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Again - Thoughts and Prayers - From My Window 6/1/22

Issue Date: June 2, 2022

Janie Thibodeau Martin

I am doing something I never did before: republishing a column (lightly edited) that originally ran In November of 2017. Here we are, five years later, and not only has nothing changed, in fact, things are worse. I have the privilege of a public venue for my views, so I try to restrain myself from pontificating ?? I recognize my opinion is not any more informed or significant than your own. But I am so heartbroken that I have to comment on the most recent slaughter of elementary school children and their teachers, one by one, who were trapped by a man with guns in a classroom. The victims spent their last moments in terror, and it is all of our faults, the way I see it, because of our failure to act.

The calls for better school security fall flat with me. Have we already forgotten the slaughter of grocery shoppers just two weeks ago? They had an ex-law enforcement officer as a security guard; he bravely engaged and shot the madman with the gun ?? but that murderer had on tactical gear that prevented a serious injury, and he then killed the security office before he resumed mowing people down. An ordinary security officer, even well-trained and armed, is not going to stop an attacker who has a lot in common with a SWAT team member, armed and body armored with the latest in gear intended for professional law enforcement and military operations. There is a principle in security work that reminds us that you can "harden" a target, for example, a school; and the evil will flow to a softer target, for example, a school bus. And while I agree we can turn our schools into virtual prisons, what about the rest of us? What about the Walmart shoppers, the concert goers, the grocery shoppers, the church attendees? Where does this "more guns to protect us from more guns" end?

When politicians pose for family photos for a card to celebrate the birth of Jesus with every family member, including the children, holding their guns, I can see that their idea of Christianity is different than my own ?? and their idea of the purpose of guns is also different from mine. The politician's Christmas cards were a perfect example of our country's highly unhealthy obsession with guns ?? and from people who were elected to be "leaders" no less. Well, back to November of 2017".a column written after a slaughter at a Texas church.

I believe in the power of prayer. I am weary, though, of those whose sole answer to the slaughter of civilians by angry Americans with guns, is thoughts and prayers. I cheered the representative from California who left a "moment of silence" in the House after the latest slaughter in a rural Texas church (in 2017.) Saying the time to be silent is well past, he talked about the increase of not only the number of American massacres, but of the trend of more people, from infants to seniors, dying per event. This increase in death toll is being driven, in large part, by better murdering technology. The data does not lie. Our inaction on solutions has not changed, what has changed is the easily available advanced person-killing technology.

A year ago (in 2017) I was happily ignorant of "bump stocks," a device which turns a semi-automatic rifle into something pretty close to a machine gun. Now, it seems our leadership is reluctant to "infringe on the second amendment" to restrict such devices, and the company selling them is dealing with back orders. That makes me sick. I don't think the framers of the constitution knew such a device in the hands of any and all civilians was a possibility; and the frequent platitude from the National Rifle Association to "enforce existing gun laws, don't pass new ones," seems very inadequate in the face of such new inventions.

After the church bloodbath in Texas, the (previous) president said this is a "mental health problem," and that doing anything about the gun regulations would not make any difference. It is interesting to look at that perspective; I absolutely concur any person doing a mass killing is mentally ill. It makes no sense at all to kill people you do not know; it does not solve whatever issue you have to do it; and in nearly all cases it means you yourself are going to die.

My issue with that is access to good mental health treatment in this country is very hard to come by, for a vast number of our citizens. And removing firearms from people who are a threat is nearly impossible. There is even resistance to the idea that health insurance be required to cover mental health treatment or medications. So if we really believe that mental health is all or even part of the problem, and I do, we should be aggressively addressing that gap. We aren't.

So the long term "plan" we have in place currently, is to change nothing about the public access to mass killing technology; and simultaneously do nothing to improve access to mental health care. (You aren't going to get much in the way of free mental health help at an emergency room in a public hospital if you are uninsured, at least nothing that is going to help you get long-term control of your illness.)

Beginning with the end in mind, here is what I can foresee. You may not agree, but I see nothing to prevent this from being our future:

A little girl asks her parents if she can accompany a friend to an event in a public park. As good parents, they ask if the friend's parent will accompany them. "Yes," she says. Her friend's father is coming with. "Good, what kind of gun will he be bringing to protect you?"

The answer many people have to our current problem is this solution ?? the civilian version of an arms race, a continual ratcheting up of military might and technology typically only indulged in between countries; but between U.S. citizens ?? those with the will and means to inflict severe harm; and those who are seeking safety through their own firearms. The thinking is lots and lots of good guys carrying guns at all times in all places contain the bad guys with their tactical gear and high capacity magazines.

But a hundred good guys with guns wouldn't have helped the people in Vegas as they were sprayed with automatic weapon fire from a high rise. And I personally don't like the vision of ensuring you have your gun with you at all times when you go to a "high risk" place; places like church, a public elementary school, an Amish schoolhouse, Walmart, or a concert, just to name a few places that have been turned into death traps. Turning schools into something resembling prisons to protect kids and school employees will simply MOVE the problem to a softer target.

The alternative? If we want to go to a public place or gathering we'll have to go through something like airport security. We already down that road with schools and professional sports events; can malls, concerts or public parks be far behind? What about school buses, fun runs or fairs? Are we on a path to take us anywhere but to a future like this? And this future will cost us billions upon billions of dollars while citizens do without basic necessities, like health care, to pay for it.

I do offer my thoughts and prayers to everyone impacted in the latest senseless event. But I am sadly doing it without anticipating anything at all will change. There is a total lack of common sense in the United States about this issue, and more of us will die because we as a country are not serious about meaningful solutions. A country like ours; that put a man on the moon, has come up with brilliant medical innovations, and devised solutions to numerous highly complex problems, simply throws up its collective hands and says there is nothing that can be done to stop such killings. I refuse to believe that is true.



I want to see some action. For lawmakers who believe gun rights are limitless and inviolate, I disagree adamantly, but present your proposed legislation to improve access to mental health care in this country, if you think that's what will fix the problem. Stop stonewalling and bring forth a proposal. I'd support it, because we have to do SOMETHING. Let's not waste lives for another five years doing nothing.

As it is, we are obsessively protecting the nearly unrestricted right to bear arms to trump and remove, permanently, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from thousands of victims. The next to forfeit their right to life may be me, you, your child or grandchild, or your spouse.

I am disgusted and utterly disappointed in our elected leaders in the house and senate, sitting on their hands and offering nothing.

I am a gun owner. I am not against people having firearms. But I don't think most of us need a bump stock, military grade weapons and tactical gear; and I want everyone who needs mental health treatment to have access to it. There should be no more stigma to seeking mental health treatment than there is to seeking treatment for cancer.

That was my 2017 summary. Nothing has gotten better. I am ashamed at our failure to even try.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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