She was twelve years old, but she had the demeanor of an adult. She spoke clearly and unequivocally about her fear, and about her hope. She wanted the adults in her life to make wise decisions about her safety. She asked for help and support, since she had no power…
And yet, she did. She and other children took to the streets and the parks to help us adults come to our senses: A child who is not allowed to drive a car in this country by themselves at fifteen—because their judgment section in the brain has not fully developed at that age—should also not be allowed to walk into a store and purchase an automatic weapon designed for military action.
She was afraid, but held a fear bolstered by determination. If the adults in her world would only offer a prayer, and no other intervention, then she would raise her voice, and walk—until one day she could vote—if still alive. Would she be heard? Would she soon be ignored, and forgotten? I don’t know. But I know that I plan to remember her, and try to make a difference—in a world too often controlled by misunderstanding, and fear.
The misunderstanding? That a Second Amendment in a wonderfully free country was ever designed for a person to buy whatever weapon they can afford to use at random when angry (the clause referred even then to a properly armed militia, as a reaction to having no official protection from a British crown). We own more guns in this country than the seven European countries which were invaded and attacked on their own soil during World War II.
The fear? That our own police force, and our military, both the best equipped and trained people in the world, cannot adequately protect us—from ourselves? More people in our country have died at the hands of American citizens than anywhere else in the world. More children in our homes have died accidental deaths annually (1,297, according to Pediatrics, medical journal, and the Centers For Disease Control) by playing with unsupervised weapons than Americans killed by “enemy fire” in our last two wars (Iraq, 4541; Afghanistan, 2410, over a 16-year period).
The solution? Complicated, but possible—on many fronts. (Dr. Dan McGee, an Ethics Professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, used to say: “Americans suffer from an idolatry of weapons”). Is it true? I’m not sure, but I’m sure we need to work on our assumptions– that any individual should have the “right” to own a weapon; that universal backgrounds checks are an infringement of personal rights, that military weapons should be available across a counter, and that our scrutiny of the unstable person requires little attention.
I’m going to work harder on the solution. I owe it to that twelve year old on TV—and to all her friends.
Written by Dan Bagby