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

Let’s Get Presidential, Shall We?

I’m not nearly as bad ass as Wyclef Jean. If so, and if I was President, I too would getelected on Friday, assassinated on Saturday, buried on Sunday, and back to work on Monday.

Alas, I am not the President. And good thing, too. Because once I returned to work on Monday, everyone would have nothing to argue about. I’d make this country damn near perfect with my plan.

Isn’t that what everyone with an opinion on politics thinks? I know it’s easier said than done to fix a country with problems as monumental as ours, but can we agree that the last four years have been a large improvement over the preceding eight?

I’ll start this blog with a disclaimer – I am officially registered as a Democrat and voted as such in 2008. That being said, I align myself with certain ideals of each major party, and despise certain aspects of both as well.

The most important issues to me will never be decided by a debate. Candidates have far too much at stake to be completely honest with the public. I would pay attention to the political banter on TV that so rudely interrupted New Girl a couple of weeks ago, as long as the candidates were being fully truthful.

I understand that they can’t be. They have to appease multiple demographics of voters and ooze political correctness. But any insight on the issues I care about might as well have been answered in Swedish; it was like sign language to a blind man.

Again, I know that politics have come to this. It’s the only real way for candidates to survive. But can we get a little honesty out of these guys, please?

Regardless of who you are voting for or why, just make sure to exercise your right to go to the polls tomorrow and make a difference. The results will directly affect you and your family, whether you like it or not. And if you DON’T go vote, then you have no right to complain about how unfairly the government is treating you.

I wrote this blog simply to outline the six issues I personally feel most strongly about in this election. I know who I’m voting for, and I might move to Canada if he loses, mostly because I’m a sore loser.

Just kidding, it’s because I think the other guy will ruin this country. Now that I’ve had my moment of extremism, let me get to the meat of this blog:

Gay Marriage

I’m not going to harp on this one too long, because I just wrote a full blog about marriage equality a week ago. Please go through and read that if you want my full take on the issue. All I will say is that I believe denying the LGBT community a basic human right is more than selfish. And regardless of what anyone says, it is the same as racism and prejudice were during the Civil Rights era. African-Americans were persecuted for their skin color, something they had no choice in, just like homosexuals are being denied their rights for their sexuality.

Education

I have been fortunate enough to go through pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and four and a half years of college without paying  a dime of my own money. My parents saved up for years to put my sister and I through school because they knew the value of a good education. Both of us are looking at B.A.’s in our desired fields and are slaying job interviews along the way.

There are a ton of families who did not save enough money, or more likely, COULD not save enough money for that same opportunity. If these politicians truly want to improve this country’s education and start catching up to all the nations who have surpassed us, they should stop forcing the firing of teachers, cutting of school programs, raising of taxes and tuitions, and the emphasis on testing.

Economy

Oh, boy. Everyone’s favorite topic of discussion. It is my understanding, as a human with common sense, that if you have a certain amount of money, you can not spend more than that limit and go unpunished. The United States have certainly kicked that rule in the nuts and laughed over the years, huh? When you are zillionbillionkatrillions (it’s a number now…) of dollars in debt, you’d think the process of re-paying would be much more urgent. Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of things that government money needs to fix, but you’re telling me in a trillion-dollar annual economy, our government can’t stash away money in order to get us back in the black? Where has all the money gone? Damn you, A-Rod. Damn you.

Defense

Don’t forget, people. George W. Bush got us into Iraq, Barack Obama is getting us out. That doesn’t necessarily get the U.S. off the hook in my mind, though. Since when did we become everyone’s way-too-overprotective big brother? We have troops in nearly every country in the world, and we wonder why the U.S. is hated. Spending money on the military is great, as long as they are protecting us at home and abroad – nobody in their right minds wouldn’t appreciate what our troops do for us. But as the most powerful and dangerous military in the world, do we really need to test the limits of this? I want to be safe, but I don’t want to build a barbed-wire fence around a croc-infested moat, around a wall.

Global Warming

There is no denying the facts; hurricanes and storms have gotten bigger, faster and more devastating in the past few years. Ocean levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting and nobody seems to give a damn. Was the environment a topic even touched on publicly by any candidates this fall? It is our responsibility as citizens of this planet to make sure there is a livable home for future generations. Stricter measures on clean energy, reduced use of oil and pollution must be taken. Ignoring that the Earth is changing and getting sick is like being an elderly who visits the doctor for a check-up, gets diagnosed and prescribed for multiple illnesses, and goes home saying “Ah, it’s natural. It’ll cycle out. I’ll be fine.”

Healthcare

If I had it my way, everything would be Canadian…er…free. But I know that’s never going to happen in America. I’m not saying insurance policies should be more lenient or that healthcare should be less expensive, but am I supposed to believe the people who say they care about American citizens, and then don’t go to the greatest lengths possible to protect them? What is more important than your people’s’ health? All I’m saying is somehow, some way, healthcare needs to be affordable for anyone.

I’ll spare you my thoughts on abortion, gun control and immigration, which I also consider huge issues. You’re welcome. You could finish the entire Harry Potter series twice before I would be done with that.

Anyway, that’s just my take on the issues that I read into the most. I’d like to compare our country to the plight of my alma mater’s football team. Bear with me here.

In 2002, Washington State University went to the Rose Bowl. By the time I arrived in 2007, they were struggling to win two games, let alone be in the bowl conversation. After last season, along came Mike Leach to coach, and it all changed.

The 2012 version of the Washington State Cougars is still pitiful, but much improved. We used to lose 69-0 (no joke – at home to USC my sophomore year). Last year Stanford beat us 44-14. This year, we came within 10 seconds and one play of beating them.

Leach brought hope and a YES WE CAN attitude to that team, and they are finally, slowly climbing their way out of obscurity. Yes, there are bumps and bruises along the way, as with any rebuild. But he’s done a great job so far with what he was given.

If you don’t get the allusion here, I can’t help you. When a team has hit rock bottom, you can’t expect a new coach to come in and snap his fingers to suddenly fix everything in one season.

Have patience, people. Eventually, under this coach, we will return to glory.

These are my opinions, nobody else’s. Feel free to agree, disagree or argue with me. No matter what you do, get out to the polls tomorrow and exercise you right to VOTE! Follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman and follow this blog if you like what you see.