By Linda Grupp Boutin
I heard an anguished father's voice. Deep in the throes of grief over his son's death last Friday night at UCSB, my heart broke as he spoke. All his inhibitions were turned off. He spoke his mind with force and truth. He demands a solution to the problem our society faces. On why we as a culture accept more and more shooting sprees. On why students just days away from graduation must fear for their lives and dive for cover as the shooting starts. On why the NRA and our politicians keep allowing those obviously unable to cope with daily life encouragement to buy and keep automatic weapons that they can then use to wreak havoc on whomever they choose.
So once again we must ask ourselves why a troubled young man legally owned 3 automatic handguns. Once again we must ask why did he have more than enough ammunition in clips of 10 shots each to have taken out over 400 people. About why he was allowed to put one of his roommates in jail for stealing $22 worth of candles, but when his family reached out to law enforcement to check if he was okay, almost nothing was done. It is carefully explained that he was polite to the police when they checked on him. That he did not qualify as a 5150. That he was legally competent to buy the weaponry and clips and ammunition that he took with him in his shiny, black BMW. REALLY?
How many grieving families do we witness before we arise in protest? How close does it need to come to your neighborhood before we decide ammunition clips of 10 to 50 rounds are meant for soldiers defending our shores, not for the average person walking on the street? Do you allow it just because the NRA says it must be so?
I can tell you that it has come way too close to me for comfort. I am plagued by memories of a gunman opening fire in a McDonald's less than 2 blocks from my home. I am exhausted wondering which of my nieces of nephews is at which college around the country when a young man reaches his breaking point. My niece just graduated from UCSB last spring. Thank goodness he didn't decide to open fire a year earlier when she walked those very streets. Yet just because she is safe, still there are 6 other young people dead today along with the gunman himself. One of those who died was 22 years old and from the very city where I live! And why in the world do we tolerate our elementary schools becoming the killing grounds for disenchanted and sick young mens' discontent?
These are not the values that have made America great over the centuries. And so many of these shootings wind up with the troubled person shooting themselves! Why do we allow this to continue? When we as Americans make up our minds to do something about a problem, we are strong standing together. The majority of Americans no longer even own guns. Most of us feel that gun laws must be strengthened, but what have you actually done to help with this problem? Have you picked up a phone and called your representative? Have you sent an e-mail to your senator? Have you signed a petition calling for stronger background checks before guns can be purchased?
Listening to that anguished father admit that he did nothing when he heard of Sandyhook illustrates the problem. Now he is speaking out, do each of us need to lose a loved one to a gun before standing up? Let's get proactive and realize we too are just one gun away from his pain. Can you hear his voice and empathize?