October 9, 2015, Chino Valley- I woke today, to the horrible news that a student at my alma mater, Northern Arizona University, had killed a schoolmate and wounded three others. This, at one of the most congenial and intimate of universities in the country.
I studied at NAU from 1979-81 (Master’s Program) and again, intermittently, from 1983-87, obtaining my school administrative certificate and credentials for teaching learners of English as a Second Language. Any disagreements I had with other students, usually about them being noisy after 10 P.M., on a weeknight, were easily resolved, with compromises by both parties. (i.e. my wearing earplugs and their turning down the base and treble).
When I was eleven, I went through a firearms safety and marksmanship course, courtesy of the Boy Scouts and National Rifle Association. NRA, at that time, was known and respected for making weapons safety its main concern. I have not generally had firearms in my home, though there was one on hand in our house in Phoenix. It never had to be used, and was sold when son and I moved out.
The one thing that was drilled into me, over and over, and which I imparted to Aram, is that a weapon- be it firearm, blade or what have you, is to be treated with full respect for what damage it can do. A firearm is the easiest weapon to use, IF, and only if, proper protocol is being followed. The Boy Scouts teach their members to NEVER POINT a weapon, toy or otherwise, at another human being. Shooting in self-defense is seen by them as something to be done, sparingly, by adults.
We are too casual, as a nation, with regard to allowing the mentally ill to obtain weapons, period. I once had to intervene and remove several steak knives from a place where they were accessible to emotionally-handicapped elementary students, and place those knives in a locked cabinet. I lost an adult friend because of this, but I don’t care.
How much worse is it to let those under siege, in their own mind, have ready access to firearms? The debate will go on, as long as we regard the Federal Government as an enemy. In fact, it reflects who we are as a people- our strivings, our conflicts (both internal and interpersonal) and our priorities.
The bottom line, impacting both mental health and the very “need” to own weapons, is our twin tendency, as a society, for anonymity and insularity. I see it in everything from being unwilling to share a table, in a public place, with strangers, to road rage to viewing those who simply have differing opinions, in an adversarial light. I have been guilty of all three of these, though my anger on the road never compelled me to assault the other people. I have also been on the receiving end of all three, though thankfully, never physically assaulted on the road.
Requiring background checks on prospective firearms owners, or would-be purchasers of long knives and swords, or explosives, or copious amounts of poisonous substances, is not going to be a cure-all for violent assault and murder. It IS, however, a DETERRENT. That which gives a person pause, which makes her/him think twice, is worth the inconvenience of delay in purchase. It also makes it a lot easier to live under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.