The United States is sick.
I don’t know how to unpack my feelings today. I don’t know how to square my belief that the Second Amendment matters, it really does, the government cannot have a monopoly on the means of violence, with the sick feeling I had dropping my kids off this morning. Hug my six-year-old extra tight in case some devil with a hankering to destroy children exercises his constitutional right to walk out of the local gun store locked and loaded.
What is happening to our country?
Does it seem like we have more and more mass school shootings? That’s because we do. Between 1972 and 2012, we had only two school shootings in which more than 10 children and adults died, including Columbine. In the decade since, we have had four, including three in the last four years.
And what about all the other shootings at festivals and colleges, Las Vegas and Virginia Tech and that bar in the San Fernando Valley you don’t even remember because they all just blend together and my throat is closing just writing this.
I know, I know we could ban every assault rifle in the United States and we wouldn’t touch the homicide rate. But we have to acknowledge that the repeated - and repeated, and repeated, and repeated - mass murder of innocents is a sign of deep sickness.
We have turned far, far too many teenagers and young adults into lonely overmedicated sleepless social media addicts. Yes, illegal drug use is down, but it hardly matters given how many young people are legally prescribed Adderall and Ritalin and Vyvanse.
All those are fancy names for speed or its chemical cousins, pure and simple. Psychiatrists and other physicians hand out so many prescriptions for these uppers - whose production is limited by the Drug Enforcement Administration -that pharmacies in big cities regularly run out of them and have to wait for new allotments.
Speed to help our kids power through the inattention that Internet addiction causes; benzodiazepines like Xanax to help them down from the frenzy that speed causes. Along with the benzos, the unlucky ones are self-medicating with cannabis and THC extracts that carry a very real risk of psychosis, especially for people who start using them heavily before age 18 or so.
Meanwhile, fewer and fewer of them are having sex, and that chastity may sound good to some parents but it isn’t. They are too busy medicating and staring at screens to make the most elemental form of connection. We are failing our kids, giving them too much freedom and too little at once, scaring them and promising them the answer to their fear comes in chemical form.
None of this is to excuse the gunmakers and the Second Amendment absolutists.
Maybe if you have to be 21 to drink, you should have to be 21 to buy an AR-15. Maybe we should have longer warning periods or capacity limits; the republic didn’t fall after the Brady bill took effect in 1994, but crime did, very substantially. Maybe, maybe, maybe. None of the constitutionally acceptable answers are likely to make more than a marginal difference, but the violence has reached a point that we must do something, if only to show our kids we care enough about them to try, to make reasonable compromises.
I do know that the Republican answers to this aren’t answers at all. We have already hardened our schools as much as is reasonable. How many shooter drills do my kids have to go through a year? We cannot turn schools into armed camps, and the simple fact is that a madman with an AR-15 can kill a classroom full of kids in a matter of seconds, before anyone can react. If Republican politicians believe that school shootings are the price we must pay for the Second Amendment, they should just say so, rather than enraging the rest of us with fake solutions.
I don’t know what else to say. Much less what to do.
But the status quo can’t hold.
We are failing each other, and most of all we are failing our children.
We should all be ashamed today.