Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Never-ending Remembrance

 "Can you still hear raging guns, ending dreams of precious ones?"

- Lyrics from the song
by Jonathan and Stephen Cohen

Columbine Flower
Columbine flower bringing joy to the world.

23 years later, that is still a very valid question to ask as I listen to the song that was written 23 years ago by two students of Columbine High School whom survived the massacre.  A realization fell upon me recently that it is by no means "normal" for people to know what happens in communities following a tragic event, such as the shooting at Columbine, which occurred on April 20th, 1999.  For myself and many others across the country, this has been our reality from a very early age, it's all we've ever known.  We're amongst the first generation for these tragic events to become normalized and integrated with our everyday life.  It didn't even occur to me until this year that there are quite a lot of people in the world whom have no idea what it's like to watch these events unfold at places you have been to or to watch normal people in your direct community go through an extremely sudden and public loss.  There's a lot more to these events than what the media shows for a few days before the cameras disappear and they move on to the next story.

In 6th grade, at the age of 12 years old, I was first exposed to mass shootings and it just so happened to be the events of Columbine.  I remember sitting in class, going through a normal lesson.  The phone rang on the teachers desk, she answered and talked for a bit longer than normal while covering her mouth half way through.  She hung up the phone and walked into the hallway where we could hear her talking to another teacher as we started chatting with each other and throwing things across the room.  She came back in and closed the door, I remember her trying to continue teaching us but she kept stopping and pausing.  After a few of these stops our teacher let us know we would be reading for the rest of the day and we weren't aloud to go outside for recess or anything like that.  She sat at her desk as we all pulled out our books and fake read while our normally strict teacher let us goof around freely.  We had no idea what was going on aside from it just being a very odd day.  After school I climbed into my mom's car while a talk radio show was blaring and tears were streaming down her face.  I asked her what was wrong, she looked at me, looked back to the steering wheel, looked at me, back at the steering wheel as she contemplated what to say.  She finally told me that she doesn't know how to explain this to me but someone walked into a school with a gun and started firing, we don't know what is going on but it doesn't look good.  She explained this was at Columbine High School which is in the same school district as my brothers high school as well as my elementary school and is a relatively short drive away.  As my stomach sank and knots of dread filled my body I asked if my brother was okay, she said he was fine, this isn't at his school.  I asked about his friends, she looked at me and said, we don't know.  Internally I struggled to work through the crippling fear of what my mother was telling me.  Someone brought a gun to a school and started shooting?  What?  Is my brother okay?  Are his friends okay?  Is this actually happening?  Is this a joke?  Is this a hoax?  Is anyone hurt?  Is anyone dead?  Is anyone alive?  What is actually happening?  Wait, there are potential bombs?  Bombs went off?  In the school?  Outside of the school?  Some bombs didn't explode?  Why is this happening?

This was before cell phones were plentiful so it was not as easy to communicate as it is today.  You couldn't instantly find out what someone was doing.  The person you were trying to reach had to be by a phone in a building and you had to be by a phone in a building.  Only a few people had actual cell phones and they were only phones, not smart phones, they could literally only place phone calls - no texting, no internet, no news, just a phone.  To find out if someone was okay you just had to keep calling their house until someone at their house was able to answer.  The only other way to get actual information was to listen to the radio or watch the news while everything unfolded.  I definitely question the reliability of my memory of all of these events as your memory may not be that accurate, even from what you remember from only two weeks ago let alone 23 years ago.  Parts of this timeline seem crystal clear, such as getting into my mom's car after school.  Other parts seem to be clear but more of a fast-forwarded time lapse format where the actual details seem to be fuzzy but the general events are there.  Such as after we got home and my brother got home, I remember my family sitting around, watching the news as the ongoing events slowly unfolded as well as what had happened as we all tried to process each detail while the phone rang seemingly endlessly in the background.  Uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends all calling to check in on us to see if everyone is okay.  In-between phone calls my brother phones his friends who attended Columbine, he wasn't able to get a hold of them until later that night to find out that they were okay.  As we watched the news footage, I remember seeing the aerial helicopter footage showing the school, surrounding area, and neighboring park as I pointed out to my family that we've been there before to watch my brother play sports and I've had matches there before too.  My mother and father took deep breaths, looked at each other, and nodded their heads yes, yes we have.  I kept asking why was this happening?  I kept getting the answer of: we don't know ... we don't know ... we don't know.  The same confusion that was going through my head was the same confusion displayed on tv by the news stations.  Nobody really knew what was going on or what had actually happened for quite a while and it took a long time for the actual facts to be distilled out to the families, community, city, state, country, and world.

What appears to be unknown by our society is what actually happens in communities after the tv crews have disappeared and moved on to the next big story?  Events such as this used to be on the news for a few days, a week, maybe two then they'd slowly fade away from the newscasts as time went on with less and less updates every night.  Now-a-days everyone has gotten so used to these events happening, they fade out much quicker.  Sometimes these events don't even make the news at all anymore.  Regardless of this new normalcy which doesn't really matter except for it being very odd when you stop and think about it.  Despite that, the actual effects on the actual people directly and indirectly affected remain the same today as it was 23 years ago.  After the tv crews have left, the community is left with a bunch of young lives that were cut short in a sacred place of learning, where aspirations came to a screeching halt and dreams disappeared into the oblivion ... just ... like ... that.  The city is left with a public school now riddled with bullet holes, blood, and bomb blasts.  The parents, families, and friends of the victims are surely grief stricken and dumbfounded.  The psyche of everyone else in the community has been shaken as they realize this just as easily could have happened at their school or their kids school.  Meanwhile the rest of the world has peaced out and moved along to the next big story.  This isn't to say that people outside of the community don't realize what took place, but they're removed from it and they don't realize the long term effects that these events have on people.  This wasn't their city, their school, their park that they've been to.  It's just some far off land and surely this couldn't ever happen to them.  They treat the deaths just like the death of their grandma as in everyone's going to die someday, some die sooner and some die later, it's just a fact of life and now more people have died, life goes on.  Their grandma's death whom passed away peacefully in her sleep is vastly different from a mass shooting death where this person was literally in school, fine one moment, then dead the next as bullets pierced glass, riddled lockers and bombs shook the walls as screams, confusion and chaos ensued.  These deaths are more akin to war.  Just like war, there are a lot of people whom are affected, the fallout isn't even limited to the direct victims.

Imagine you're standing on the edge of a pond, you throw a rock in, what happens?  It makes a loud splash followed by ripples reverberating and bouncing about throughout the entire pond.  That is exactly what happens when a mass shooting occurs.  You have the initial event, which is the rock, it makes a giant splash in the community, city, state, country, and potentially the world.  After the rock disappears from the surface everyone stops looking; meanwhile the rock caused all of these ripples that are effecting the victims families, friends, everyday people in the community, state, etc.  But nobody pays any attention to that, that's not the reality that many people outside of the community live, it's invisible to most, especially after the news stations have left and there's nobody left to hear your story.

If you start throwing rock after rock into the pond you're standing in front of then soon enough the ripples will turn into waves, then the waves into tsunamis and the tsunamis will then spring forth and wreak havoc on the surrounding area.  The same is true for mass shootings, when you start piling them on top of each other, the trauma keeps building.  Just when you think you've dealt with one, another happens, more ripples are added and suddenly, just when you thought the ripples were gone the calmness turns into a raging wave bringing back all of the prior trauma and adding to it.  If only there was something we as a society could do to help prevent this.

Whenever any sort of sensible gun control measure gets brought up in congress in this country, I'm saddened, angered, enraged, and downright disappointed when it immediately turns into a heated debate that becomes extremely political and the lives of so many people are blatantly ignored and dismissed.  Your machine guns matter more than our lives is all I can hear when those debates pop-up and the fact that they are debates at all is sickening in itself when you start thinking of all the lives lost and people affected by mass shootings.  The second amendment gets quoted a lot, but I don't think anyone debating has ever actually read the second amendment (let alone the entire Constitution of the United States of America or the Bill of Rights or the additional 17 amendments after the Bill of Rights) for if they had they would realize that it protects the right to bear arms, not any and all arms in existence.  The fact that the guns of war that are around today are vastly different from the top of the line muskets that were around when the constitution was written, blatantly gets ignored.  Furthermore, the very first part is "A well regulated Militia", the second amendment literally says the militia is regulated sssooooo regulations can be imposed.

But I need my guns for hunting or to protect my home and family are other common arguments.

Those are very valid and true and nobody is trying to take your hunting rifle or normal handgun away.  So are you saying that you are going to go hunting with your AR-15 with a high capacity magazine?  What exactly are you hunting?  Are going to make swiss cheese out of a deer or something?  Because that is a tool of war whos only purpose is to literally kill people ... fast.

Well I'm going to be a good guy with a gun then!

Is usually the next argument that I get presented with.  Okay, so the idea here is that if you find yourself in an active shooter situation, you are going to pull out your gun and shoot the gunman then, eh?  How much actual training do you have?  Have you ever had any actual training on how to actually use your firearm?  How often do you train regularly?  So if this situation does happen (which it has happened before), how are you going to be sure you don't shoot civilians?  Once the police show up, how are they going to know you're a good guy with a gun?  You look just like a gunman and you're probably going to get shot.  The reality is that a good gun with a gun scenario has very little chance of being successful and if you don't injure our kill innocent civilians due to lack of training then you're probably going to get shot by the police yourself.  Soooo yyyyeeaaahhh, I don't see how that one can play out well for anyone.

The need to be able to rebel against the government gets cited a lot in conversations I have had which is definitely my personal favorite.

Oh, so you think that you and your 200 AR-15's are going to be able to stand-up to the US government?  The current greatest military on earth whom has an obviously bottomless pit of a budget?  You do realize that if a situation like that ever occurs, you're not going to have the army knocking on your door but a drone will just launch a missile straight into your house and you won't even know what hit you, right?  Even if that didn't happen (but it probably would), you really think that you... a completely untrained civilian... can hold off the might of the US military, whom train each and every day for war???

Well, you're not going to take my guns away...

Excellent, nobody is trying to take your guns away, literally nobody is trying to take all of the guns out of US society.  What people are looking for are laws to be put into place to try and prevent these mass shootings from occurring in the first place because they cause mass amounts of harm to a lot of people and steps can be taken to try and prevent them.  Banks and casino's get robbed and planes get hijacked but it's never been a thing for those events to happen and for society and lawmakers to go, "Welp, there's absolutely nothing we can do about your banks or casinos getting robbed or planes from getting hijacked so we're just not going to even try anything, you're on your own."  Nope, that doesn't happen.  Banks put in thick-ass safes, casino's add thousands of security cameras and an army of security guards, airports institute more stringent security measures and airlines add metal cockpit doors along with arming pilots.  Do you know what the result is of those steps being taken to try and prevent people from doing harm?  Banks and casinos get robbed less and airplanes get hijacked less!  Holy shit, who would have guessed that.  Those measures actually had an effect.  Sure, people still rob banks and casinos and hijackings are certainly still possible but roadblocks were put into place to try and make a difference ... and they did make a difference.  What you're doing is putting barriers in peoples way to make it harder for those deeds to be accomplished.  When you make something harder to do... it is literally harder to do.  However when it comes to guns and mass shootings, everyone just throws up their hands and goes: nope, there's nothing we can do at all, this is hopeless so we are just going to do nothing, our hands are tied.  Which is just plane idiotic, stupid, and illogical.

Our society is straight up ignoring the stories and humanity of the communities whom have endured these tragedies.  Some communities have endured more than others.  To this day I currently count 4 mass shootings that have occurred in the communities that I have been involved with.  Which equates to 67 deaths and 110 injuries.  Each mass shooting has had a significant impact on my life along with one gun violence incident in high school where a fellow high school classmate was shot and killed right in the driveway of the home he and his family lived in.  While that one wasn't a mass shooting, it is still gun violence and the fact that you can practically obtain a gun easier than candy in this country is just utterly absurd.  I won't ever forget that phone call from a neighbor of mine asking if I heard what happened to Garry.  When I said no ... there was a pause ... then they said he had been shot.  I asked if he was okay... another long pause... No ... he's dead.  Another long pause until I asked where he was and what had happened ... another long pause ... he was in the driveway of his house is all we know.  What???  His funeral was very surreal... as a high school student attending the funeral of a fellow classmate... someone you knew and went to school with and joked around with... a life that was ended with the single pull of a trigger.  I remember looking around and every single seat was filled.  Every single wall had someone standing along it.  Each aisle was lined with people sitting on the floor.  There literally was not enough room in the church for everyone who came to pay their respects.  The local media circus was also present, after all a high school student getting murdered in his very own driveway most certainly makes for big local news.  The rest is a blur as speaker after speaker and family member after family member reminisced on the time that Garry had on this planet and how his life was unnecessarily cut short.  Gun violence is a very real issue in this country whether they be these small isolated incidents or the large mass shootings.  Regardless of whether the events are Columbine or Virginia Tech or the Aurora movie theatre or the Boulder grocery store or any of the other countless mass shootings that have been happening increasingly across the country or even the smaller gun violence incidents where the life of a bright and smart high school student gets cut awfully short.  Everyone's story has value and every community has value and every person, friend, family member, first responder, or community member whom has endured these tragedies in the community they live in have value.  They watch these events unfold at the normal places they visit, they all go through a lot... long after the tv cameras have been turned off... yet the communities get ignored.  These communities continue to get ignored when years later they watch another mass shooting unfold in another town... just like yours but across the country... this time it's in an elementary school... 26 dead... your heart sinks as you feel for the whole community and what you know they're all about to endure... the invisible wounds in your mind get ripped right back open, just when you thought you were healing from the last mass shooting in your community 6 months ago.  A little bit of time passes... you try hard to shield and protect your mind...  to form a barrier... so nothing can affect it.  However another mass shooting occurs at a high school in Florida... you start having vivid flashbacks to watching Columbine unfold... the chaos... the dread... the unknown... the fear... the death... your heart again sinks as photos and video clips start hitting the news of high school students streaming out of the school... huddling together in parking lots... in shock that this type of massacre could happen at their school... ambulances and police chaotically pacing the streets... this time 17 are dead.  More time passes... you start feeling like you've made a lot of progress... you're feeling great but yet another mass shooting occurs, once again right in the town you live in... only a week after a separate mass shooting that occurred across the country in Atlanta which left 8 dead... this time it's in a grocery store, one you've been to... a lot... in Boulder... 10 dead... one of which is a police officer... whom had 7 children... you try hard to take very deep breathes... as deep as you can... to keep yourself calm and from screaming about this madness... but you can't help yourself... you SCREAM as loud as you possibly can... tears stream down your face... your invisible wounds in your mind have not only been viciously ripped right back open against your will but now those wounds are now much... much... much wider then they have ever have been before... as you finally realize the compounding affect that all of these events have... and there's nothing you can do about it... you're basically hopeless as you ask over and over and over and over as these tragedies unfold one after the other after the other after the other:  When will this madness end?  When will something actually be done?  Our society is failing... and failing hard.

Well what could be done?  Quite simply... anything... any action at all towards trying to prevent these shootings from occurring would help.  There are specific, direct actions that could be taken which would very likely have a very large and profound effect at preventing these from happening.  There's definitely no silver bullet (pun intended) to solving mass shootings.  There isn't going to be a wave of the magic wand and these events suddenly never happen again, just like that.  Although, Australia came pretty dang close to making that happen (short term anyways).  These are complex issues and thus calls for a multi-prong approach that needs to be implemented into our society as soon as possible so we can start moving in the right direction.  Without further ado, here's where we need to start: 

1. Mental Health Access - Making sure everyone has easy, affordable, and equal access to mental health services.  This is very rudimentary and is very important.  There can't be a 6 month wait to go see a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, etc.  Mental health should be just as accessible as seeing a normal doctor and you should be able to get an appointment within a week, if not sooner.  Perhaps mass shootings would happen a lot less in the US if it was easier to get an appointment with a mental health professional than it is to buy a gun.

2. Destigmatizing Mental Health - I can already feel you all cringing as you read this since we're talking about mental health.  We really need to normalize mental health in our society and the world.  We're all human, we all have problems, and we all go through shit thus we will all need access to mental health services at some point or another in our life and we should really have no problem talking about it amongst ourselves in our society - if you choose to do so.  Currently if you bring up mental health in any sort of conversation people tend to look at you as if you've absolutely lost your marbles.  Get over it, you have your own issues too so don't pretend like you don't.  Companies, organizations and governments really need to get onboard with this as well.  Don't even get me started on mental health in the aviation industry, I will probably go on a rant for at least 36 hours straight if you get me started on that.

3. Affordable Mental Health and Health Care - These two go hand in hand.  Health care as a whole needs to actually be affordable so people can stay healthy without going bankrupt.  Mental health needs to be included in this and it shouldn't be separate from your normal health care plan.  Health care and mental health should be wrapped into one and they should both be affordable, they are both very important.

4. Banning Assault Rifles and their Pistol Versions - These are weapons of war whos sole purpose is to kill people and they have no place in everyday society.  You don't need them to hunt or protect your home or your family.  Remember, the 2nd amendment literally says "a well regulated militia" so arms can be regulated.  Police and military should still have access to these weapons as they have an actual need and use for them, but everyday people do not.  Sure, mass shootings can certainly still occur without these weapons, there's no denying that, but it's much easier for people to get away from a gunman if the gun is not an assault rifle that's spewing bullets all over the place.  This would single handedly save a lot of lives.  At the very least there should be a requirement to have a very specific license for these types of firearms which would require a lot of very specific initial training on properly using these weapons as well as required recurring training every 6 months.  Both the initial and recurring training would include classroom and field training.  That way, if you have this type of gun you are undergoing regular and consistent training on how to use the weapon.  This would make it consistent with everything else in our society.  If you want to obtain a commercial pilots license so you can get paid to fly people on airplanes, you are required to go through very specific training so you practice and hone very specific skills so you don't kill people when you start getting paid to fly people around.  It's just common sense.  The same needs to be done for guns but banning assault rifles and their pistol version counterparts makes even more sense since they are only weapons of war with no other purpose.

5. Banning High Capacity Magazines -   Again, these are made for war, not everyday use on the streets.  This would save lives.  If you don't have a high capacity magazine you have to reload your weapon more, which gives more people a chance to escape which would save lives.  It just makes sense.

6. Education - I don't have the slightest idea what is being taught in schools in regards to mass shootings in the US since I literally lived through the beginning of them becoming commonplace in our society.  If history is any indication then it's probably being ignored and not being taught.  People need to be educated on what has happened in the past, why it happened, and why it continues to happen.  This should be taught by presenting facts and teaching critical thinking so people can come to their own conclusions and come up with more potential solutions.  Students now-a-days do have active shooter drills so maybe it is being taught, but I doubt it, however they are still living through it being around them all of the time.  If people don't get educated on what has happened in the past then we don't have any way of keeping it from happening again in the future.

These six steps are the starting point for taking actionable steps to try and prevent mass shootings from occurring in the first place.  All of those steps are equally important and need to be implemented at once on the national level.  Yes, it is entirely possible that mass shootings would still occur after all of those are implemented, what we're trying to do are put barriers in place along with mental health access to try and prevent mass shootings from happening.  If you want to make a bank or casino robbery less likely then you install a safe, security cameras, and hire security guards - all of which make a robbery a lot less likely to happen, it's the same idea.  Affordable mental health access is the first line of defense.  This would go a very long way.  Currently mental health services are not accessible nor affordable and nobody talks about mental health so people generally don't seek it in the first place.  All of that needs to be flip-flopped around so if someone is going through something (which we all do), they can call and get an appointment with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist or the appropriate mental health person that week and once they see the person it's their normal $10 or $20 co-pay and is actually affordable.  As a society we should all be able to accept that we all need mental health help from time to time, it's just plain healthy, so get over it.  If that mental health person deems that this person is unstable or is a potential risk at that moment, they should be able to easily flag that person for the time being so they can't buy a new gun and if they do currently own a gun then the police should be going over to their house and ask them to surrender their weapons for the time being until they are deemed not a potential risk.  Once the therapist or mental health professional deems they are good to go then they would once again be able to buy a gun and/or their existing gun(s) would be returned to them.  This is in everybody's best interest and it just plain makes sense.  Banning and/or having strict licensing for assault rifles, their pistol versions and high capacity magazines just plain makes sense as well.  It is essential that these bans and/or licensing requirements be done on the national level.  A city level is useless as you can drive from city to city with ease with nothing in your way.  You can also easily drive from state to state with nothing in your way so state laws don't work for this either.  The national level is the only way for this to be effective.  Educating the youth on mass shootings, gun history in the US, laws, and mental health would also do wonders in arming people with the information they need to see why these measures were implemented and would also encourage critical thinking to try and prevent mass shootings from happening in the future.  If you don't like these ideas then I implore you to come up with your own ideas.  A "we should do nothing" idea is not an option as that is what we have been doing for the past 20+ years and nothing has changed, plus it's just plain not an idea.  New solutions need to be presented and implemented nationally, that is a fact.  So if you do not like my ideas then come up with your own dang ideas and lets chat about it together as a society, that is how true progress is made!  Perhaps we should take a look at the measures taken after Columbine.

I always say that nothing has changed since Columbine and I say that a bit tongue in cheek because it's not necessarily true.  Columbine did change some things but not enough has changed and these shootings still happen thus why I say that nothing has changed.  I have a bit of a unique perspective on what did change, seeing as I was in the Jefferson County Public school system, the same district and school system as Columbine.  After Columbine, there was a very strict, zero tolerance policy that was implemented in the school system and this was basically implemented overnight.  Before Columbine, if a student were to threaten someone, start a fight, or even bring a weapon to school.  The general mentality was "Boys Will Be Boys" and they were almost always given a free pass.  After Columbine, the exact same threats, fighting, or bringing a weapon to school would result in expulsion and there were no exceptions.  There were definitely several incidents after Columbine, at the schools that I attended, where weapons were brought to school and those students were promptly expelled, no if's and's or but's.  Visible security cameras were installed in the schools which always seemed a bit creepy but it was the very start of what is now very common.  Police are now trained completely different.  If you watch footage from Columbine, you'll notice that the police setup a perimeter around the school and it took them an extremely long time to actually enter the school.  At the time they were trained to contain the incident then the SWAT team would enter after they arrived and assessed the situation.  After Columbine, police were trained and still are that if there's an active shooter situation, they charge into the building and confront the shooter with zero regard to their own well being.  This tactic change has saved a crap ton of lives but it doesn't do anything at preventing mass shootings from occurring in the first place.  It just changes it so once a mass shooting does occur it's probably going to be about 5 minutes before the first police officer is charging head first into the scene with guns blazing.  As far as I'm aware, those are the major changes that happened after Columbine and guns are just as easy to obtain now as they were then and in this country it is just as easy to obtain an AR-15 as it is the tasty candy at the convenience store.  A few things did change after Columbine but barely and not nearly enough.  What's the real toll taken on our society with all of this?

It's next to impossible to measure all of the different factors and effects that mass shootings and gun violence as a whole have on our society.  The last aspect that I would like to explore with you on our think-a-thon of a journey here, is your current, everyday student and their families.  If there's a mass shooting in your community you can probably imagine what it would be like to go through something like sending your kid back to school against their will, assuring they'll be safe but unable to guarantee it with any amount of certainty.  You can probably imagine what that same situation is like if you've been directly in a mass shooting before, as so eloquently described by some Columbine survivors whom have their own high school aged kids now.  But what is it like for your normal, average student whom has not been involved with any of these events before but routinely goes through active shooter drills and watches mass shootings unfold on television on a regular basis?  School's are supposed to be a safe place for learning, but they really aren't anymore.  School's are teaching for standardized tests, they aren't teaching so students can learn, they are teaching so students can do well on tests so the school can get more funding so they can keep teaching students to do well on tests.  Doing well on standardized tests does not directly correlate to amount learned, it directly correlates to how well you can take tests, which is it's own skill in its own right.  True education is where you have the opportunity to absorb knowledge, think about it, ask questions, challenge it, think about it, talk about it, write papers on it, etc.  Which translates to the process of combining critical thinking and knowledge which is actual true education.  Being taught for standardized tests is totally different, it's just here's what is going to be on the test, here is what you need to know, here's how to take tests and make educated guesses.  There's no critical thinking involved in it at all.  What standardized tests really translate too though are elevated levels of stress.  You are being taught for these tests, you are being told that you need to perform well on them and if you do not then your school will have less funding, your teachers will get fired, your class sizes will grow and it will be all your fault.  As an adult that sounds trivial, as a student it's their life and that equates to a very high stress level.  Throw in the fact that nobody can ensure your safety or your friends safety while you're being prepared to take these standardized tests and that just elevates the stress level to a whole different level.  Plus if and when you raise concern about your concerns surrounding your education, your safety or really anything that is of importance to you the very society you live in directly writes you off as being young, na├»ve, and incapable of having good ideas for positive change.  Oh, and if you decide you want or need to go talk to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist about any of this, your parents medical plan likely won't pay for it and your parents likely won't be able to afford it.  Perhaps when you combine all of these factors, plus more, you get what is currently going on in our society which is an extremely high stress level amongst the youth and an ever increasing suicide rate.  This is not okay either, we are once again failing in our society and all of these factors are connected.  When you step back and boil everything down that we've talked about thus far, the summary is:  This is America.  It is very hard to fathom why everything is currently the way it is and why more change hasn't occurred yet and why's there's so much hesitancy behind literally doing something... anything that is common sense to just try and make this a better society for literally everybody.  You can only rack your brain so much about it but perhaps everything is just How It's Supposed to Be.

The six measures that are listed above should be implemented right away on a national level and while they may not be perfect but they would be something.  An attempt to make this a better society for everyone living in it.  Those measures would almost certainly cause a ridiculous amount of outrage from others in our society.  Hell, even just typing these thoughts in this article will likely cause an outrage of anger from people for having the audacity to suggest a good solution to mass murders.  Why is that?  Why are guns more important than lives?  They shouldn't be, lives are very precious and guns only end lives.  These measures are a starting point and they are something.  At this point something is better than nothing and doing nothing is certainly not an option at all.

Spring is now officially upon us bringing forth beautiful flowers, such as the wonderful crocuses.
Warmer weather is just around the corner.
Cool rains will soon be pouring down on the hot summer days.
Gardens and farms will shortly be bursting forth with life.
It's a time of joyful celebration that the cold weather and snow will soon be a thing of the past, until next winter rolls around anyways, in this cyclical nature of Mother Earth.

In tandem with the joyfulness, spring also brings a time of remembrance, whether it be the 10 people killed a little over a year ago in a grocery store or those killed 23 years ago while attending school.  
Or the many, many, many more whom have been innocent victims to the exponentially increasing plague of preventable gun violence that we find ourselves trapped in.

Those who have lost their lives are a drop of water in the ever filling pond.
Outward from each drop are endless ripples that affect their families, friends, communities, first responders, etc.
We all find ourselves affected by at least one of these ripples, many of us... many ripples.

Yet here we are, nothing has changed in 1 year, nor in 23 years.
We find ourselves arguing endless arguments that really have no point.
After all, if brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, just like you and me are dying at an ever increasing rate what soulless argument can justify their loss of life?
Yet here we are... left only with... thoughts and prayers:

How many lives will be lost.
How many families must be shattered.
How many dreams will suddenly fade away into the ether.
Before something is actually done.

Important Note:  While writing this article shootings occurred in Sacramento, Brooklyn, Columbiana mall, and East Allegheny Pittsburgh.

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