Practicing What I Preach: On Newtown, CT

This is a real letter that will be put in the mail on Friday, December 21st. I decided instead of screaming via social media that “things need to change,” I’d actually send something to someone who can make things change. This serves as a petition, too – once you read through, if you feel inclined to support what I’m saying and be a part of it, comment with your first and last name (and any other comments, of course) either on this page or via Facebook/Twitter. I will add those names to this before sending an electronic copy. 

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this on a plane. I am on a cross-country flight from Chicago to San Francisco, where I live. I’ll be honest; I was always terrified of flying. I don’t like heights, and I’ve never trusted a gigantic hunk of metal, piloted by a bunch of people I am forced to trust without ever knowing, to get me safe passage to a desired destination.

Yet tonight, I’ve never felt safer. I know there are no guns on this flight. September 11th, 2001 assured me that as long as I live, airport security will be far too tight to allow such things to take place again.

The same cannot be said when I’m back on the ground. Below me, it is realistic to assume that at least six people were murdered by gunfire during my five-hour flight, somewhere in the United States.

I know this, because it’s derived from simple math. We know that ever year, there are over 10,000 murders-by-gun in this country. That is about 30 per day. In one-fifth of my day, six people have been killed.

When I land in San Francisco, I will take public transportation from the terminal to my hometown. I’ll be on a crowded train with limited security for over an hour. On my way, I will pass countless malls, two movie theaters, multiple hospitals and my own elementary school.

Those are places I once considered fun, or safe, or beneficial in some way. After the events in Newtown, CT last week, which closely followed the events in Clackamas, OR, which followed the massacre in Aurora, CO, which was one of over 50 public shooting sprees since Columbine…I no longer feel the same way.

These days, when I take my girlfriend to the mall I feel what it must be like for a gazelle in the sights of a lioness. Eyes constantly scanning, thinking worst-case scenarios and my best escape route if a psychotic surprise were to come running into the mall, guns blazing. Take the fire route to my left? Throw her down on the floor and shield her with my own body? Sprint away, and run until I can’t hear the screams anymore?

With the frequency of death-via-gun in this country I’ve always called home, I am legitimately terrified for my life on a daily basis. It’s no longer “it can’t happen to me.” In Clackamas, someone I know was working inside the mall that day. In Newtown, one of my close friends was getting ready for work, ten minutes down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In my mind, it’s no longer an impossibility. Rather, it’s a likelihood that sometime in my life, my family and friends will be threatened by a mentally disturbed, mass-murdering psychopath who wants to be thrust into twisted martyrdom like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Adam Lanza.

I don’t want to go outside anymore. I don’t WANT to go shopping, or to the movie theaters, or to a baseball game. I don’t like taking public transportation, 35 minutes each way, from home to work every day, exposed in public places. I don’t like that I’m becoming paranoid at barely 24 years old.

I don’t like, that as a young man who hopes to have a family of my own someday, that I will be forced, by the nature of a few sick people in our country and our unwillingness to fix a flawed, 200-year-old law, to home-school my children. To stream movies from a laptop, to shop online and never let them experience the joy of adventuring through San Francisco on a summer weekend, or buying my son his first suit and tie at the mall, or sending them to a midnight movie premiere.

I want to make sure my future kids receive the basic liberties – those same liberties that gun control opponents claim would be denied them if restrictions increased; liberties that the young children in Newtown had taken from them. Do some people have more of a “right” to own a gun than I have to feeling safe enough that I will survive an average day in my hometown?

Twenty kids, murdered in class would disagree. So would the six adults who were forced to play the part of hero, because our government won’t.

Sending “thoughts and prayers” is a noble deed, and much-needed. But how will the victims and their families be assured that something similar may never occur again?

Since I can’t physically prevent the violence, I’m using my greatest strength to put in my greatest contribution, in order to show how many people really, truly care about this issue.

There is desperate need for better research and support for mental health, and I surely endorse that. But there are changes that can be more immediate in a time when we really need instant impact.

What we do know as fact is that guns themselves are designed to kill – whether it be hunting, protection, law enforcement, military, or recreation, the entire point of the entity of a weapon is ultimately to make something once living, dead.

In the timeframe of one short week, we have seen a shooting at a mall, elementary school and hospital, not to mention Aurora, earlier this year. A movie theater at a midnight premiere, an elementary school, a hospital and a crowded shopping mall. Four places in which a shooter knew, regardless of mental stability, that the volume of people would be large and the ability for defense would be minimal.

If only the teachers in Newtown, CT held pistols in holsters while teaching five-year-old kids. If only the midnight movie-goers had the necessary training to unleash their weapons in the dark, see through the tear gas, and fire a fatal shot at a heavily armored psychopath before he got the chance. Where’s the logic?

I mourn for the innocent dead. I am furious at the murderous killers. I am disappointed that the greatest country in the world refuses to acknowledge a problem staring down the barrel of a gun, right in our faces. I am disappointed that we refuse to change.

So what do I want? Certainly not the complete abolishment of firearms – some people rely on rifles to put food on the table. This letter you’ve undoubtedly received by now outlines my thoughts quite nicely.

I want anyone carrying a hand gun to be doing so under extremely tight laws and certifications; even retired law enforcement officers. For example, it should take a thorough background check, a psychiatrist’s clearance, and yearly certification to buy a gun. Hell, make people take polygraph tests first.

It should cost illegal traders and buyers years in prison if caught. Every provider should be pre-cleared and regularly monitored. Make trafficking weapons a federal crime, instead of aligning it with similar punishments doled out for illegally moving livestock. Appoint a serious director to the ATF. Release relevant records to the public.

Require every citizen who carries a concealed weapons permit to renew their license once per year, demonstrating mental stability and knowledge of proper use and safety. Ban assault weapons completely – they serve no protective, recreational or non-military use for a regular citizen in the street. They are simply designed to inflict fatal damage on a large population in a short amount of time.

Continue to pull violent songs from the radio, and increase movie, television and video game ratings again. Enforce a law that requires gun owners to have their weapons locked up at all times when they aren’t being used, to help prevent accidental shootings at home. That way, nobody can break into a home or steal a gun to use in a pre-meditated manner.

Lastly, put metal detectors and trained security in every sports and concert venue, school, hospital and movie theater.

Yes, people would still find ways to get guns. Criminals would still exist. But using that as justification for not trying is absurd. Don’t wear seat belts because crashing with them on could still kill you? Surely everyone can see the flawed logic here.

We have seen the results pay off in other countries (In 14 years after a gun ban and buy-back was instituted in Australia, murder and suicide rates dropped significantly and there was not a mass shooting spree in that time). And we regulate everything else in our country – cars, food, homes, even children’s toys – so why not the most dangerous weapon in the world?

I leave you with this thought: Twenty innocent school children will never go to prom, or break curfew, or experiment with energy drinks before a college exam. They will never get a job, lose a job, attend a wedding, and have children of their own. They will never see a life-changing film, read a life-changing book, or explore a life-changing country.

Six-year-old Olivia will never get to play an angel in the school play. Six-year-old Jesse will never master the art of horseback riding. The least we can do is make sure they did not die in vain. We can work towards ensuring that no other child or adult suffers the same fate.

Please, President Obama. Prove that you care about the lives lost. Prove that you actually want this country to change. Prove that you want to try.

Everyone else: stand with me – whether you support better mental health research, gun control, or both. Even if you don’t, sign this petition and make a stand in honor of the victims of Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and prove that you are willing to sacrifice your own convenience for the possibility of preventing such horrific events in the future.

Sincerely worried,

Jeremy Dorn

IF YOU WANT TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THIS PETITION, COMMENT FIRST AND LAST (WITH ANY OTHER COMMENTS) BELOW, OR ON FACEBOOK/TWITTER! I WILL ADD YOUR NAME BEFORE SENDING AN ELECTRONIC COPY TO THE WHITE HOUSE.

Advertisements

Hey America! Batman Doesn’t Use Guns

What can we do to change the world?

Since when is going to a movie, paying for entertainment, watching a superhero movie a dangerous endeavor? If only Batman was real and had seen the bat signal high above the Aurora, Colorado movie theatres at his own premiere last Thursday night.

The world would be less one criminal, plus 12 innocent movie goers.

In my opinion, the answer is NOT “prayer.”

Look, I’m not religious, but I’m also not against religion. I think for people who are religious, prayer is a great way to cope and a way of sending their best regards to people affected in tragedies such as Aurora. Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Further, religion is a way for someone to direct their lives in a positive way.

That being said, praying for the victims of the Aurora shooting is not going to miraculously cure all future killing spree candidates of whatever insanity resides in their skulls.

Without stealing my friend @DanSharp‘s Facebook status outright, let me paraphrase and summarize for you, because he perfectly put the way I feel about situations such as these:

Let’s actually do something about what happened in Aurora. Whether that be stricter gun laws, gun abolishment altogether, higher security at public places…prayer won’t do it. Because when we pray, it leads to grief, acceptance and forgiveness. And how can we forgive something like this? Something unforgivable?

I’m not here to tell you that the NRA is at fault, or that Marilyn Manson inspired this man, or that movies should be less violent. But the fact that anyone with a WiFi connection, a little cash and a bad attitude can inflict so much damage on so many people is, frankly, disturbing.

The suspect in the Aurora shootings, James E. Holmes, was an honor student and scholarship winner. No matter how good he was, how smart he was, he had access to many deadly weapons, as evidenced by the sheer amount of heat he was packing upon entering the theatre.

Holmes got two handguns, a shotgun, an AK-47 rifle and two canisters of tear gas, according to police reports. How long until every kid outside the suburbs realizes they can save some allowance money and get a gun to carry around?

So…pro-gun law folk argue that if gun laws were more lenient, the people in the theatre could have potentially defended themselves. They even point out that the owner of the theatre enforced a no weapons policy inside.

Oh, the humanity! How could this owner live with himself now, knowing those patrons at the midnight premiere could have potentially defended themselves? Well, first of all. Nobody would bring a gun to a movie. That’s not even an argument.

Secondly, if anyone there could have dodged tear gas and a barrage of sprayed bullets and taken out a heavily armed gunman with a gas mask and bullet proof vest on, they should immediately be drafted into the Special Ops division of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The fact of the matter is, those people were completely helpless. And the root of the problem is not that they didn’t have guns to fire back with. The issue is that Holmes allegedly did have guns.

If gun laws were tightened up, if online purchases of firearms were more closely guarded, if punishments were stricter, if security at public places was better…if, if, IF we could actually do something to change the way our country has become, we wouldn’t have to pray for victims and their families, after the fact.

There is no coincidence that the United States has ten times as many murders by gun than any other country in the world on a yearly basis. We lose nearly TEN THOUSAND people to gun violence per year in our country.

Ten thousand. That’s everyone on my Facebook, multiplied by five. The sheer volume of human life lost at the pull of a trigger on a weapon that gives the holder power and protection and potentially, a sense of invincibility, is absolutely staggering.

According to JustFacts.com, 83 percent of Americans will be the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime (assault, robbery, rape) at some point in their lives. People are killed in accidental shootings, petty arguments, and carefully meditated murders. So how do we bring this number down and improve the safety of the general American public?

Easy. Ditch the guns. Require metal detectors and security at all large public places (look, I created more jobs!). Increase the penalty for illegally carrying a weapon. Track online ordering of weapons as if our lives depend on it. Because they pretty much do, now.

(Womp, womp Bill of Rights yadda yadda, I know…that’s like telling me not to wash my dirty face when pimples appear because I was born with smooth, spotless skin. When things change, we need to adapt with them, and I hardly expect that our Founding Fathers were predicting nearly 10,000 deaths a year via bullet when they drafted the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise, my face will look like a battle field and everyone will hate me and I’ll die a slow, painful death. Please understand this metaphor so I don’t have to explain any further. Pimples are gross.)

So keep the prayers coming – it’s a way to cope, it’s a way to send respect. But if whatever God you pray to heard us the first million times, things would have already changed. The only people with the power to change this is the government, unfortunately.

Allow hunting rifles. Allow law enforcement officials to have weapons. But every person with a power streak does not need to have a magnum tucked into their belt line.

What will it take? I’m honestly afraid to go to my local MLB game – the Oakland A’s stadium is in a bad place. Oakland in general is one of the most dangerous places in the country. Who’s to say the next game I go to isn’t infiltrated by a crazy, bullied kid like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with a machine gun well-hidden on his person?

That would open over 25,000 people in a very confined space to the threat of immediate and lethal danger.

Unless something changes at the top, people will continue to find ways to acquire weapons. They will continue to hold grudges and take it out on hundreds of innocent citizens in movie theatres, school cafeterias, shopping malls and office buildings.

So keep the prayers coming, but don’t forget to actually take a physical stand to gun violence. Help the effort on limiting violence by writing local congressmen, using social media to attack gun laws, until the general public’s wave of fear and disappointment washes over Congress and forces a chance that will keep our country safer than it’s ever been before.

Aurora will thank you. Columbine and Oklahoma City will thank you. Most importantly, ten thousand future strangers might thank you. Victims of real, unforgivable crimes that all shapes and sizes of Gods completely ignored.

Don’t simply accept, forgive and move on from this tragedy. Because it’s unacceptable. It must be stopped.

You can be the real life superhero.