Since our family expanded into Colorado, we've made a number of trips to the Centennial State. There's a lot to be said about the qualities of the state, including the politics, the sunshine, the breweries, and the protected natural areas. Colorado is not perfect, obviously. But there is one issue that is very sobering... school shootings.
Although it was not the first, the killings at Columbine High School in 1999 put the topic on the national map. You would think that this tragedy would shake our national psyche to its very core, resulting in meaningful and significant actions to keep something similar from ever happening again. That was not the case, with deranged shooters now targeting even the most innocent at elementary schools. I know a person who lost a nephew at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, and his grief was endless and life-shaking. Can there be a more sadistic and sinister act than shooting young children at a school?
Previously, I was inspired to blog after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. I discussed what I called "baby steps" to deal with the issue of gun violence. There have been school shootings in 43 of 50 states. Certainly, this is unacceptable. Add to this the shootings at churches, mosques, and synagogues; colleges and universities; and places where people congregate for rest and relaxation, and I wonder where we are as a society.
On one of my first trips to Colorado in 2015, I was sitting in a coffee house in Colorado Springs when I got an alert that a shooting was reported. Eventually, three people were killed and nine were injured. The target? Planned Parenthood, its staff, and its clients. I was a couple of miles away from this clinic, and never in danger. But as the crisis continued, I have to admit an uneasiness that an active shooting was still in progress, and I didn't know where the shooter was.
In April of this year, I was staying with dear relatives in Centennial, Colorado, and the kids in school were in lockdown because a disturbed person was armed and making threats about a shooting. After a coordinated search, the person was found dead, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My cousin had just talked with Welsey about how, as a parent, "I have to worry about school shootings." Then... lockdown.
In May of this year, another Colorado tragedy. A student was killed and 8 wounded at STEM School Highlands Ranch, about 6 miles away from my cousin's home. The student killed was shot while rushing one of the two shooters (his bravery brings tears to my eyes).
I recognize that the people I love have a greater chance of being injured or dying in a traffic accident. But one study of small firearm ownership in the US estimated that there are almost 400 million small arms owned by civilians in the US, a ratio of 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents. With this ownership comes responsibility.
This year, a bill was introduced by Representative Elizabeth Weight in the Utah Legislature that "would require firearm owners to be personally responsible for their weapon by requiring guns to be stored in a secure container if the owner is not directly overseeing the weapon" (from The Daily Universe, a BYU newspaper). HB 87 would make it "...House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted to table the bill after the "National Rifle Association and the Utah Shooters Sports Council spoke in opposition."
Every gun owner must be held legally responsible for the safe storage of their firearms. Left the key to the ammo safe laying around? Shared with the 16 year old the combination to the gun locker? Keep a loaded assault rifle leaning against the door jam in case a skunk wanders into the yard? No more, "It was just a tragic accident." There are no accidents... there are poor decisions that result in purposeful or unintended shootings. Driving while under the influence is a poor decision with potentially tragic consequences. Gun owners should be held to a similar standard of judgement."
My God. Even baby steps don't seem to get traction here. May the people voting against such a common sense regulation have written on their tombstones, "I am complicit to gun violence."
|Caroline enjoying a hike in Colorado, near Denver.|