April 7, 2023
This is not feel-good spring letter. It is written in deep sorrow, frustration and, admittedly, some anger. Once again as a nation we are confronted with the tragic, senseless, and all-too-common reality of mass shootings stealing the lives of our precious children – and at the same time threatening our future as a civilized society. This time it was in Nashville. I must wonder: will we be next? We can no longer say with any degree of certainty that “it could never happen here.” So far this year we are averaging over one mass shooting in our country for every day that passes.
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a long-retired teacher friend of mine as we recalled our school days and those of our own children, when the only drills we had were fire drills and earthquake drills. Now drills for bomb threats and active shooters have been added to the “you must be prepared for” list. You can’t be involved in education these days and not have the possibility of such a tragedy in your community, in your school. One of the primary and foundational responsibilities of government is to protect and keep safe our citizens. One of the main functions of our schools is to care for and nurture the young lives that are entrusted to them.
Two questions nag at me: One, how did we allow ourselves to get to this point? Two, why are we doing nothing to stop it, to change direction, to do something different?
They say that the definition of insanity is taking the same action over and over and expecting a different result. I hear pundits and politicians after every incident of such violence blame it on the mental health crisis or the criminal minds that will not go away. Yet nothing is being done that will stop this senseless violence. Why would we accept such acts of violence “as the price of freedom” or think that they would magically go away when our “solution” hasn’t proven to work in the past.
We must look outside ourselves and our country and examine why other civilized societies that have many of the same human condition issues that politicians love to blame but have nowhere near the gun violence. Ironically, the majority of Americans believe in common sense gun laws such as universal background checks for ALL sales, and a ban on assault-style weapons. Such measures are not about taking away someone’s Second Amendment rights, but rather about balancing those rights with the responsibility we have to and for the well-being of our fellow residents. Rights without also taking seriously our responsibility for the common good will only leave us clinging to a failing society. How far down that road do we want to go before we insist on a new direction?
I hear the argument that as long as there are sick individuals or criminal minds, we will never stop the violence. The saying goes, “If they are determined to conduct their violent acts, they will get the weapons somewhere.” So, then we should do nothing? This doesn’t make sense to me. Doing nothing will not bring about change. However, in our own history, in the not-too-distant past, we had a ban on assault weapons, and we did see a rather dramatic decline in mass shootings. Did they stop? No. But do we really want to argue that unless we can completely solve the problem, we are better off doing nothing? Would it be worth it if we saved half of the lives that we currently are losing? Or even 25%? I’d take a 10% reduction! But the point is, we can’t argue that it wouldn’t solve the problem as a whole – just as a reason to take no action or to not change what we are doing right now.
I regularly give to causes that fight hunger, both locally and globally. I say this not to pat myself on the back, but to make a point: Has hunger gone away? Far from it. But I do know that the donations of millions of citizens and organizations and companies have made a difference in the lives of those who have been recipients of such generosity. If we only engage in issues and causes that we are certain to “solve,” we will never be the stone that creates a ripple that carries. We will accept despair and cynicism as inevitable. Let’s not let perfection be the enemy of good.
Some of you are questioning why a small-town mayor of a beautiful tourist town would wade into such a political subject as restrictions on guns. My answer is, “why is trying to reduce the violence our society is experiencing and the loss of precious lives a political issue?” It shouldn’t be. It’s a moral issue. It’s an issue steeped in love of people. It’s an issue steeped in taking our responsibility seriously. And let’s be frank. The fact that we are the hosts to thousands of guests to our small town increases our chances of seeing that violence in our town. We not only have a responsibility to keep safe our 2,000 residents, but we also have the added responsibility of doing the same for the thousands who visit us and expect to do so safely. Let’s insist that our lawmakers heed the will of the majority, and take concrete steps to put us on a different path. Meanwhile, the mourning will continue…
City of Leavenworth
700 Highway 2
Leavenworth, WA 98826