Of Firearms, Tragedies and Our Changing Society

I don’t know how many homeys have asked me when – or if – I was going to write something about school shootings. I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about it – and too much sad time mulling over the ignorance surrounding the so-called “debates” about firearms. I realized how far our society has fallen when I heard an NPR interview with the young man from Parkland, Florida, who became the apparent spokesperson for the survivors of that tragedy.

NPR had reached out to high school students across the country for their reactions to the “March for Our Lives” movement. and its push for stricter firearms laws – and the banning of some firearms. The interviewer played a young Montana woman’s comments about how she and her friends had grown up using and enjoying firearms and didn’t want them restricted and/or taken away. When the interviewer asked the young man how he would respond to her, he suggested that she was basically “just the people we are terrified of…”

I realize that anything I say will be colored by my coming of age in a different time. I am distressed by these tragic shootings. I believe that there are folks who should not have firearms. I believe it is a society issue, not a gun issue. I believe there are many causes for what we are experiencing, and many of them relate to changes in our culture. But what do I know; I’m one of those “seniors…” How about hearing a going-viral contemporary voice?

Kelly Guthrie Raley has been teaching for 20 years. She is the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year at Eustis Middle School in Lake County, Florida. The day after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she posted her thoughts on Facebook (Find the whole post by googling “Florida-teacher-Facebook-post-gun-violence-goes-viral.html.”)

“Okay, I’ll be the bad guy and say what no one else is brave enough to say, but wants to say. I’ll take all the criticism and attacks from everyone because you know what?  I’m a TEACHER. I live this life daily. And I wouldn’t do anything else! But I also know daily I could end up in an active shooter situation.

“Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (‘Oh no!  Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?’), lack of moral values, and, yes, I’ll say it – violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don’t understand the permanency of death anymore!!!

“I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out.

‘My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, pockets, anything!

“Parents: it’s time to STEP UP! Be the parent that actually gives a crap! Be the annoying mom that pries and knows what your kid is doing. STOP being their friend. They have enough “friends” at school. Be their parent. Being the ‘cool mom’ means not a damn thing when either your kid is dead or your kid kills other people because they were allowed to have their space and privacy in YOUR HOME.

“I’ll say it again. My home was filled with guns growing up. For God’s sake, my daddy was an 82nd Airborne Ranger who lost half his face serving our country. But you know what? I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his guns. I never dreamed of taking one! I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency, and most of all, I was taught that until I moved out, my life and bedroom wasn’t mine; it was theirs. And they were going to know what was happening because they loved me and wanted the best for me.

“There. Say that I’m a horrible person. I didn’t bring up gun control, and I will refuse to debate it with anyone. This post wasn’t about gun control. This was me, loving the crap out of people and wanting the best for them. This was about my school babies and knowing that God created each one for greatness, and just wanting them to reach their futures.

“It’s about 20 years ago this year I started my teaching career. Violence was not this bad 20 years ago. Lack of compassion wasn’t this bad 20 years ago. And God knows 20 years ago that I wasn’t afraid daily to call a parent because I KNEW that 9 out of 10 wouldn’t cuss me out, tell me to go to Hell, call the news on me, call the school board on me, or post all over FaceBook about me because I called to let them know what their child chose to do at school because they are a NORMAL kid!!!!!

“Those 17 lives mattered. When are we going to take our own responsibility seriously?” (Kelly Guthrie Raley, 2018)

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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