Words to a child: One nation under the gun

In Colorado the other day, it was time for many parents to have the talk.

The talk about a dangerous world. The talk about safety at school.

Many parents had time and motivation to do this because a woman with a gun made threats that shut down schools from Colorado Springs to Denver to Fort Collins.

We’re all busy, distracted, headed in every direction. In Colorado, nothing stops everything but blizzards and the Broncos.

Add this: a Florida woman flying into Denver with apparent intent to kill.

Sol Pace, 18, was said to be “infatuated with Columbine” and emotionally fragile. The horrors of that 1999 tragedy were about to be relived on its 20th anniversary. When she deplaned, she got herself a weapon at a gun shop not far from the school. Alarms sounded up and down the Front Range.

Half a million students were told to stay home. Thousands who didn’t have to stay home did so anyway. Education essentially stopped, all because of a gun that she ultimately turned on herself.

As a search ensued, media outlets cued up advice on what to tell children about situations like this, with mass shootings increasingly commonplace. I don’t have children at home, but if I did, here’s what I’d say.

My child: The first thing to understand is that the world isn’t as dangerous as the news implies. The same for school. It is still the safest place to be outside of home with me. It has always been so.

What’s true, sadly, is that your world is not nearly as safe as it could be.

Your world, your community, your nation, is less safe because politicians have put the interests of commerce ahead of keeping people safe.

The commerce of gun sales. The songs of cash registers, of bar codes chirping.

In Colorado, schools closed because a teenager not old enough to buy a gun in her home state of Florida (recently having barred gun sales to people under 21) did so only moments after arriving at Denver’s airport.

Federal officials said it was a legal purchase. Gun safety groups said no – that the law prevents someone who can’t buy a gun in her home state to buy it in another.

A gun shop owner said it would be a bad idea to prevent fly-in transactions like this. It would crimp the “tourist industry.”

If that’s the case, why did the traveler even have to go to a gun shop? Why not guns in vending machines at the airport? Why not guns for sale mid-air along with mini booze bottles? Would that serve the tourist economy?

Any legislation that would slightly alter the equation in favor of gun safety is assailed as the end of the world by gun lobbyists and hobbyists.

To them all guns are created equal – no distinction between the one that could kill one and the one that will kill scores.

They say it’s about fundamental freedoms. Listen closer and know that it’s all about convenience, and of course profit.

These are not good times for the gun lobby, with more and more Americans outraged over the dangers they face in deference to sanctified appliances of death.

But the gun industry knows that its greatest ally is fear, so it hardly blinks in the wake of another mass murder with its products, while those who could do something about it choose to litter the battlefield with leaflets of “thoughts and prayers.”

Once, again, child, the world isn’t as dangerous as the news will tell you. What’s dangerous is priorities dictated solely by commerce – whether it be about the global climate crisis you are inheriting, about the basic human needs of your neighbors, or about your safety.

Don’t concede to these powers. Join other people, like the students of Parkland, Fla., in fighting back.

An unsafe world? It’s your world, and you can make it safer.

Longtime former Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado.


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