Just imagine if when President Bush went to Ground Zero the days after the tragedy of 9/11, he said something like this:
“Now is not the time to talk about how to end terrorism. We must protect your right to privacy and ensure you fly without extensive security searches. We will not entertain the idea of banning pocket knives and box cutters on a plane, because good people who follow the rules shouldn’t suffer because of these deranged people. We will not engage in military action with these people, because we will never be able to extinguish terrorism in our world. There is nothing we can do to prevent such heinous acts, so you must learn how to protect yourself when this happens again. In the mean time, please join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Yet this is the argument that is used by some when discussions begin on how to reduce the likelihood of mass shootings like Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando, and the countless other examples. Some will insist that talking about solutions is simply politicizing the issue to advance an agenda. I believe that talking about ways to reduce these horrendous acts and protect people is not politicizing – it is doing the right thing. If we ignored the specter of terrorism after 9/11, just imagine what could have happened.
I know the argument from some will be: “Well that’s different, a foreign entity attacked us. It was an Islamic terrorist group.” Does it really matter if the aggressors are foreign or domestic? Does it really matter what their religion is? Or the color of their skin? Or how the mass murder was committed? No – so let’s stop pretending there’s a difference. We are fighting a constant war to end terrorism, yet some of our leaders completely ignore the travesty of these mass shootings other than to send “thoughts and prayers”. The time to take action is long past due, and our leaders must step up.
This issue is multilayered and requires multiple approaches to resolve. It will not be easy. It will not be quick. But it needs to be done. We need to look at sensible gun control, increasing access to mental health services, removing the negative stigma surrounding mental health, reduce the normalization of violence in our society, increase personal awareness around warning signs of people who may be preparing to do these terrible acts, and so much more. There is no one way to fix this problem, but doing nothing will only perpetuate it.
So I ask you, if now isn’t the right time for this conversation, then when? Because these events keep happening, and keep having even larger death and injury counts. We see this happen on such a regular basis, that we almost expect it to happen. If we don’t do something about it, it will only continue to get worse.
I do not pretend to have the answers, but I beg you to have the courage to begin asking the questions and start a conversation. Begin applying pressure to our leaders to act on this issue now and stop ignoring reality. Begin listening to each other and find common ground in what we can do make our people safer. Begin letting logic and empathy guide our actions rather than our political ideologies.
There is a lot of work to do, so let’s all start doing our part.