Amy Roberts: Guns are controversial. Being compassionate to victims shouldn’t be.
This isn’t a column about guns. Or about gun control. Though undoubtedly some will interpret it that way.
The topic is so polarizing, just typing the word ‘gun’ is bound to get a response from a fanatic — regardless of which end of the argument the person is on. I’m not disillusioned enough to believe any minds will shift in the 700 or so words I have to offer. Most opinions on the matter might as well be encapsulated in a concrete bullet. There’s no changing them. I get that.
What I don’t get is how anyone feels it’s acceptable to dismiss, belittle, slander and insult those who have been the victims of humanity’s worst.
This past weekend, Jaclyn Corin and David Hogg, two of the survivors of last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, spoke in Park City. They recalled the horror that altered their lives and left 17 of their classmates and teachers dead. They were normal high school students before the shooting, far more focused on starting college than starting a national movement. Their advocacy was imposed upon them, not sought. Most victims — of any type of tragedy — would rather never know the spotlight if it meant also not knowing the grief that cast it upon them.
Corin and Hogg are both advocates for stronger gun control measures, something unpopular with many outspoken gun enthusiasts. It doesn’t require a PhD in psychology to understand these two sides aren’t going to agree with each other. But what I can’t understand is how that disagreement can so easily spiral into a vile, discrediting, hate. Fear would be my best guess.
When the event was first announced and as it was promoted, many keyboard warriors vilified the speakers, accusing them of being frauds, paid actors who never attended the school, and calling them despicable for making money off this tragedy. Asinine accusations made worse by the fact most of the claims were offered by adults, who at the very least, ought to consider for a brief moment how they might feel if that was their child.
The fact is, you can be against any form of gun control and still show compassion to someone who has lived through the trauma of gun violence. You can have the Second Amendment tattooed across your chest and still be respectful of people who watched their friends and teachers get murdered. You can be an anonymous internet troll too insecure to use your real name or picture, and still be in awe of the reluctantly well-known who have the courage to speak their truth in public.
To suggest these students are part of a conspiracy or simply seeking attention undermines their suffering. And to state they are capitalizing on the tragedy is equal parts heartless and thoughtless. If a couple of recovering addicts started a movement and rallied others in hopes of making opioids less accessible, would anyone ever suggest they were cashing in on all those who have overdosed?
Movements are often rooted in tragedy. People channeling their grief into action in hopes of eliminating that same feeling for the rest of us is nothing to be afraid of, nor is it recent.
In 1932, Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month old son was kidnapped and killed. Charles pressed for changes to the law so that kidnappers could be pursued across state lines. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was established by Candy Lightner after a drunk driver ran over her daughter in 1980. Police are now required to publicize the names and addresses of sex offenders because Richard and Maureen Kanka lobbied for Megan’s Law after their 7-year-old daughter was raped and killed by a convicted child molester who moved across the street from the family in the 1990s.
None of these movements formed with the expectation there would be no more child kidnapping or rape or murder, or that drunk driving would suddenly cease. They started in a moment of anguish, with a hope to move the proverbial needle just enough so that maybe there could be increased awareness, less tragedy, and, if nothing else, better accountability of the guilty.
Which, when you listen to them speak, is a lot of what Corin and Hogg are trying to do.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde has been unable to nab a ski reservation so far, so instead he’s catching up on all the important animal-related news going on in the world.