the massive responsibility to ensure that our soldiers are mentally and medically prepared to go to war. So when a soldier comes to one of our NCOs and says, I’m hearing a voice and it’s telling me I may have to kill my family, we’re going to the hospital.
A few short weeks after Sandy Hook, I found myself sitting in the doctors office, having a conversation about how do we keep The Voice from getting angry. What can we do to ensure the Voice stays benevolent and doesn’t keep the soldier awake at night. Or doesn’t keep talking to him at all.
You may or may not believe in demons but let me tell you, that was some really terrifying stuff. And demons or psychiatric illness, the end result is no less terrifying.
But in the aftermath of that conversation, when we decided on the evaluations they would run and no, they wouldn’t allow the soldier out of the hospital until the medication was working correctly, I had an argument with my father. He was complaining about a gun show being cancelled after Sandy Hook.
And I lost my mind. Because no matter how much authority I have a company commander, there was NOTHING I could do that would prevent that soldier from getting out of the hospital, driving himself off post and buying as many guns as he wanted. I couldn’t legally restrict him to post. I couldn’t bar him from buying/owning weapons. All I could do was keep him from firing the government weapons in my arms room.
The utter and complete powerlessness that I felt in that moment sticks with me and it colors how I see gun control.
We say oh, we can’t stop the crazies. We should all be responsible. We should, we should, we should.
But should is a four letter word in my world. It doesn’t describe how things are. I don’t want the fear that one of the violent, sociopathic, super-deviants out there who are idolizing the Aurora killer or the Sandy Hook killer to be able to get their hands on weapons. Because those people are out there. They want to up the score to the next level. Don’t believe me? Go look it up. There may be thousands of them with a sick desire to outdo Lanza.
As we see again and again, it only takes one.
I don’t know what right looks like when it comes to gun control. I certainly don’t want it to be arbitrarily enforced. I don’t want veterans afraid to seek mental health because they’re terrified of losing their right to bear arms. But if someone is unbalanced enough that they can’t care for themselves, do we really want to give them access to weapons?
But something – some rational middle ground has got to be found. Surely in the greatest nation on earth we can come up with something that makes sense? We the people. Not the corporations or their lobbyist pawns.
Us. The fabric that holds this great nation together.