I’ve been thinking about mass shootings and trying not to think about them in equal measure over the past several days. It’s so much easier to scroll by the outrage and the articles and the headlines than it is to imagine a reality where someone showers bullets all over my son’s first grade class after I drop him off for the day, trusting that he is safe and cared for.

Putting one’s head in the sand is never the answer.

At the same time, I don’t think feeble pleas for “gun control” are the answer either. Yes. Yes, gun control. Of course. Whatever that happens to mean on any given day, let’s have some of that. Waiting periods, more stringent guidelines…? What else? It occurs to me now that I don’t even know what we’re asking for when we ask for gun control. Some nebulous idea of “legislation.” How can we all be so underinformed when so much is at stake?

My kid has “duck and cover” drills at school. And “shelter in place” ones, too. Having grown up in a generation that was post-air raid drills and pre-Columbine, this level of protective practice is beyond my scope. I remember the seriousness and intensity with which simple fire drills were treated in elementary school. Military-like silence, pin-straight lines. And all we were escaping from was the possibility of a plume of smoke coming from an overcooked tater tot in the kitchen.

Last year, my 5-year-old was shuffled into his classroom bathroom with 18 other 5-year-olds and his teacher. Crouched on the floor under the sink and around the toilet, stock still and silent in the dark for ten solid minutes.

And now they’re selling bulletproof mats for schoolkids to cower under in the hallways. And that’s just in school. What’s the plan for when we’re walking around the mall? At the movies? At the museum? In the library?

We like to think of ourselves as safe here. Americans. We think we’re above the kind of fear that living in a war-torn country brings. We take in refugees. We are not ourselves refugees. We offer shelter. We don’t ourselves need shelter.

We are mistaken.


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