John Colson: ‘Enough is enough!’ must be the new normal
Hit & Run
I wore out some shoe leather as part of the March For Our Lives on Saturday in my hometown of Carbondale, one of several held in our valley as part of a nationwide protest supporting stricter gun control.
If you did not participate, you missed being part of a national, shuddering moment that was quite remarkable — inspirational, even — as estimates that range from hundreds of thousands to perhaps millions took to the streets all over the USA once again to protest our nation’s ludicrously loose gun laws and the epidemic of violence that is a direct result of the laxity in those laws.
In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month, I’ve been deeply affected by the words and actions of the survivors of that horrific day of death and sorrow.
In particular, I was moved to tears by a speech by activist Emma Gonzalez, one of the student survivors, who spoke at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C.
Gonzales, who has been vilified by the right-wing gun culture angered over her intelligence and spunk, spoke through her tears of the deep sorrow and shock she has felt since the shooting, and of her despair over the 17 students and teachers shot to death by a raging former Douglas High student wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
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Gonzalez then launched into a description of the catastrophic outcome from the hellish six minutes and 20 seconds of gunfire — how the 17 slain students and teachers would never again be able to go about their lives.
Crying freely, she intoned, “My friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice; Aaron Feis would never call Krya ‘Miss Sunshine;’ Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan” and on down the list, until her roll call of slaughter was shaved down to a starker, brisker recitation; “Alaina Petty would never … Cara Loughran would never … Chris Hixon would never … Luke Hoyer would never … Peter Wang would never … Alyssa Alhadeff would never … Jamie Guttenberg would never … Meadow Pollack — would — never …”
Each shortened recitation, and especially the deliberate pauses punctuating Meadow Pollack’s death, was a stab at the heart of any and all viewers of the videos of Gonzalez’ speech. News cameras caught faces arrested in sudden, pained and tearful silence. Tears leaked from my eyes, too, as I felt those stabs in my own chest, which tightened unbearably as I watched and wept.
I thought of the evil, uncalled-for things that have been said about this young woman, barbed insults designed to dismiss her as an enemy of right-wing pathology in America’s culture war, lies calculated to target her as a tool of supposed left-wing conspirators eager to snatch the guns from the hands of self-styled “patriots” and worshippers of weapons of mass destruction.
I thought of the politicians whose campaign war chests are bulging to the bursting point with money from the National Rifle Association, an organization dedicated to the proposition that all guns are good, all gun laws are bad, and to the vastly idiotic and discredited motto that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
I should admit right here that I’ve been a gun owner for most of my life, ever since my granddad made me a birthday present of a Winchester 62-A, 22 cal., pump-action rifle when I was about 9 years old.
I happen to believe that ownership of a gun for self-defense of my home or person is an acceptable compromise with a dangerous world, and I generally understand and accept the presence of the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
But the recent spate of mass killings using AR-15s or similar weapons is proof that guns DO kill people, and that guns of this type are meant for one thing only — killing as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. They are not hunting rifles, unless the “game” in question is human beings. As such, they should not be as readily available as they are today, because too often they are obtained by unhinged individuals whose goal is to do exactly what these guns were made for.
In direct contrast to the above-mentioned motto, to my mind a more appropriate adage would be along the lines of; “Guns obviously can kill people, certain guns are made only to do so and do it quickly, and as such should be tightly controlled to keep them out of the hands of nuts and mass murderers.”
Aside from all that, though, my biggest concern at this point is that people will, once again, forget the horrified national reaction that, thanks largely to the student-survivors of the Parkland massacre, has taken hold across the land.
Ever since the Columbine High School attack in 1999, which left 15 dead (including the two shooters who were seniors at the school), a pattern has been detectable — outrage in the immediate aftermath, a lot of soulful grieving for a while, and then, a kind of resignation and calm. No changes to gun laws are passed, and there is a tendency to move on from the horror as it slips from the daily headlines and to permit a sense of normalcy to be re-established.
But this time, I hope, determined activists such as Gonzalez surely will not let anyone forget, and will establish a new normal for us all.
I, for one, plan to do all I can to assist in that regard, because as the attendees chanted during Gonzalez’ speech, the new-normal response from us all to this tragedy should be, “Never again,” “Not one more” and “Enough is enough!”
Around the world, in nations where military-grade weapons are not freely available to anyone clever enough to get around a few vague restrictions, there is nowhere near the level of gun-related mayhem and death in everyday life that we have here in the U.S.
How much more of this must we bear before we wake up and realize that, while not all guns can or should be outlawed, there are some guns that we can and must do without?
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When Aspen celebrates Gay Ski Week in 2022, it will be the annual event’s 45th year, and the 20th year for AspenOUT, the nonprofit organization that stages the event.