“Around the world, people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope, and life.”
Butterflies have been showing up for my sister and me in the last week. We thought it was Dad sending love. This one pictured above fluttered around me while I was reading outside the other day and hung out in the flowers next to me for over an hour. Watching it provided a short reprieve from a heartbreaking, awful and overwhelming week.
Last night I sat on my couch with tears streaming down my cheeks as I read the stories of those who were killed and injured in the mass shooting. Sonny Melton, an ER nurse, who shielded his wife from the bullets and was shot in the back. Tina Frost was shot above the right eye and is fighting for her life right now. She lost that eye and the extent of her brain damage is unknown. Andrea Castilla, shot in the head, was celebrating her 28th birthday and her boyfriend was planning to propose to her. Jessica Klymchuk died, a mother of four from Canada.
And on and on the stories go, their smiling faces staring back at me from the screen, ordinary people, like you and me, just enjoying live music and having fun with people they love. I wanted to know each of them, to honor them, to hold their families in my heart and breathe all the love and light I could for them.
It could have been me. It could have been you.
In the past five days I have read uplifting stories of heroism, op-eds about gun control, watched Instagram footage of the shooting and clips of late night hosts talking about death, read nasty facebook threads full of hate and blame…..
And then I have to stop consuming all of it because it’s too overwhelming. And I am angry. I am so angry.
And part of that anger is directed at myself.
After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, I wrote on my blog, as I am doing now.
At the end of that piece, I said this:
We MUST act. We must BE a part of the change we wish to see in the world. Don’t be silent. Don’t leave it up to everyone else to get it sorted out. Let’s DO something to help. And let’s be kind to one another, because that is where it all starts.
As said in a Washington Post article: So don’t just pray, don’t just hug, don’t just post on social media how sad it all is, don’t just watch the news and say “what can you do, these things happen.” Take a stand, write a letter, donate to an anti-gun lobby, start a petition do something do anything to say enough is enough and we will not tolerate one more dead child, one more lost life and any more excuses for inaction.
And you know what? I did nothing.
I did nothing. Twenty innocent children died and I am ashamed that all I did was write on my blog about how heart wrenching it all was. (And don’t get me wrong, I do believe that expressing your emotions is important in times like these). I probably shared a couple things on Facebook too.
But I didn’t take a stand to fight gun violence. I didn’t call or write my representatives in congress, like I intended to. I didn’t donate. I was sad and overwhelmed for awhile and the days passed and I went back to everyday life. The shooting became a terrible distant memory, just like all the other shootings.
I did nothing.
And maybe that’s what a lot of people did.
And then the next shooting happened. And the next. We’re getting used to them. It’s not a matter of IF the next one will happen, but when.
Last night Michael mentioned Obama’s comment that if Sandy Hook and the death of twenty CHILDREN didn’t motivate gun control legislation, then nothing ever will. It’s a bleak and heartbreaking thought. And one that I don’t want to believe.
I had never shot a gun before moving to Wyoming five years ago. Hunting and shooting guns are a big part of life here. The majority of residents here own guns and I know they are responsible gun owners. I’ve enjoyed afternoons at the shooting range myself.
I understand the Second Amendment and why responsible gun owners stand by it (Would I be sad to see it repealed entirely? NOPE) but I will never understand for the life of me why it’s SO easy to buy a gun in this country. And why anyone has a legitimate need to own a semi-automatic or assault weapon that can kill masses of people in a matter of minutes. We need universal background checks. We need to ban bump stocks (But don’t be fooled by the NRA’s meek attempt on that one – it’s something, but it’s not enough). We need to make it harder to get guns, period. We go through a process to be able to drive a vehicle, why would we not have a standardized process for buying a gun? A WEAPON that can kill people?
And sure, I know a lot of people are saying that it wouldn’t have stopped the shooter in Las Vegas. He had a clean record and by all accounts, appeared to be a sane, law abiding citizen. And he legally owned all of those guns. And others say there are so many guns floating around this country, that laws will not stop people from illegally procuring firearms.
But how will we ever know if we don’t try SOMETHING? Isn’t it worth trying? Maybe it WILL stop a future mass shooting. Maybe it will help keep guns out of the wrong hands. I can’t comprehend the pushback from some of these politicians on gun reform. Isn’t human life enough of a reason to try? Australia and Canada and numerous other countries have implemented gun control and it seems to make a difference.
In Canada, for example, in order to buy a semi-automatic gun like the ones used in Vegas, (which falls under a restricted category) buyers must have a proper license, an authorization to transport, and be a member of a recognized gun club. First the buyer has to pass a Canadian firearms safety course and then send in an application to the federal government. After a background check and a minimum 28 day waiting period, a license may (or may not) be issued.
Can we at least TRY to move in that direction in the U.S? What part of more guns = more death does Congress not understand?
And of course, there are mental health issues that play a role. As a culture, we are largely and increasingly isolated, disconnected, screen addicted, distracted and stressed. This is an interesting article exploring that topic.
But why would we ever look at the fundamental root of the problem? That’s just silly. Let’s just make sure guns are readily available for anyone and everyone. That makes sense.
Here’s what I also know: the majority of us are loving, compassionate, strong, resilient human beings who want a better world for our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
I cannot and will not stay silent this time. I’m not going to let the news fade and go on with my life. That’s not an option anymore. We cannot ignore it all and just stay in our little corners pretending it’s not happening. Because it WILL happen again. Sure, pray and focus on the positive things in life, but we MUST talk about this. We MUST make it political. We MUST educate ourselves. Carve out a little time in your schedule to devote to this.
This week I sent letters to my local, state and federal representatives (all NRA endorsed), telling them that I am a registered voter, and that I will vote for representatives that are working towards gun control legislation. I implored them, as my representative to HEAR my view and help make America safer for future generations. Enough already.
Do I feel like I’m up against a wall in a very red state? Definitely. Will they even read my letters? Will it even make a difference? I don’t know, but I have to try. I know this is not an easy fix and there is no clear cut way to solve this overnight, particularly given our current administration.
But as human beings, can’t we all come together and agree that we want to stop this insanity of mass murders and gun violence? I don’t want to wake up to news of another shooting. I don’t want 93 people to die every single day from guns. Life doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to keep losing our loved ones.
We can at least TRY.
I am vowing to try harder to make my voice heard. I have failed in the past and I can do better.
Please take care of yourself. Meditate, pray, stretch, drink lots of water, unplug, go for a walk in nature, take a bath, sleep, hug your people. These are overwhelming and anxious days we’re living through right now.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. We’re all in this together.
I’ve found this website to be a good resource to learn about ways you can act now in support of gun control legislation. If you don’t know who your government representatives are, there are links on this site that will help you find out and send you directly to their websites so you can contact them. There are also a number of gun reform organizations listed that you can support and get involved with, like the Brady Campaign or Everytown.
If you would like to donate to help victims and their families of the Las Vegas shooting deal with exorbitant medical bills, travel costs etc :
The Las Vegas Victims Fund, through GoFundMe, was created by Steve Sisolak, chair of the Clark County Commission.
The National Compassion Fund, a 501(c)(3), is accepting donations at nationalcompassionfund.org or by texting VEGAS to 20222 to donate $10.
Just a note that the Red Cross is not accepting donations specifically for the Las Vegas victims, but you can definitely donate to any number of hurricane relief efforts going on around the globe. Puerto Rico needs our help.
Every little action counts.