I remember the days when my children played in the woods near our house and I worried about snakes. I remember fearing a drunk or distracted driver might lose control and run down one of my girls as she pedaled her bike around the neighborhood.
Heck, I’m a mother, and a Jewish mother, at that. On occasion I found myself worrying about low-flying aircraft and space debris. But in those halcyon days when my daughters were little, I never once worried about bombs at the Mule Camp festival or a crazed gunman at the multiplex on Dawsonville Highway.
Times have changed. Now the unimaginable seems more fathomable. The affirmation “it can’t happen here” is now reads more like “It probably won’t happen here ... but it could.”
I recently realized I follow the same pattern each time I hear breaking news of yet another massacre.
First, I determine its location. Then I start a kind of internal global positioning. Where are the girls? Are either of them anywhere near the epicenter of whatever’s happening? Next I move on to my husband and other family members, then friends. I find myself running through a barrage of “what ifs.”
Following the Boston bombings, I was chilled at the thought that our oldest daughter, Molly, almost chose Brandeis University for her graduate studies. If she had been in Boston rather than Baltimore on that Patriot’s Day holiday, she most certainly would have been either running in the marathon or cheering from the sidelines.
After the Sandy Hook shootings of 20 children and six adults, I couldn’t find a familial connection with any of the victims. No one I knew was anywhere near Connecticut on that horrible day. There wasn’t a feeling of relief, however. As a parent, I kept vigil through the hours of uncertainty as mothers and fathers waited at a fire station to hear if their children were alive or dead. I felt waves of grief as the body count rose. Anger choked me as I learned of the arsenal employed by the shooter.
In my naivete, I genuinely thought that the response to this obscene tragedy of would be a quick and universal denunciation of easy access to military-grade weapons. I thought we’d see sensible legislation to tighten gun control laws. Silly me.
You know what has met with an enthusiastic reaction? Body armor for children. Let me say that again. Body armor for children.
A company called Elite Sterling Security LLC is the U.S. distributor for Colombian-made personal ballistic protection products that include bulletproof backpacks, jackets, tank tops and blankets. Where better to introduce their line than in Aurora, Colo.? That of course, was the city where 12 people were shot in a movie theater during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” last July.
The backpacks sell for $246 each; a backpack-and-vest combination is priced at $1,085. They’re flying off the shelves.
Really? That’s how we’re supposed to protect our children?
Eight children die each day from gun violence. Many of those die in their own homes or in the home of a friend, either from playing with an unsecured weapon or as an impulsive suicide made possible by an accessible gun. I suggest that you use that $246 for the backpack and buy a gun safe instead.
And make sure if your child is going on a play date to a friend’s house, you bring up the issue of secured guns with the other parent beforehand. Sure, you’ll sound overprotective, especially here in the South where the response is likely to be, “Do we have guns in the house? Of course we have guns. Everybody has guns.”
If you’re not convinced that the other family takes this matter seriously, call off the play date. But better to make that phone call rather one to a funeral home.
Columbine. Aurora. Newtown. Boston. Beautiful places that will forever be associated with unspeakable violence and tragedy.
What we must remember, though, is that the potential for everyday danger is much closer to home. Crazy, random violence makes headlines, sparks outrage and demands our attention. But the most pervasive outrages occur at the rate of eight per day. Not a nutcase with a bomb or a semi-automatic rifle but a toddler with a .22 from the bedside table or the newly-jilted heart-broken 14 year-old who knows where her daddy keeps his gun.
Preventable, avoidable deaths. No legislation or body armor required.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.