, Port Arthur, Texas

January 5, 2013

Guns don't kill people, society does

Cody Edgerton
The Port Arthur News

Edge of the Ink

Dec. 14, 2012, will forever be remembered as a day that our country lost 20 first-graders and six educators to an act of senseless and cowardly violence.

This atrocity was perpetrated by a crazed gunman who also killed his own mother before beginning the rampage, later taking his own life, obviously so he would not have to face individuals that could actually fight back.

And as the details emerged about the shooting, we soon began to hear about the high-powered assault weapon he used and how suddenly thiss was the appropriate time to start demonizing firearms.

There were still doctors attempting to save the innocent lives of children, parents frantically scrambling to find out if their kids would ever again be in their arms and officers attempting to make certain the gunman was incapacitated and school cleared. But media outlets and lobbyist felt it the best time to start up a gunfight of their own, the insensitivity to me is inpalpable.

I, like many growing up in Southeast Texas, have spent my life around firearms in one way or another. Whether it was my father teaching me the importance of respecting guns and showing me the proper way to handle them or my Maw-Maw taking me into the backyard with a BB gun to shoot cans, I have always understood the  responsibility that comes along with handling or owning a gun.

To this day, I enjoy a nice day at the gun range shooting targets or lining up cans to shoot with my .22s. I’ve never had the thought that these weapons should be impossible to obtain or that they should be stripped from the hands of law-abiding citizens. America simply loves its guns and I’m OK with that.

I will say that I will never forget some of the images I saw of injured children, scared parents and the faces of first responders whose souls were shattered by sight of so many lost lives, children who would never again sing a song or line up to go to lunch.

The anger I have in respect to this incident is unfathomable, I’m sure its a feeling shared with many. I myself have two children, they are my world. The love I have for them knows no bounds and the thought that someone could walk into a school and take 20 children from this world is something I will always have trouble comprehending.

But I do not blame the weapons used by the gunman, anymore than I would blame a fork for making me fat or a cigarette for giving me cancer. Of course eating too much will cause me to gain weight and lighting a cigarette can lead to health problems, but it was my choice to place the food in my mouth and it was my choice to smoke.

The problem lies with a society that can’t accept the blame for any problem, as though we can’t possibly be part of the problem. We coddle those that we feel may be a little on the “crazy” side, by that I mean that we simply float them on through life. They are never forced to face the fact that they may need some help. Maybe they just need someone to talk to or someone that can diagnose their illness, thus leading to suitable treatment.

Take away the guns and you’ll end up with someone using other methods. Timothy McVeigh didn’t use a firearm when he let loose a torrent of death in Oklahoma. He used readily available fertilizer and diesel fuel. That incident left 168 dead, including 19 children who were under the age of six and wounded more than 680 people. You don’t see a ban on fertilizer and diesel. Sure, restrictions have been put into place but they are still there and not that hard to obtain.

Guns can be and often are stolen before being used in a crime. It isn’t about restriction, or education and punishment that fits the crime, it’s about prevention. There are those who kill and aren’t necessarily mentally ill. And in regard to those individuals my opinion will be viewed by many with much distaste, but it’s a hard truth. Anyone that takes a human life intentionally and willfully does not deserve to exist in our society. Whether it’s the death penalty or life in prison, allowing those individuals to simply have a free ride is ridiculous. I say you make them work and if they don’t want to, then death is their choice. Yes, it’s harsh and viewed as barbaric by some but what good does it do to have someone locked up for the rest of their life, only to make sure they don’t kill again?

Maybe we could use readily available counseling, support networks and free treatment to prevent many of these “cold-blooded murders.” You will never eliminated violence but saving one life is worth whatever it takes. You cannot place a price on the value of a human life.

It’s not the guns killing people; it’s our society, our social institutions and ourselves. We are failing our society. Everyone can think of someone that seems a little “off” but do we do anything about it? Do we stand up for them or attempt to find out what’s wrong? We can ban guns, violent TV, video games and our violent culture but to what avail? Are we going to ban mental illness?

Like a strong oak tree, the roots of our society must be watered. A society’s roots are the children, they anchor and feed the organism as they progress through life, becoming the trunk, branches and leaves as they reach adulthood. Transforming into a central support network, providing safe haven for others and continuing society’s growth.

If we only tend to the leaves reactively, as we see illness and disease, and don’t water and nurture the root system, the tree withers and dies. Our nation has taken to having schools raise our children and at the same time increasingly removing discipline and moral standards. Children are gently nudged rather than guided and a forceful “no” is not to be found, so their feelings won’t be hurt. These children will grow up finding themselves lost in a world that doesn’t care about their feelings. They cry out, begging for someone to listen, give guidance, but no one responds. We fail them again.

If we don’t shoulder the blame now and realize that we must be proactive, our roots as a great nation will no longer support what is becoming a twisted, rotting, disfigured remnant of what once was.