Too Late. Again.

With his silence and tears more powerful than the words …

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.”

“We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Here’s some of what I said after another mass shootings THIS YEAR, the one in Wisconsin:

When did we lose hope?  When did all these elected officials decide that we could never again have a national discussion about assault weapons?  Even in Illinois, where I live, Governor Pat Quinn just this week renewed the call for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, only to be greeted with the sentiment that “well, it would be good but it will never happen.”  Others criticize people who make these statements as just trying to take advantage of tragedies.  A Republican state senator criticized the Democratic governor, saying “It’s on people’s minds right now because of what happened in Colorado, and the governor wants a piece of the publicity.”

Damn right it’s on people’s minds.  That’s exactly when we need to talk about it.  Before everyone goes back to sleep and more people die. 

In that post, I link to the cartoon in the middle of Bowling for Columbine, A Brief History of the United States, and Chris Rock’s bit on bullet control as a possible solution.  Check them out.

I’ll adapt my own words from that piece here to conclude for now, until we have to talk about it again:

Because we have a gun problem embedded in a culture problem.

Don’t say that it’s too soon.

Because for kindergartners first graders and school teachers in Connecticut, it’s too late.



About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • kenneth

    We’re not going to talk about it, because we’ve formed an overwhelming national consensus that we don’t care. Addressing mental health and gun regulation is considered so off limits in public policy that there is no price we won’t pay to avoid it. It didn’t happen with the uncountable mass shootings before this one and it won’t happen with this one, or the next one, or the next 100 such incidents. We could lose 20 kids a day this way and it won’t matter. We have allowed it to go on so long that we simply don’t have the capacity to be shocked or outraged anymore. Not really. We say we are, but it’s scripted. The entire national response is plug and play in these incidents. The expressions of grief and “outrage”, the minute by minute media narrative, the canonization of heroes, all of it.

    It will continue to happen unabated for the same reason that inner-city black kids have been dying for decades by bullets in less spectacular fashion. We, like “they”, have come to the point where we consider gunfire a natural cause of death in children. No more preventable or worthy of outrage than diptheria was in previous centuries.

    It’s simply something that happens, we tell ourselves. There is no better evidence of this “normality” of homicide than the reactions of children themselves. By and large in the more recent mass shootings, people, even children, know the drill. Schools train for mass shootings, and kids and teachers handle themselves with a sort of professionalism under fire we used to see only in soldiers or wartime populations under sieges, like Londoners in the Blitz. Those who hear the alarm do what they’re supposed to. Those caught in the open die, and when the carnage ends, everyone gets on with it.

    We will say that we’re outraged, because it seems the decent thing to do, but we will conclude that nothing can be done differently going forward. We won’t do anything about mental illness because it seems too expensive. We won’t talk about guns, because we’ve decided guns are not the problem. Guns can’t be the problem. The answer is always to have more guns. Arm the principals. Arm the teachers, the janitors, hell, maybe even the kids themselves. There is no room between total bans and total freedom to carry front line military weapons anywhere at any time.

    We should do something but we won’t, because we are a people without courage, or imagination or compassion.

  • Judy

    Thank you! We must talk about it when the pain of the tragedy is with us. Otherwise we sweep it under the rug until later and then forget the how important it is.

  • Kim Hampton

    As callous as this is going to sound, I have to say it.

    As of last night, 118 children have died in Chicago through gun violence. When will the nation have a collective mourning for them? If it is too late for those poor people in Connecticut, it is also much too late for those who have fallen in Chicago.

    • Caryn Riswold

      Tragically yes.

  • pagansister

    My fear is that after the total coverage of the murder of the babies and their loving teachers, and after all the funerals for those victims, this event, like the others that preceded it, will recess to the back of the closet, if you will, and nothing will happen to outlaw the assault weapons and their clips of a zillion bullets! I know President Obama has gotten VP Biden to head a committee. Committees also tend to get lost eventually. Maybe just maybe something will happen this time to help curb the high powered guns. Have never understood why anyone needs an assault weapon for target shooting or hunting! Of course, I’ve never understood why anyone other than military members or law enforcement need a weapon anyhow! Kim, it is truly a shame that those little ones in Chicago aren’t given the same attention country wide as the little ones in Newtown. The Chicago children are just as precious.