A lesson from the Oregon shooting

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“All you ever report is bad news!”  Dad said last Christmas. “I’m glad you like what you do, but the news is always just so depressing.”

He had a point. We sat together, watching my hometown’s NBC affiliate report about an underage drinking party allegedly organized by some of the kids’ parents.

“I know,” I said.  “But that’s good. If we reported on every plane that landed safely, that would mean it’s rare. You want to hear about the plane that crashed. When you stop hearing about plane crashes, you know something’s wrong.”


Graphic by Kyle Dunbar

I won that argument by telling him the true nature of my job. There’s a reason we don’t report on politicians behaving or on planes that land safely.

And that is why I find the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College to be the single most terrifying moment of my career. I divide my time between two different newsrooms.  I am constantly plugged into the world around me, yet it took me until 7 p.m. to find out there had been another mass shooting.

Now I will admit that it is totally possible that I was so absorbed in my work that nothing could have gotten through to me. But what bothers me the most is the fact that I work with journalists, and none of them mentioned it. We cover these shootings, but the horror seems to be waning.

My roommate shrugged it off. My coworkers were shocked for only a few minutes and then went back to work.  Even presidential candidate Jeb Bush referred to it with a shrug, saying “stuff happens.” But he’s right. If that is not a blasting alarm that should be ringing in everyone’s head, I do not know what is.

How many more shootings do we have to endure? How many more self-obsessed jerks with guns are going to break our hearts by taking their frustrations out on innocent people? What else needs to happen before we can have a real conversation?

I am just a college senior, with a 21-year-old’s perspective, but I am going to weigh in.  Regular readers of my opinion pieces will know that most of the time I write like a cranky old man. That is a fair assessment.  I am a cranky person, because I see a very deadly habit being spreading in our country.

I call it  willful  arrogance.  I am referring to the refusal to compromise one’s views and see the other side of the argument. It is an understandable position, but it is an irresponsible one.

At some point, we have all been willfully arrogant. But this has to change. We have to stop calling each other things like “gun nut,” and we have to be adults. It is clear that the laws need reform, but the Second Amendment should not be struck down entirely.

I believe in the right to bear arms. I was brought up by hunters and fired my first gun when I was nine.

But at the same time, I fear for my safety and hate the fact that we’re the only country where shootings regularly happens. We are told to fear terrorists abroad, but really we should be more worried about these kinds of acts here at home.  I know I am not the only person who never wants to see another Sandy Hook. But I am losing hope. Sandy Hook was so horrendous, because of the victims, that it should have been the last mass shooting.

I met a woman from France in May 2015. I asked her what she thought of Americans.

“We think you’re a bunch of cowboys,” she said. “You keep letting people shoot everything up, and you say you can’t stop it.”

I am embarrassed for our country. I am embarrassed that we seem to be inching toward accepting this as just something that happens. I am embarrassed by everyone who sits there like a fool when the extreme left and right try to drag out this debate. They shout over us, and we just stand and say in the wimpy voice of a certain copyrighted cartoon dog, “Well now, that’s not fair. We should treat each other right.” But we’re drowned out by the rhetoric.

Stop being shouted down.  Stand up and get your voice counted. It all starts with you. This is about courage and leadership. We, as budding adults, have two choices. We can continue down the road of burying our heads in the sand, or we can stand up and demand real action.

The road to progress is hard. Life is hard. Life is filled with hardships. If we really want to end these mass shootings, then we have one big fight on our hands.

But we are faced with a true war on terror here on the home-front. Screw your courage to the sticking place. Yell the pundits down and help make the Oregon shooting the last. It may be cliche, but this is a fight for a better future for our children. They deserve freedom from fear.

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