So, that’s it? There’s nothing we can do?
Toss out a few Bible verses, offer up some prayers and hope that a “good guy with a gun” shows up the next time a teenager with an assault rifle barricades himself in an elementary school classroom and begins to shoot?
You good with that?
Neither is Aaron Glenn, who took the podium in the media room of the Detroit Lions’ Allen Park headquarters on Thursday.
“The only thing that I think about is … you get guys that are 21 years old, and that’s the first time they can buy a beer,” Glenn said. “But, man, they’re allowing an 18-year-old to buy assault rifles. Something is just wrong with that.”
Everything is wrong with that: A kid bought an assault rifle on his 18th birthday, entirely legally in Texas. Assault rifles are legal; we’re more worried about beer than bullets.
“Now, listen,” said Glenn, the Lions’ defensive coordinator, “I don’t have all the answers. I know that there are people at a high level that have to figure those things out. But man, that was just on my mind.”
Glenn has three adult children. All are out of the house. One is in college. But you don’t need to be a parent to understand what happened in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday morning. You just need a soul. And a little common sense.
Eighteen-year-olds don’t need assault rifles. Neither do 28-year-olds. Or 48-year-olds. Or 58-year-olds. No one does.
And if we can’t agree on that, then at least we can agree that the gunman who killed 19 little kids this week sure as hell didn’t need one. If he’d had to wait until 21, those kids would be alive. But he didn’t have to. Because (and you don’t have to pick one): gun sales, gun lobbyists, gun-slappy senators who know full well that 80% of the electorate wants stricter gun laws and simply don’t care.
Though to say they are the only ones who don’t care is deflecting. The truth is none of us do. Not truly. Not enough to force change.
Instead, we’ll take our chances, right? We’ll keep living in a society that prioritizes the right to own weapons our forefathers couldn’t imagine over the right of a 6-year-old to not get shot in school.
Oh, but that last one isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. And “the right to bear arms” is.
But what does the Second Amendment mean, exactly?
Should your neighbor have the right to buy a B-1 bomber? A nuclear weapon? How about a rocket launcher? Want to draw the line there?
How about a fully automatic machine gun? Should we pass out those at gun conventions?
There’s a reason fully automatic weapons aren’t used in mass shootings. They’re illegal — they have been since the 1980s. No one seems to complain that they’ve largely disappeared from public life.
See, we can do this if we want. We have before. We just have to do it, to say, as Glenn said, that something is wrong when we worry more about an 18-year-old buying a six-pack than we do that same 18-year-old buying a semi-automatic rifle.
“Just imagine the parents that that happened to,” said Glenn. “That’s tough. Then you hear the things that come out, that these kids were in a room, barricaded room, for over an hour. It’s hard for me to even fathom what those kids were even going through.”
That’s true. But it’s getting easier, because the shootings keep happening, sometimes so frequently their shock doesn’t last a news cycle before another one happens.
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Even if we are paralyzed — even if we are divided politically and socially — even if we are becoming numb, this can’t be what we want to be. To lead the developed world in school shootings? In mass shootings? To accept that some 10-year-olds are just going to have to die so that others can fetishize assault rifles at a shooting range.
“You have future doctors, lawyers, scientists, that are in that group, and now it’s over with,” Glenn said. “Even the person that did the shooting, he just hurt his whole family. It’s not about the shooter, and sometimes they don’t understand it, it’s about everybody else that’s around that person. That, again, was on my mind.”
It’s on everyone’s mind this week. But for how long? Do you think about Sandy Hook — where 20 kids were shot and killed in Connecticut, less than 10 years ago — anymore? Unless the memory is triggered by another shooting?
How many more kids have to die before we do something? Because it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not this way in most of the rest of the world. It didn’t used to be that way here.
And, no, it’s not that way now because we don’t pray enough or take enough Prozac; plenty of other countries navigate secular-religious tensions and increasing rates of anxiety and depression while not sending their children to school to get slaughtered.
Blaming mental illness is a refuge for gun profiteers and fetishists. What’s different now is the access to guns.
The Uvalde shooter went to a gun store on his 18th birthday and walked out with the means to end the lives of 19 kids and two adults. No “good guy with a gun” was going to stop him. Heck, the police struggled to stop him, and that’s not their fault. The setting was stacked against them.
Think about that for a moment. Think about the nearly 60 minutes the shooter holed up in an elementary school and fought off trained, armed professionals. Think about what we’re asking our kids to do when we send them to school knowing that an older kid can take them out with a legal purchase on a twisted whim.
We gave permission to the shooter. We told him it was OK to buy a weapon that’s built with a single utility: To kill easily.
Well, he did. Like so many others. Too many others.
So, again, that’s it? There’s nothing we can do?
Because it hasn’t always been this way. And it doesn’t have to keep being this way.
As Glenn said when asked if he worried about his kids when they were younger:
“Not one time did I fear for their lives. That’s how I think school should be. Now, the thought is, ‘Do I homeschool them?’ I know that’s a thought going through some parents’ minds. … Because you just don’t know. For me, for all of us, you could walk through the mall, and something could happen like that. This world is crazy. It’s crazy.”
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.