The Christmas holiday can bring mixed emotions. It's a reminder of past happy holiday times with family or maybe it's a reminder of past unhappy family times with family. It's often a reminder of loved ones who have died and a time to remember them. My Dad died on December 23rd, more than 20 years ago now, of a stroke. It took him suddenly with no warning. Needless to say, Christmas that year was a blur. We tried to celebrate for the sake of the kids but nothing was the same. His funeral was the day after Christmas. We sang "Joy to the World" to make us all feel better at the end of the funeral.
So this year, the Davis family in Colorado will have an awful holiday season if they celebrate the holiday. They will never forget the date of December 21- the winter solstice. To them, it will always mean the death of a beloved and beautiful daughter, just 17, full of life and hope for the future. Claire Davis was senselessly shot in the head point blank by an 18 year old with a shotgun on a mission at Arapahoe High School in Colorado ( near Columbine and Aurora). Now- another funeral. Another gun death. Another one to add to the 30,000 a year who die from gunshot injuries. She was not a number to her family and friends. She was a living breathing human being until suddenly she wasn't. The shooter, a teen who could legally buy a shotgun and ammunition in Colorado, was just your average teen to those around him. Until suddenly he wasn't. And now, he, too, is dead from self inflicted gunshot wounds. He died immediately. It took 7 days for Claire Davis to die. From the article:
80 seconds. And no, Claire was in the right place at the wrong time. Kids should be able to go to school without being shot by other kids. But that's the America we have. Shotguns are meant for hunting. Should 18 year olds be able to buy them legally? I'm just asking. The NRA would love to lower the age for overall gun purchases. Good idea, right? The NRA lobbyists and leaders want more gun sales. If the age for legal purchase is lowered, there could be more gun sales. And there would likely be more gun deaths. But never mind common sense. When profit comes ahead of human lives, this is what we get. There's a reason why the legal age for drinking alcohol is 21. Our collective wisdom and our common sense have informed us that teen-agers can't handle the responsibility of drinking alcohol legally. Bad things can happen when teens drink illegally. Take this story of a 19 year old college student who almost froze to death on a cold winter night after being out drinking with friends."Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received," read a statement posted by the Davis family on the hospital's Facebook page.The family said they felt "truly blessed" to have been Claire's parents."The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger," the statement read.Authorities said Pierson's attack lasted just 80 seconds. Officials believe the teen was angry after losing his coveted spot on the debate team."His intent was evil and his evil intent was to harm multiple individuals," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said last week.Upon entering the school, Robinson said, Pierson fired one round down the hallway. He then shot Claire, who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend as he headed toward the library. Claire suffered severe head trauma, which put her in a coma.Robinson said Claire was an innocent victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We know that we can't stop all bad or illegal behavior with laws. But for goodness sake, we have to at least try to make it more difficult for accidents or tragic incidents to occur. For our public health and safety, our elected leaders make laws about most things in our lives. Without laws, chaos would ensue. We are a nation of law. But when it comes to guns, not so much. We need to decide what we stand for as a country. We need to have a collective wisdom and collective conscience and a sense that what we are doing is for good reason. But I digress.
Two other Colorado teens have been arrested for plotting to shoot up their school after the holidays:
Just a week after a disaffected teen severely wounded a fellow student at his Colorado high school before killing himself, police arrested two other boys Friday on suspicion of plotting to similarly shoot up their high school in the same state.
Trinidad High School, Trinidad Middle School and Fisher's Peak School in Trinidad were on "lockout" status — sealing children and staff inside — for most of Thursday until it was determined that the boys weren't in class.
The boys — who weren't identified because they are juveniles ages 15 and 16 — face charges of making a credible threat to a school and felony inciting destruction of life or property, Trinidad police said Friday.
They'd been planning for at least six weeks to open fire in the high school once classes resume next month after the winter break, police said.Where were these teens going to get their guns? Most likely from home or stealing them. Guns are readily available for teens who get a crazed and dangerous idea in their heads that they can just go to a school and shoot it up. Easy Peasy. It's far too easy for people who shouldn't be able to access guns in America to get them. We make it easy. We can change that but we don't. Kids have access to guns in their homes if they are not locked up and secured with no ammunition nearby. Felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn't have guns have easy access to them. Look at this video recently released by the Brady Campaign:
If we pass a law to require background checks on all commercial gun sales, we can make it less easy for people who shouldn't have guns from getting them. The law would not stop law abiding citizens from going about their business of buying guns if they so choose. Of course this law would not stop parents and others from leaving their loaded guns around where children can find them. That's another issue that should be addressed in a different way. For example, if this Arizona family had secured their loaded gun where their child couldn't have accessed it they would be celebrating the holiday season with their 3 year old instead of without him:
Police say an Arizona toddler is dead after accidentally shooting himself with his parent’s gun.The parents said they "inadvertently" misplaced the gun.
Avoidable. Irresponsible. Tragic.
I write about these senseless deaths of children frequently. I contribute to the Kid Shootings blog where we can't keep up with the number of kids who shoot themselves or others or get shot by someone else. I admire Joe Nocera of the New York Times who has been writing about gun deaths (in his Gun Report) since Newtown. It is stunning. His latest column features my friend and colleague Griffin Dix from California, whose young son was senselessly shot by a friend who was handling a loaded gun in his home. Nocera will continue writing in the hopes that our elected leaders will wake up and do the right thing. He wants us to understand that this is a real public health and safety problem in America that we are ignoring because our leaders are stuck in their old ways of thinking that they can't fight against a mythically powerful gun lobby. They can, of course, but we have to make them realize that they can. Recent comments by Senator Joe Manchin, who co-sponsored the Senate bill that failed last April, reveal the difficulties with trying to get anything done in Congress regarding gun reform. If Manchin is right, we can expect our Congress to ignore what is happening before their very noses every day again in 2014. We can expect them to ignore the victims of senseless shootings and retreat to their pre-conceived and flawed ideas that our country won't do gun violence prevention.
We can prove them wrong. We have to make them realize that it is our children and our communities they we, and they, are fighting for. They know this but they won't admit it. It's a national tragedy and embarrassment that the massacre of 20 small children a little over a year ago resulted in a retreat by our Congress. Those families are going through their second Christmas holiday without their beloved children, sisters, and mothers. But they are not going to let Congress forget about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
This Christmas season, I hope that my readers and my own circle of friends and family enjoy their precious time with those they love. It's a dark time. It's a hopeful time. I am going to continue my work to prevent the gun violence that devastates our communities every day. The gun violence prevention movement is stronger than ever. The recent merging of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action brings a stronger force to the table and shows that we are not going away. We understand that there is fear and paranoia about things that will not happen if we pass those stronger gun laws. But that unreasonable fear and paranoia can't stop us from doing what's right. We can't let what we are doing now become the "new normal." That is why we changed laws about where people can smoke. That is why we insisted that cars come with seat belts and air bags. The "new normal" wasn't working so we changed what was normal. And we have saved lives as a result. That's what this is about.
The "new normal" should be that we will do everything we can to prevent the senseless and tragic shootings in our communities. As a country we should be better than this. And we are. If we don't stand for something, then who are we? There is hope this season that the next year will bring the changes we deserve. And that hope may just come from our children whose lives are peppered with gun violence and whose school days include lock down drills in case of a school shooter. That is not normal. And it's not right. A young Newtown teen is giving us hope. Please take a look at this video of Sarah Clements who has founded the Junior Newtown Action Alliance:
Such wisdom beyond the years of a teen-ager should give the rest of us hope and courage. Most especially our elected leaders. Listen to Sarah Clements. Listen to the voices of the majority- of the victims- of the survivors. Lives depend on it.
Yesterday at my church, we heard a beautiful and often discordant Advent Cantata written and composed by a young man ( Paul) who grew up in my church. He is now an independent musician/composer. His beautiful voice has graced us frequently in church. As part of the Cantata, Paul wrote this about Hope:
"Hope is a complicated concept. When discussed in church it is most often dealt with from a positive perspective. But there is also a darker side to hope; the idea that hope essentially must be born out of despair. We hope for a better world because of the sad state that we can find our present world to be in. This is the darkness of advent, the unwillingness to remain in a discordant present and the need to look forward to a more perfect future. The music you will hear in movement three will reflect this discord and may even feel uncomfortable. It will also convey a sense of urgency: the need to move out of this chaos. Hope does eventually deliver us, and in the fourth movement, the choir sings in unison as we learn how to fulfill our own hopes and fight back our own fears and the darkness of our world."I am sharing this with Paul's permission. His words struck me in many ways. What I especially liked was the idea that we need to move out of chaos and into hope. If we look at the lives lost to gun violence, how can we not feel a sense of helplessness and despair? How can we feel hopeful? But then Paul suggests that if we sing in unison we can fulfill our hopes.
Let us sing in unison this holiday season and raise our voices to save lives. Speak and sing loudly about the need for stronger gun laws and the changes that can bring to our current state of chaos. When a life is taken suddenly and unexpectedly by a bullet, the lives of those left behind become chaotic and are forever changed. I am amazed at the strength and the hope shown by the many victims and survivors of gun violence who have chosen to fight for change in the names of their loved ones.
This holiday season, hope for a 2014 where Congress acts for change and acts to save lives. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the season. Stay safe out there.