Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Mom Tip #176: In the absence of a cure, treat the symptoms

If you have ever read this blog before you are fully aware that I don't deal with politics.  Most of my posts are goofy, self-deprecating reflections on my failures as a mom.  Since last Friday, however, I can't get the families of Sandy Hook Elementary out of my mind.

That first little name is Charlotte, like my oldest.  There's a boy who wanted to be a policeman/fireman/soldier like my second oldest.  There are cowgirl boots that will never be worn and that mom is going to have to decide what to do with a Christmas present that will never be opened.  Like a lot of Americans, my heart hurts and I can't let it go.  I feel guilty when I'm enjoying my day or spending happy moments with my husband and kids.  And I just kept thinking, surely we can do something to protect more Americans from catastrophic violence.

So I did some research and I fought with my thoughts for a while and I finally wrote a letter in support of new gun control legislation that I sent to my congressman, my senators and my governor.  The letter below is addressed to Congressman Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia who chairs the House Republican Policy Committee and sits on the House Committee on Ways and Means as well as the House Budget Committee.  I edited a few pieces to make more sense in the space of this blog while still explaining my position and why I feel we need change now.

Dear Congressman Price,
I am writing to ask you to lead congressional support for new gun control legislation in our country.  I know that this is a controversial topic and that in the past our district was not likely to support changes to current laws.  The mass shootings of this year have changed my mind and I believe that meaningful legislation concerning firearms is now both necessary and possible. 

I am the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of a hunter.  My brother is a police officer and my brother-in-law is a soldier for the U.S. Army Special Forces.  I am also the mother of 4 children aged 8 and under and a former public school teacher.  I have practiced lockdown drills after Columbine and in the wake of September 11.  I have run through scenarios where I planned the best way to defend the lives of other people’s children in my classroom.  Today, like every school day, I will stand at the bus stop waiting for my own baby to get off the school bus.  I represent the evangelical suburban parents who make up a good portion of our district.  I do not believe guns are evil, but rather tools used every day by men and women who are protecting our streets and our nation.  I support our second amendment rights to bear arms and to defend our homes.  As matters currently stand, however, we are failing to protect our children while safeguarding the hobby of a relatively small number of Americans.

No citizen truly needs to own the type of high velocity, high capacity assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting.  The use of such rifles is debatable among hunters and generally thought of as overkill in most cases.  I did read in Field and Stream online that some hunters use them for hunting predators and I can see wanting such a weapon against a bear.  I have no idea how many Americans enjoy hunting predators, but I can guarantee that it is fewer than the number of Americans who send their kids to school, or attend a movie, or go to the mall.  Even home defense with such a weapon is impractical.  If you were to fire 30 rounds from almost any modern weapon in your home you would not have much of a home left to defend.  Furthermore, I believe that access to militaristic looking weapons may add to the fantasy mass shooters create when they decide to strap on military vests and evoke a feeling of power and invincibility for themselves.

There have been laws on the books that address “assault weapons” in the past, but they were too convoluted to be effective.  We need straightforward language to eliminate the possession of high caliber weapons with high capacity magazines.  I understand that Adam Lanza was probably mentally ill and having a ban on weapons that hold more than 15 or 17 rounds wouldn’t necessarily have prevented him from a shooting rampage.  It could, however, have lowered the body count.  If he had to shoot his way into the building with a 9mm limited to 17 bullets it would have taken longer.  If he had to reload his Sig Sauer after 14 or 15 shots instead of pulling the trigger of his rifle 30+ times without pause maybe one more door could have been locked or one more child could have gotten into a closet.  Early reports are that Lanza shot himself upon hearing the approaching first responders.  What if the number of bullets he had been able to fire was cut in half?  Could that be the life of the teacher who was set to become engaged this weekend?  Or the little girl who wanted cowboy boots for Christmas?  I don’t know that we can stop gun violence as a society, but I know that without a .223 Bushmaster in his hands Lanza couldn’t have fired as many rounds as he did before the police arrived. 

I realize that the main arguments against gun control are about constitutional rights and the effectiveness of the laws themselves.  When our constitution was written it took 1 minute to load 1 bullet and mass shootings were not a concern.  There were no police forces and no citizen soldiers of the National Guard so a “well-regulated militia” was a security necessity.  As society has changed so must our interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.  Our right to bear arms does not encompass all arms that are at the disposal of the military.  I cannot plant land mines in my front yard or lob grenades at intruders into my home.  The 2nd Amendment does not state in any way that we have a right to own all guns that are made available to the public.  I believe that we can limit the legal number of rounds in a magazine or limit barrel length in conjunction with number of rounds without harming our constitutional right to protect ourselves.   As far as effectiveness goes, I believe it is time to at least try something.  What we have to lose is the ability of a small portion of the nation to enjoy shooting with military-style assault rifles.  What we have to gain is the life of a movie patron or a first grader. 

Mr. Price, you are needed for any change to happen.  Many of my conservative friends are afraid that their guns will be taken from them and they cannot hear anything after the words “gun control legislation.”  However, if respected GOP leaders like you present a measured and reasonable proposal we have a true chance to lessen the impact of attacks like the one on Sandy Hook.  Speak out, sir.  We cannot prevent evil from rearing its head and attacking our most vulnerable citizens, but we can certainly stop making it so easy for evil to win. 

I have no idea if the leadership of my district and my state will listen to what I have to say or not.  I have no idea what they will do with my letter.  But I had to write if for no other reason than to get these thoughts out of my head.

I had a sick kid this week who gets recurring ear infections.  The cause is something that needs to be addressed by an ENT and possibly surgery.  While holding a crying toddler tugging at his ear at 10pm, however, I was willing to take the prescription and the best efforts of the physician's assistant at the urgent care near my house.  

This is where we are with gun control.  I know the causes of mass shootings are a complex set a variables including lack of mental health care and societal glorification of violence.  Since The Godfather is my favorite movie I'm feeling a sense of responsibility there as well.  In the absence of the ability to cure the problem, it's time to at least address the pain caused by the symptoms.  Let's go, people.  Be reasonable.  Change your mind.  Write your congressman.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Best Mom Tip #175: Keep your eyes on the road

So Georgia, like a lot of states, made texting while driving illegal.  There's also something about phone calls and hands free, I think.  OK, really I'm not sure what the law is but I know that I'm not supposed to be on my phone while operating a vehicle.

Lately, I've really been thinking about being an example to my kids.  What is my behavior and what do they see me do while driving?  I will admit to the following distracted driving infractions:

1.  Talking on the phone--I do this all the time.  I spend a lot of time in my car schlepping people from place to place and calling my mom or my friend Cheryl allows me to not go crazy.  I use the speaker phone option and only dial while stopped if that makes it any better.
2.  Looking for a song on my iTunes so that the children will stop asking me to hear Love Story, Devil Went Down to Georgia, or Highway 20 Ride.  They have odd tastes for children.
3.  Texting at red lights.  I know it's wrong.
4. Once, in college, I changed clothes while driving down the highway on my way to an interview.
5.  Eating.  Like 4 times a week.  Chicken nuggets, complete with dipping sauce, are a favorite.
6.  I also put on makeup at red lights.  OK, that one is embarrassing now that I've written it down.

Here are things I have seen other people do and for which I judge them:
1.  Shaving.  I saw a dude full on using his electric razor while the car was in motion.
2.  Teeth brushing.  What do you do with the toothpaste?  Swallow it?
3.  Smoking. Can you believe that cars actually used to encourage you to smoke with their awesome lighters and hidden ash trays?
4.   Holding pets.  This one makes me both concerned for the driver's ability to watch the road and for Fido's life expectancy in case of an accident.  No one wants to scrape puppy nose off the asphalt.
5.  Pumping breast milk.  Now, I realize you might not believe me on that one, but I'm serious.  I had an entire conversation with a woman at the YMCA the other day about how she saves so much time by pumping breast milk while driving.  She hooks her boobs up to a dual pump with a bra thing that holds the shields on and then pulls down her shirt.  Her stretchy workout shirts work well for this.  I just kept thinking, "what if she gets into an accident?"  Can you imagine the EMTs having to cut off her clothing on the side of the road and saying, "what is that noise?  Is her chest motorized?"  Anyway, that one really horrifies me. But somehow makes me feel better about myself at the same time.

I'm trying to really think about what my kids are watching me do and I have definitely limited my distractions to moments when I'm not moving.  Well, except for the speaker phone.  And eating.  Dang it.

What is your worst violation?  And how would you react if you saw your 16-year-old do it while driving?  Scary, huh?