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Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

Yesterday’s school shooting was the 18th of 2018. It is only Feb. 15, and we have had 30 mass shootings in the U.S. YTD. But I didn’t have to write U.S., did I? Mad as hell this morning, but not ready to “go postal,” I found myself with a well of anger and no place to drown my sorrows. Needing to drop my kids off at college and go to a dental appointment, I put signs on my car windows as I drove in today: “Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough!”

I left my 19 and 21-year-old kids on a campus that permits people to carry guns. A school! A university! A center of higher learning allows gun owners to carry on campus! Let that sink in for a moment. At the medical complex, I parked my car in a parking lot adjacent to an elementary school during morning arrivals. Parents dropping their kids off needed no reminder of yesterday’s tragedy. I imagine every child got extra hugs today.

Yes, I know this sign is as worthless as the thoughts and prayers I excoriate. That is not lost on me. But I drive on roads traveled by trucks with gun racks and vehicle bumper stickers lauding Second Amendment rights over all else, except maybe Jesus, Trump and America (not necessarily in that order). So I put two signs on each of my back windows. My husband expected a rock through the window. It’s a Prius in the land of small-penis trucks, after all. Their normal habit of riding my bumper, “rolling coal” and turning on ALL their bright lights with their truck nuts sagging isn’t enough, he reminds me, expecting violence. I go out expecting an argument at the very least. So I drive along in silence organizing my thoughts and regretting that small bit of caffeine that has left me twitchy. My blood is boiling,and I’m itching for a fight.

What do I say when confronted? Do I remind them we’ve done nothing so far? Do I cite some smartass cliché found on the internet? Quote stats and comparisons? Do I mention the ever-expanding need for mental health services in a country with reduced access to medical care? Do I buy into their arguments that more protection, more armed guards are needed? Hell no! That’s not solving the real problem any more than referencing imaginary bear threats in classrooms.

How do I confront the ultimate issue of a Second Amendment right? I decide it’s a First Amendment argument. Our First Amendment gives us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press. Since our founding, legislators have passed legislation that has affected our First Amendment rights. Time and again the courts have ruled on these cases, and the result has been regulation. We still have our First Amendment rights, but they are regulated.

Take religion. The courts have told religious groups and institutions that some things go too far. Get your child medical care! Thoughts and prayers are NOT enough! Child marriage is regulated in some states, and polygamy is broadly outlawed in the U.S., no matter your holy books’ examples. In Bob Jones University v. United States, it was determined that “compelling government public policy, such as eradicating racial discrimination” outweighs a religious university’s racist yet Biblical dating policy. The Supreme Court Babels a few meaningful words from its proverbial tower, and even religion is regulated.

Look at the freedom of speech. The courts have upheld community decency standards and set limits on threatening speech and defined terms such as “fighting words.” So the next time you’re in Skokie, IL surrounded by Nazis, that swastika flag he’s carrying is protected speech, but listen closely to what he says. Their words may be legally deemed “fighting words,” and you might get a free pass to punch a Nazi.

Our First Amendment rights to assemble are regulated. No, you may not have a right, or a permit, to block a road, but some idiot in a limp-dick muscle car doesn’t have the right to run you down, either. Even at a rally or meeting, rightly calling the president an asshole and a moron is just fine. However, calling for his death is generally right out, unless it’s in a prayer asking for a thunderbolt from on high, and then the waters get muddied before they get parted or parsed. But beware the company you keep when you assemble. You never know who’s assembled to rally and who’s there as an agent-provocateur, a member of a COunter INTELligence PROgram, which is sometimes legal and sometimes not.

Freedom of the press is far and wide-reaching, but journalists are repeatedly threatened with jail time for not revealing sources. Libel and slander laws seem to require a case-by-case challenge. The legality of the laws and the press’ liberties sometimes depends on the circumstances of whether we’re at war or during peacetime.

But how effective is an argument like this? Will a Second Amendment supporter really listen long enough to be convinced that regulation is not the same as a ban? I’ll admit it’s not an immediate solution, but it’s possible someone out there might be won over.

Ah, who am I kidding? Let them keep their First Amendment rights to believe and say all the stupid shit they want about their Second Amendment rights within the limits and regulations imposed by law and upheld by the courts. The only way we’re going to see if regulation of Second Amendment rights will stand the court’s legal test is if we get congressional legislation proposed and enacted. But it looks like we’ll get another school shooting before that happens.

As for the signs on the car this morning, all I got were thumbs-up from fellow drivers. No one confronted me or left a note or threw a rock through the windows. Maybe it was too early in the morning. Maybe everyone is still in mourning.