The Governor's news release lands in my inbox at 1:08 pm. She will speak with press before traveling to Roseburg and the topic reads "regarding the Umpqua Community College shooting." My shoulders slump and I pause. I've been offline all morning, participating in calls and working on projects. I have no idea what shooting she's referencing and I try to decide if I can stand to read the horror of yet another of the stories that aren't all that shocking anymore.
There is a shooting at a local community college and I am not shocked.
I am not shocked.
I am not shocked because I can guess the details: a youngish man is angry, he brings a stockpile of weapons to a highly populated place, and he kills as many people as he can before an officer of the law kills him. For the sake of argument, I'll add another assumption: the weapons he used were acquired legally.
He likely passed the background check required in Oregon. But, unlike all of my other friends for whom owning a gun is a source of recreation, a source of food, and a source of pride, somewhere along the way his brain convinced him using guns for mass violence was an acceptable use.
And my question is meant for those of you who use your guns legally, appropriately, and defend your ability to do so with conviction: now what?
You're telling me there really isn't a way to do anything about the epidemic that is so widespread, I am no longer shocked when multiple people are murdered in just a few moments? You are smart, responsible, thoughtful people. I watch as you share pictures of your kids learning to respect the art of hunting. I may cringe a little but I always look at your photos, often taken in the dark but still bright because your smile illuminates your surroundings while you hold with pride the antlers, paw, head, or some other part of an animal you've killed. The blood makes me nauseous, but I look anyway.
I've never touched a real gun. My nine-year-old pleads with me every weekend to have a nerf gun fight with him; I politely decline. I just don't have any interest.
But I hear you when you list your reasons for gun ownership. I am trying to remain open-minded because I know there is not an easy answer and I refuse to fall prey to the simplistic "people kill people, not guns" or the "just take away all of the guns" cries. I don't understand your fervent belief but since I hold a few fervent beliefs of my own, I hear you.
What I don't hear, and what I want from you now, is an answer to my question: now what?
I want to hear all of you, P., and J., and C., and A., and H., and K, and J., and F., and B., and M., and many, many more, tell me what to do now.
When I got home from a school board meeting last night, I grabbed a bag of chips, poured a glass of wine, and headed straight to numb my thoughts with a television show. It didn't work because I saw fleeting images from Roseburg every time I rushed through the commercials. I didn't want to think about it but I couldn't think about anything else.
The show ended, I turned off the television, and I tiptoed into my younger son's room. I slipped under the covers and moved his heavy, sleeping body enough to allow me to hug him tightly. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of his still damp but not actually washed hair. I smelled dry grass, dirt, sweat, my boy.
Someday, he's going to ask me about these years. He's going to ask me what I did to stop the ridiculously senseless violence.
Help me understand. If restrictions on guns and gun ownership aren't the logical next steps, what are? I want to know. Now what?