I just dropped mine at middle school half an hour ago. And I’ll tell you what it felt like to me. It felt like a new form of terrorism.
Terrorism’s aim is the unsettling of daily norms, the infusion of fear, anxiety, and a sense of powerlessness into the general population. That’s what I felt as I crept along the dropoff line in the Subaru.
I’ll wager I’m not the only parent who had to tamp down the urge to instruct his 8th grader on the finer points of mass shooter survival. Where is your jacket? Put that lunch in your backpack. Remember, if Boo Radley shows up with military-grade weapons, be sure to hide in the kiln closet and survive!
It’s becoming normalized, this insidious new safety calculus. Eight days ago my daughter and I attended the wedding of my cousin at Seattle City Hall. Gay marriage became legal in Washington State that day, and the mayor had thrown open the community’s most public space to host 140 weddings. The day was glorious. But the night before, I found myself taking serious stock of the risk. Gay marriage is still a passionate issue, one of those end-of-civilization buttons for some of those on the extreme right. It wasn’t unthinkable--in fact, it was quite thinkable--for some right-wing nut to show up with an assault rifle and start shooting up the place.
That sort of thinking leads, of course, to Terrorists-have-won Boulevard, and of course we attended the wedding. Love and joy all around.
Why are we accepting this? Why are we adapting to it? This is interior terrorism: We absorb the fear, assuming we’re powerless to stop it. We adapt to the fear, quivering in the face of a few (emphasis few) gun enthusiasts who demand their right to collect military weaponry while externalizing the blowback onto us and our children. We do it to ourselves.
If a group with a foreign-sounding name had perpetrated the Aurora theater massacre, the Clackamas Town Center shootings, and the Newtown horror, we’d have take action yesterday. Instead we get Stephen Roberts on Morning Edition knitting his sticks about the power of the gun lobby. The gun lobby. What civilized country has a gun lobby?
We are greater than the gun lobby. We are the pissed-off parents lobby. We have the power to gather and sit in the offices of Congressmen and demand to know why they are voting for Bushmasters--I’m pissed off that I even know the name of that gun--over the safety of our children.
Act now. In the wake of 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act in thirty days. Not thirty months. Not thirty weeks. Thirty days.
What can we do? Here are a few ideas off the top of my head.
- Ban assault weapons now and forever. Period.
- “Gun shows” end today. We don’t allow people to swap Demerol at “prescription pharmaceutical” shows.
- Background checks, 30-day waiting period, and three co-signers for a gun permit.
- Gun permits. Required for all guns. Pass a test to get one. You drive a car, you need a license.
- Require shooting ranges to check gun licenses. It’s not that hard. Grocery store clerks check ID’s on liquor sales ten times an hour.
That’s a list from ten minutes of thought. I’m sure Congress and the Obama Administration can do a little better.
We need to make sure they do.