It is past time to talk – and listen

I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears for the children murdered in a senseless act of violence in Texas on May. 24.

A shooter went into a school and killed 19 children and two teachers. The parents of those kids will never see them grow up. They will never hold them again. They will never get to tell them they love them again.

It broke my heart.

There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. this year. There were eight the weekend after the massacre in Texas.

The numbers are simply numbing. This is an epidemic, clearly. But it is one we don’t talk about seriously and with the intent to change things.

This is generally a country of action. But we are frozen when it comes to gun violence. The reason? People are so deeply entrenched on each side of the issue, no one listens to those that disagree with them. Not listening or seeking compromise is also an epidemic in this country.

You see, there are those of you who have read this column up to this point and are convinced I want all guns melted down and turned into monuments of those killed. I don’t. There are others who read that sentence and are convinced I have a stash of semi-automatic rifles in my home. I don’t.

I am a gun owner, but something must be done about these mass shootings. Something real, something meaningful, something that will save the lives of countless Americans – especially our children. Our children do not deserve to be gunned down anywhere, but especially at school, a place of learning and discovery.

I am not here to offer up solutions – there are many of them already out there and known to pretty much anyone paying attention. And no, the solution is not home schooling all children as some have suggested. If we go that route, we might as well just give up.

But the problem, again, comes back to listening. We can’t find workable solutions because we can’t do the first thing we need to do – sit down and talk about this. And by us, I mean politicians.

Sadly, they spend way more time grandstanding on this issue – and many others – than actually finding solutions. They are bought and paid for by special interests so they can’t even pretend to want to find solutions to this horrible and growing problem.

Instead, it falls on places like schools to try to keep children safe. Soon, schools will be like prisons. Will that matter to those entrenched on each side of this issue? They will say yes, but their inaction will say a very loud “no.”

Elected officials, please do something. Start by listening. Listen to things that make you uncomfortable or angry or sad. Listen. Listen to those you strongly disagree with. Hear what they have to say.

That is where we must start. It is a conversation we have never really had – it is generally yelling and sloganeering and inaction. Well, inaction just won’t cut it anymore.

The leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S. is now firearm-related injuries, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. I find that sickening and shocking. Clearly, we must act.

It all starts with an honest, open conversation.