The greatest dream I had as a kid was to be like my Grandfather and my Dad. More specifically, I wanted to be a man. A grown man.
They were called Big Joe and Big Dan. Part of that moniker was they each had a namesake son. Part of it was they gained a respect from their peers for being thoughtful and circumspect about the events of the day.
I honestly didn’t like being a kid. I wanted to be respected by those I most respected myself. I wanted to sit and talk with men about the problems of the day and for them to know that I was listening to them and maybe, they were listening to me. Along the way, I hopefully became the grown man I wanted to be.
I have nothing but heartfelt prayers for those affected by the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I also have anger at our society’s impotence at dealing with a problem that is killing our young with increasing regularity.
As I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee this evening I was greeted by a newscast showing strippers outside a strip club auctioning off an AR-15. Their point was that the laws of Tennessee made it easier to buy an assault rifle than to get a license to be a stripper.
In Florida, it is easier to buy an AR-15 than a handgun if you are 18. That is true even if you have mental health issues that predict that you may be at risk for using the gun in inappropriate ways.
Let’s cut to the chase. In Parkland, Florida, inappropriate ways means killing other teenagers. 17 students and teachers killed by someone that should never have had this gun in the first place. Nickolas Cruz did not buy this particular gun to hunt or defend himself. He bought the gun to kill people which he later did with sickening efficiency.
Peter Wang, a 15-year-old killed in his JROTC uniform was posthumously awarded entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He held the door to allow some of his classmates to escape before being gunned down. He deserves the honor more than most that will enter the Class of 2025.
People often rise up from the greatest tragedies. In this case, it is the youth of the high school who are letting their voice be heard. They are challenging the lawmakers in the state of Florida and the United States to do something, anything to curb this violence.
Maybe it is as easy as enhanced background checks on people buying assault rifles. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Would such an action require us to give up any of our Second Amendment Rights? Would it require us to give up any guns we already own? The answer to those questions is a resounding no. Is the answer for teachers to pack guns in class? I believe the answer is still no.
I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in the right to bear arms. I choose to have multiple guns and ammunition in my home. I will kill you if you break into my home and threaten my loved ones. But I won’t do it with an AR-15 rifle.
I dreamed of being a grown man. I think my father and grandfather, if they were alive today, would say enough is enough and would challenge our lawmakers to find some sensible way to curb the violence that is engulfing our schools.
Listen to the voices of the children who experienced the terror no child should ever have to endure. Watch children become adults in a matter of hours or days as they rightly demand some action. Imagine if those being buried were your own. To refuse to even have a discussion dishonors the children who were lost and diminishes your moral authority over deciding what the right thing to do is.
Our nation is looking for courageous leadership to finally do the right thing. We are looking amongst our elected officials to see if there are any grownups in the crowd. Only time will tell if we find them.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org