Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts in the Wake of the Connecticut Mass Murder

I am not one of those people who is even a little bit conflicted about guns.  I don't buy the bullshit line that people kill people and not guns because the fact of the matter is that it is much easier to kill someone with a gun.  There is no other purpose for a gun beyond taking life.  I have never in my life held a gun, let alone shot one and am proud of fact.

As I watched CNN yesterday and learned about the shooting in Connecticut, I was absolutely horrified.  The more I watched, the more anxious I was for my children to return home so that I could hug them and kiss them - a luxury that 20 sets of parents and extended families no longer have.  As we held our sons and told them how much we loved them, several things struck my mind. Watching the news, there has been a lot of discussion of the role that mental health had to play, the absence of a discussion on race and of course gun control.

Whenever these shootings happen, the media goes on yet another round of ableism by stigmatizing  those who are mentally ill.  Few will acknowledge that those who are neurologically atypical are more prone to harm themselves than others, and instead we get warnings about how we need to deal with the mentally ill in society.  Yes, people need access to good mental health treatment but not because they might go out and kill someone but because healthcare, regardless of the reason, should be a human right.  What people who are disabled do not need, is yet another round of pathologizing commentary.  Dr. Drew and the like have no idea of what Adam Lanza's motivation really was, or if he was indeed mentally ill, but they have no problem repeatedly saying this.  Neurologically typical people perform heinous acts ever damn day but when horrible incidents like this happen, you never ever hear that.

Gun violence has long been a problem in inner cities.  Everyday, promising young men and women die and no one has anything to say about this because the children who are dying are Black and Brown.  I am in no way suggesting that what happened was not absolutely horrific, simply pointing out that the response is different depending on who is dying.  Another issue worth talking about is the fact that when the assailant is White, the media immediately says that the person is mentally ill and yes, this is ableism, but it is also about creating the assailant as an individual, so as not to suggest the actions of the individual of being representative of his race.  When people of colour are violent, it is deemed representative of our race and entire communities are stigmatized through the actions of one person.  If you look at the statistics on mass murderers like Adam Lanza, or on serial killers like Jeffry Dahmer, you will find that they are largely White and yet Whiteness is deemed not to be the violent race;  a White face is supposed to mean safety and normalcy.  How we talk about events like this greatly shape our understanding of who is violent and why.

In terms of gun control, already the NRA has their talking points at play.  I have heard that to talk about gun control in the wake of this terrible incident is politicizing the issue.  If we cannot talk about gun control in the wake of so many deaths, then when exactly is it appropriate? The truth of the matter is that the guns Adam used were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza, his mother.  This means that all the checks and balances which have been suggested probably wouldn't have worked in this case, because Adam gained access to weapons through his now deceased mother.  Is there any reason anyone needs to own a bushmaster .223?   Pause a moment and look at this semi-automatic weapon.

Witnesses are saying that they believe that at last 100 rounds were fired. This gun, like all others, was made to kill but in this case, it kills at a high proficiency because of the number of rounds that it is able to fire.  The Bushmater .223 is a soldiers weapon and does not belong in a civilian's hand for any reason. No one needs to fire multiple rounds for personal protection or to hunt a damn deer.  That is the reality that gun lobbyists don't want to discuss. Yes, background checks are necessary but most importantly, semi-automatic weapons need to be taken off the streets. I say this without equivocation.  No matter what they say, continuing to arm society, or suggesting that this happened because God has been taken out of the schools, is not a solution and is in fact an insult to all of the children and adults who died yesterday.

I am going to continue to watch the updates on what happened with a very heavy heart. As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain these families are going through. There are probably gifts already under the tree for children who will not be there to open them.  No one should have to deal with something so terrible. No one should have to bury their baby.  Children should not have to go to bed at night with knowledge that their parent was taken away from them through an act of heinous violence.  Quite simply, the violence has to stop in every community.  Today, my thoughts are with the victims.