Sunday, December 23, 2012

To the NRA and Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA)


I have seen and heard the press conference that Wayne LaPierre gave on Friday and like many in this country I am stunned, astounded, and shocked at his callous remarks.  I understand the 2nd Amendment and I do not advocate stepping on constitutional rights, but LaPierre went too far in his absolute rejection of guns as part of the problem in this country.

More guns are not the answer and arming teachers and principals with guns will only add to the gun problem not solve the gun problem we have in this country.  Arming our schools and movie theatres etc., is not realistic.  Guns only add to the culture of violence and death in this country.  More guns available will only teach our children that guns are the answer to conflict not talking, diplomacy and negotiation. 

While I have said in previous posts that I have taught at an inner city high school that had a policeman present at all times, does not mean it is appropriate in all situations or that teachers and principals should be armed.  Our policeman was there for a variety of reasons, not just to stop mass killers.  He was there to help in the fight against drugs and in the fight against gangs.  Many of our students were members of city gangs who solved their problems and conflicts with guns.  Having a policeman in the school meant a lesser chance of a 'shootout at the OK corral between gang members' happening within the school environment.
Naturally, had a person entered the school building with the intent of a mass shooting, he could be stopped by a policeman on duty.  I see the advantages of that in an inner school setting.  But, not all schools are inner city and grapple with the same issues as we did.

I know, I know, the recent mass shooting in Newtown, CT happened in an affluent suburb, not an inner city.  But, if we want to teach our children that guns are not the answer to anger, hate, gangs and conflicts then we need to CHANGE some things in our country.  Things like:  access to assault weapons, mental health issues, civil vs uncivil discourse, school security, violent movies and video games, kindness, empathy, and goodness towards others.  We need to look at all these things, including guns!

First and foremost in my opinion, we need gun regulation and control in this country.  I am not opposed to revising and/or reformatting our 2nd Amendment to fit the conditions in the 21st century world.  When the 2nd Amendment was written, in the 1700's, a musket was the gun of choice.  Today, the guns of choice are not only handguns, but semi-automatic and automatic rifles that were mainly designed for warfare.  They have no place on the streets of America for daily living.  If guns are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem.  A rehauling of the 2nd Amendment to make sure that assault guns/rifles are not on our streets is needed.

I fully support and am one hundred percent behind Senator Diane Feinstein and the legislation she plans to introduce to congress in January 2013.  It is a start, a beginning at least, to regulating semi-automatic and automatic guns in this country.  And, yes, everyone on the local, state and national level needs to follow through and ENFORCE these laws and legislation.  It takes ALL of us working together to make the CHANGES  necessary in our country.  I don't believe Feinstein and I know, I myself, am not advocating stripping all citizens of their guns in this country, but from this point forth, assault weapons have to be regulated in this country and that includes the hundreds of rounds of ammunition that go with them.  We have to close the gun show loophole - everyone who purchases a gun MUST have a background check. 

I vehemently believe Nancy Lanza was irresponsible for having six guns in the home around and available to an asperger disordered son.  That is bereft of common sense.  Had Adam Lanza, no matter what state of mind he was in, not had access to the guns at the home, this carnage could have been avoided.  In this county, we make it so easily accessible for those who want to commit mass murder to do so.  

I realize there are responsible gun owners.  My grandfather and uncles have owned hunting rifles for hunting deer and other animals.  But, they did not own these assault weapons for mere hunting and they are not appropriate for mere hunting.  My grandfather and uncles were very responsible with their guns.  They were always locked up and hidden away and not available for any of us to grab in a moment of anger or despair.
In fact, during my entire lifetime, I only ever saw my grandfather's gun once.  I never have had these rifles in my hands, let alone available to me to use.  Therefore, I do realized there are responsible gun owners, but there are too many people out there with guns who are irresponsible, and they need to be held accountable for that irresponsibility.

Assault rifles
 I do realize we have mental health issues in this country.  We need mental health insurance as readily available to us as physical health insurance.  When we want to make cuts in health insurance, where are the first cuts, but in mental health.  We, as a country, have our heads in the sand when it comes to mental health issues.  As the world becomes more stressful and complex, the one health area we need to open up and have more access to, mental health is not available.  Our country is in a financial crunch and mental health is on  the chopping block. 

I am saddened and ashamed to see all the homeless in this country, many who are mentally ill and/or have mental issues.  The mentally ill wandering the streets of America?  What is wrong with us as a society?  Where is our empathy?  Many in this country are only one paycheck away from being one of the homeless in this country.  These are social issues we need to face and take care of.  No one in this country should be wandering around homeless, let alone mentally ill and homeless.  When are we going to do something about this issue?

Yes, we need to be able to identify and quickly get help to those we suspect struggling with their mental health.  I know when teaching in the schools, mental health is not looked upon as seriously as physical health.  If a child falls and breaks a leg at school, immediate help is on the way, because it is something we can see and realize that without immediate and good care the child won't be able to walk.  But, when I and other teachers have alerted school administrators to the fact that a child is at risk of hurting himself or others or we believe has mental issues, the help is not so immediate.  There is a huge bureaucracy that the school and guidance counselors must go through and help can be months away if given ever.  As time goes by, the mental health gets worse and the child deteriorates.  But, that is something we can't immediately see, so it falls off our radar until a horrible, catastrophic event like what happened at Newtown, CT occurs.

I don't believe for a minute there were no red flags that came up during Adam Lanza's life.  If the news reports are true that Nancy Lanza tried to have her son mainstreamed in the Newtown, CT schools, and the school district refused to do so, then the school district also has to look at itself.  While I obviously don't know the specifics in Adam Lanza's case, I do know that in Ohio we have mainstreamed autistic and asperger's children  into regular classrooms.    It can be done.  It should have been down in the Newtown schools.

Had it been done in Adam Lanza's case, perhaps he would not have become the reclusive loner he became feeling alienated by the schools and his community.  That is quite a rejection for a young person to have to take and accept.   Adam Lanza needed to be around his peers, not home schooled in solitude which is what happened to him.  Home schooling did not allow him any of the socialization process with his peers he so desperately needed.  And, in this type of situation which Adam Lanza found himself in, is when I think that a mental health intervention needed to have been done and a plan made for optimum mental health help and an optimum socialization process.

There are so many issues that have to be faced by America in the Newtown, CT mass shootings.  Guns, and the easy availability of guns in this country, has to be faced, Mr. LaPierre.  Yes, we have mental health issues, we have school security issues, we have violent movies and video game issues, we have a homeless issue,  but we also have gun issues in this country.

 If you and the NRA are not willing to be part of the solution, Mr. LaPierre, then you and the NRA are part of the problem.