I have so much to say, so much emotional distress, so much frustration rushing through my veins.
But what good will it do? Not a damn bit.
It won’t bring back the 19 children and two teachers who were slaughtered this week at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
It won’t bring back the 10 Black Americans who were gunned down this month while they shopped at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
It won’t bring back any of the people killed in the over 200 mass shootings our country has suffered JUST THIS YEAR.
And it won’t bring about any change or make a difference.
I’ve worked at three newspapers over 39 years in the business, mostly as an editor, and have edited and written headlines and photo captions for countless stories of heartbreak, loss, devastation and destruction. It’s never easy, but because we must do our jobs and meet our deadlines, we work through any feelings of sadness, whether the tragedy is a world away or inside our country’s borders.
This week at The Dallas Morning News has been the worst, the most painful words to read and edit.
Forever, it seems, Texas has been a source of big news — too often negative or controversial — including natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, constant political infighting, the JFK assassination, the electricity crisis, the Enron scandal and countless other stories.
And now, sadly, I’d have to say we’ve become the mass shooting capital of the United States, with eight of these horrific crimes in the past 13 years.
They started with the Fort Hood shooting in November 2009, in which 13 people were killed and 32 injured. They include the mayhem at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017, when 25 people and an unborn baby were killed and 20 more hurt. They include the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, where 10 died and 13 more were injured.
And now, 19 innocent fourth-graders, whose sweet faces on our front page today bring tears to my eyes, and their two teachers have been erased from this life.
Why? We can’t ask the shooter because he’s dead. Mental illness? He was Latino, as were most of his victims, so a hate crime seems unlikely.
Why? We can ask the lawmakers, who still refuse to act to bring about the legislative changes needed to at least make a dent in all the carnage that continues to happen, day after day.
Then again, those lawmakers have been asked, pleaded with and lobbied by advocates for stronger measures designed to keep guns out of the hands of the people committing these evil crimes. By the tearful, emotional parents whose children and other loved ones have been struck down, defenseless against armed, armor-wearing cowards.
Speaking of cowards, the U.S. senators who are so beholden to the gun lobby that they can’t see the supreme logic in reinforcing background checks are the very definition of the word. How can they look themselves in the mirror and believe they’re doing right by their constituents — or by the tiny, powerless Americans whose lives were lost in Uvalde as they cried and screamed for mercy while the shooter’s weapons blasted them to heaven?
Somehow, our country, while being the envy of the world for its freedom and its passion for protecting it, also has become one of the worst examples of a country worth living in, one where life does not seem to matter. Where we go on killing rampage after killing rampage and do nothing to stop it.
Where we — or at least the ones we the people elect to serve US — have the power to effect change. Yet they sit with their collective heads up their asses, all because political power and gain are more important than people. Their hands are forever stained with the victims’ blood.
The community where this week’s crime took place holds a special place for my wife Kay’s family. Her paternal grandfather, Shelley Collier, was born in Uvalde, and his father, William Wallace Collier, was a banker there and held the position of state banking commissioner during his time in Uvalde. The community will never get over this, Kay told me last night.
As I said at the start, I have so much to get off my heart, but as with the millions of others who have tried to make their voices heard, it does no good. What will it take? Only God knows the answer. We can only pray that the people in Washington come to their lifesaving senses.
If not, God help us all.
10 thoughts on “Mourning 21 lost souls — and praying that those who might be able to save some lives come to their senses”
It’s so horrific. I really am sick of having to use that and similar phrases. The lawmakers can look themselves in the mirror and sleep at night because they have their own cushy lives, full medical and dental insurance, paid vacations, and more. They don’t care. They really don’t care. They need to be voted out.
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Hi, Pam, so nice to hear from you. Yes, it’s heartbreaking and frustrating. As my friend Sheila says, mental health must be addressed. But certainly not all of these mass shootings can be linked to mental health issues — at least not the hate crimes. We are in a sad, sad state as a country when children are slaughtered. 😦
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Actually, hate very much can be a mental health issue, but the most important thing to address is that we have too many guns and they are too easy to get. Thanks for replying. I hope you and Kay are well.
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Thank you, Pam! We and the kids are hanging in there.
I have a lot of questions. Your thoughts? …
What “legislative changes” would keep guns out of a potentially unstable person’s hands or keep these horrible tragedies from happening?
Should there be a board of mental health experts to evaluate every person, every time someone wants to legally purchase a firearm? Who gets to decide who’s on this board? Perhaps the NRA or AOC?
What about illegal purchases? Should those be made extra illegal?
How about a hotline to report someone you believe is mentally unstable and should not own a gun? Your ex-husband/wife, boss or that neighbor with a Rebel flag could all need to be reported and investigated.
Should we focus our mental health suspicions, investigations and new laws towards young, white, heterosexual males (or now Latinos) as they are usually the ones involved in mass shootings? Is it even possible to be racist or commit a hate crime towards a white, hetero, Christian male?
Should some teachers and administrators be trained to carry weapons at the school?
Should there be a “This School is Armed” or “This is a Gun Free Zone” sign at every school?
That all for now.
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Hey, Skippy. I hope y’all are doing great.
I appreciate your weighing in, and I’m sorry life has kept me from getting back to you. I won’t address each question individually. Some of your comments seemed almost a bit tongue-in-cheek (AOC? LOL). I get it. We’re all frustrated, no matter what side we fall on politically. And I respect views no matter where they come from, because I’ve been on both sides and in the middle at various times in my life.
We obviously can’t report everyone we suspect *might* be “mentally unstable.” And yes, of course, hate crimes can be committed against any ethnicity, although I realize we seldom, if ever, hear about anyone but Black people being the victims.
I simply believe, as even many gun-rights proponents have begun to realize, that something as basic and relatively un-intrusive (from a rights perspective) as strengthening background checks and creating red-flag laws would at least help reduce some of the carnage we’re experiencing as a nation. Raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 is also worth giving strong consideration to. Why not do *something* rather than just offering thoughts and prayers every time people are massacred? I know your heart hurts just as much as mine and millions of others’ when something like Uvalde happens, but how long do we take zero action?
No one’s saying, “We want to take your guns away” or “Let’s make it harder for lawful Americans to buy guns.” They’re just saying, “Let’s make it harder for people with ill intentions to do so.” And also critically important, we have to fix the mental health issue as a country — and doing things like what Gov. Abbott did in cutting $211 million in funding for mental health earlier this year is not the way to go about it.
Anyway, sorry, Skippy, more than I meant to say. But in posing all your questions, some of which seemed flip and not based on workable or serious ideas, I hope you at least feel that we need to take some kind of action and not just let people keep dying like we have for years. No American should be content with that.
Thanks, Skippy. All my best to you and your beautiful family.
Until this country wakes up and once again is responsible enough to address mental illness and broken families then this will keep happening. There are more than enough gun laws on the books to address the situation if guns were the real problem, but enforcement is a major issue also. Still, the true issue is mental illness, not guns or knives or hatchets or whatever one chooses as a weapon. There will still be mass murders so long as we continue to tip-toe around the factual issues and ignore the hard truths of the destruction of families in this country and the mental state of our country.
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Hi, dear Sheila. I’m so sorry I haven’t had a chance to reply. You are so right about mental illness, and I was remiss in not making that more of a focus of the piece. It is a major component of this awful problem. In Texas, Gov. Abbott earlier this year cut $211 million in funding for mental health. That was a colossal mistake. Your points are all absolutely valid. Yes, the laws on the books need better enforcement.
But I will say that when it comes to guns, we still need more stringent background checks. No one who owns guns for lawful purposes would have their guns taken away or be deprived of the right to purchase guns if background checks were strengthened. And the red-flag laws would be a huge help as well.
In our paper yesterday, The Dallas Morning News’ Sunday edition, dozens of big GOP donors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area took out a full-page ad supporting Sen. John Cornyn’s efforts to negotiate for common-sense gun legislation. For those folks to do that was a strong statement saying that something must be done. But again, I totally agree with you on the issue of mental health. We continue to fail the millions of Americans who need help.
I hope you and your family are in good health, Sheila. I’m so glad you took the time to express your thoughts here. Stay well.
Please consider the history of what is now called “red flag laws”. Unfortunately, people will have a grudge against someone that they know has a gun and will “false report” a complete untruth and watch as the police take away their victim’s guns which are unlikely to ever be returned even under court order. A case I remember well was a dishonest cop that had another man’s antique, family heirloom, confiscated that he had wanted for himself for many years. His victim never had his gun (a Kentucky long-rifle) returned, lost his job and wife during the 3 year process. I see this “red flag law” as being bad history repeating itself which is just another problem…..they make laws that made a bigger mess in the past (or already exist) but since no one researches history we are destined to revisit these laws and see how much worse we can make things this time when the answers are right in front of us and we don’t want to see them because it might be an “inconvenience” and complicated to work out.
On another note…..I watched the performance of the young singer. She is quite good. Reminds me in some ways of a young Kelly Clarkson….not quite the range Kelly has but very good. I hope she has a great carrier in front of her because her voice and song writing talents are a blessing to all that listen!
Best to you and your family.
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Hi there. I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to reply to your last comment on this post. I’ve been dealing with COVID since last week. I’m getting better, but still in isolation in our bedroom.
I always appreciate your reading my posts, Sheila. First, on our young friend Kameryn — what a wonderful compliment! She really is very gifted as a musician, and her guitar-playing skills also seem like second nature as she sings. I can’t play the piano and sing at the same time (I actually haven’t attempted it much!), but it always amazes me what musicians can do. I hope she has a great music career ahead of her!
On the red flag laws: I honestly have not done as much research on the subject or have as much knowledge as you do, so I’ll say that your argument makes a lot of sense. There might be too much room for those kinds of terrible circumstances to happen. It sounds like the federal legislation they’re working on will probably not include the red flag component and that might be something the states work out individually, in which case we certainly won’t have them in Texas. Thank you for making the point about these laws and how they can be misused and end up destroying lives.
I hope you all are healthy and staying cool up there. I was shocked to see the top-seeded Vols baseball team fall short of the College World Series. But I’m not sure if you even follow college baseball! My Texas A&M Aggies are there, but they have work to do after losing their opener to Oklahoma. They came back to beat state rival Texas yesterday, but now have to face Notre Dame — the team that knocked out the Vols! As my brother Crys often says in texts…….Yikes! 🙂