It has taken me time to process the mass shooting at Parkland. Honestly, I will spend the rest of my life thinking about it and come no closer to comprehension.
Growing up, I loved school. There was nothing more exciting to me than the prospect of learning. I loved reading, I loved writing, I loved being the first one done with my times tables. I looked forward to going to school, often the first one in the car, impatiently waiting for my siblings so we could get underway.
I did not go to school thinking that it was in the realm of possibility that I could be shot and killed.
Columbine happened when I was six. I don’t remember when I found out what it meant. I only remember that the name meant something bad.
I do remember when I heard about the shooting in Aurora.
I had signed up weeks before for a trip to watch the Dark Knight Rises at the Mall of America. The day after the shooting, I was in the movie theater struggling not to hyperventilate, flinching every few minutes, wondering if the best way to survive would be to wedge myself under the row of chairs in front of me. Wondering if I would be brave enough to try to save anyone else.
I still have difficulty watching movies in theaters. I still watch every person who gets up, unable to concentrate, sometimes unable to breathe.
I do remember when I heard about Sandy Hook.
I was in Vienna, Austria. It was all over the newspapers. I couldn’t understand all of what was written because it was in German, but I felt it. I remember thinking, this is it, this must be it. This must be the last mass shooting that will ever happen in the United States.
And then I remember Orlando.
They are not children anymore. Not when the oldest they will ever be is fourteen or fifteen or six. We cannot call them children when they are asked to sacrifice their lives for others. They are people. People whose whole lives have been disappeared, vanished forever into a black hole. And no number of thoughts or prayers will bring them back.
This is not about mental health. This is not about politics. This is about the human lives that are sacrificed on the altar called “personal liberty”.
I wrote this before. I wrote this before. I promised I wouldn’t write it again.
But among these rights are life. Among these rights are life.
Where is the personal liberty for the students? Where is the personal liberty for the teachers? Where is the personal liberty for the dead?
There are no graphs or studies or numbers that will convince people who are unconvinced that gun control laws lead to fewer gun deaths. I have no witty remarks, no turns of phrase, no reminders about box cutters or lawn darts or three oz containers at the airport.
I do have a simple question: is your ability to own an assault rifle worth the life of even one other human being?