Once again, with sickening familiarity, college campuses elsewhere are in mourning because of the deranged actions of people with guns. Last Friday, an apparently depressed student at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge killed herself and two classmates. Then, yesterday, a former student burst into a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and shot 18 people, killing 7 at last count.
Unfortunately, I now have a fairly standard email message that goes out to the Trinity community every time one of these tragedies occurs. Show your ID, report suspicious behavior, no guns allowed on our campus, seek help if you feel depressed or know someone who is. We have an emergency plan. We know what we would do when confronted with threats.
What we don’t know, and what nobody in America seems to know, is how to put an end to the reality of the threats that course through our lives every day. We live in a terribly violent society. The prevalence of guns makes it all-to-easy for sick people to act on their worst impulses. Forget about the idea that having guns can keep people safe — the madmen with guns are winning this war, and the inability of our lawmakers to understand that their first moral and political obligation is to protect the citizens, not the gun lobby, is shameful.
What can we, simple citizens, do to end the violence? We can start by insisting on a louder national conversation about the problem. When was the last time you heard any of the presidential candidates talk about serious plans to stop gun violence in our cities, on our campuses, throughout our lives? Of course, today you’ll hear a lot of jabbering about it, much posturing, but then it will all go away.
We willingly take off our shoes and practically strip naked in airports to prove that we’re not terrorists while much more immediate threats to our communities wander around armed to the teeth, shooting at will, getting away with murder time and again.
The most futile gesture in the world is spending time and money on plans to act in the aftermath of a madman’s fusillade. Yes, of course, we do have emergency plans, and we make them even more elaborate after each incident. But all emergency plans are reactions to what has already occurred; all security procedures are in response to the plain fact that the roots of the problem are spreading rapidly. Those roots include the ready availability of guns both legal and illegal, the inability of our society to address mental health issues effectively, and the passivity of neighbors who know something is wrong but don’t want to intrude. Silence kills.
I welcome comments from readers about ways to stop the violence.