Six are dead. Thirteen are wounded.
Those are the numbers we heard in Tucson. Dory and Judge Roll and Gabe and Christina-Taylor and Dot and Phyllis are long forgotten, though. Too much time has passed. CNN's retrospective on mass shootings in America listed the last ten.... in the last two years.... and Tucson was too long ago to be mentioned. Our event is ancient history, it seems.
Yet, it is exactly the same story.... a preventable story... a story that will resonate for a while and then vanish into the collective unconscious.... unless I keep nagging about it, I guess. So......
Another disturbed 20-something white boy, this one with parents and therapists and an academic career to go along with his legally obtained weaponry, shot up a peaceful college town. His family warned the police; he deluded the officers with politeness and his whiteness, I'm sure. His written manifesto mentions his glee that they did not search his home and find his weapons cache.
He obviously knew right from wrong.
There were two sorority sisters on the front lawn.... a young man on his way to the deli.... bike riders and errand runners and their lives are ended or altered because the laws have not kept up with the problems.
I don't know how to write the law, because people shouldn't be locked up just because they see the world through a different lens. Crazy and Creative are first cousins, I think. We don't want mad men walking the streets, but we don't want to incarcerate people just for being weird.
On the other hand, our shooter heard voices, and told others about them, in private, in a journal, on MySpace. The Santa Barbara shooter posted his whinging on YouTube and wrote his own 140 page screed, promising vengeance. I think it would have been obvious to anyone who looked just a little deeper that neither should possess deadly force.
I can say that with some authority, since Stan, the guns-and-ammo manager at our local Wal-Mart, refused to sell our shooter ammunition. Why? "It was obvious he wasn't a person who should be given ammo." If the salesperson at the shooter's second Wal-Mart stop had been as attentive to his job, perhaps the bloody Safeway scene could have been avoided.
Sometimes, it just takes a little bit of common sense to make a difference.
Reframing pieces of the issue toward mental health may open the door to sensible legislation just a bit wider. Again, drawing the line is a difficult task, but little steps would be better than no steps.
Yes, the legislation on the books should be enforced. Yes, states should comply with mandatory reporting requirements, and the hardware and software should be easy to access. Yes, there will still be horror stories. But, perhaps, with expansion of our mental health services and a willingness to look at more than the client-in-the-interview, we might have a chance of preventing more posts like these.
Because that's the part that grabs my heart and twists it like a wet washrag.... both Tucson and Santa Barbara were preventable tragedies. Had appropriate care been available, had the shooters been treated... medicated.... kept away from deadly weapons because everyone agreed that their brains were not functioning well enough .... I'd have less notoriety and a 13 year old friend.