It happens every time.
We now have a formula: News alert for a mass shooting, scan for specifics, breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t “our school” or “our town” or “someone we know,” move follow-up reports to background noise.
Even the shock has become less shocking. A dozen victims? Dear God. Only four people? How lucky.
The initial lurch and relief now blend together. Until it doesn’t.
Just days ago, another news alert for another shooting - but this time I did recognize names, though thankfully only in the forms of streets, a subdivision, and a city. The initial lurch was drawn out as I read about a place where I had lived, about streets on which I once traveled, and about a greenway frequented via steps from my back door…there is no sigh of relief. Instead, I wondered why I felt so emotionally tied to a place that I’d not been in nearly a decade.
Though, yes, a place I once called home.
Really, with fewer twists of fate, it could have been me who lay victim to the senselessness. Had I not traded my rental for a townhome blocks up the street, though within the same community. Had I not met my husband and packed that townhome for a move four hours north. Had the view of the Neuse River, alone, just been too beautiful to give up? And, goodness, what a beautiful view it was.
Shortly after the news, so many former neighbors reached out. Did you see the news? This is crazy. I can’t believe this is happening. Even a decade later, we are still a community. I pulled up a map expecting to see distance. It’s a long trail and a vast development with many sections. I imagined the events far from my own familiarity.
But there was no distance. There, on the referenced map, was my old townhouse. There, a few steps away, was the spot where one of seven was gunned down. There, one street over, was the home in which the young shooter started his fury.
There was no distance.
The likelihood that the shooter walked straight through my side yard, a widened area between two rows of homes offering access to the greenway, hit like a punch to the gut. Had fate offered fewer twists, I may very well have been sitting on my back porch with my dog, enjoying a glass of wine while taking in that beautiful view - at the exact moment bullets started flying.
I know the narrative. We all do. We have it memorized, also relegated background noise.
Get rid of the guns! Ban the guns! Guns kill!
Why? Why does our focus remain on the method while we continue to ignore the madness? When will we stop and, instead, ask how we are failing our sons that they seemingly think nothing of a killing spree? Have we not figured out that the gun battle is one that will not be resolved with urgency? And what we will do after (if) it is resolved? What will we do when we realize that there are so many other weapons available?
When we realize that it was never the weapon that should have grabbed our attention?
Should we not regroup and aim our pleas to the resources that might reverse whatever causes our sons to seem destined to commit these heinous acts? Should we not be screaming, "What is happening to our boys?!?" What are we missing that these (always) young (always) men feel driven to arm themselves for violence? Why must we always blame the guns and not the illness?
It’s not always guns, after all. Think Oklahoma City or Charlottesville or Boston or Weldon.
It is always our young men, however. Over and over and over.
We are failing an entire population while we bicker over bullets.
Admittedly, it is easier to point to the weapon.
If we remove the blame from the weapon, we will be forced to look inward. What might I have to do in MY home that might make ME uncomfortable? What if the call is to ban the many sources of violence, such as video games or the internet? What if the source is lazy boundaries or trophies for everyone! or the falling apart of the nuclear family? What if the call is to eliminate our electronic babysitters? What if all studies showed that these seeds of senseless violence were sewn years prior to the horrific actions, in our very own homes?
No, that wouldn’t fly, would it? Better to blame something else, right?
Better to admonish the method than admit to the madness.