Dec. 14, 2012 — I was sitting at my house in Norman with my college roommates. We were wrapping up finals week, but I was glued to the TV watching images pour in of a school shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. School shootings were nothing new, even in 2012, but this one was different. These were children. 6-year-olds. 7-year-olds. 20 kids, 6 adults — vanished from this Earth on a winter day in Connecticut.
As someone who had always considered myself in-tune with politics, I remember thinking, surely this will be it. This is where we draw the line and say “enough is enough.” Surely we can do something. More extensive background checks at the very least.
May 25, 2022 — A decade has passed since the Sandy Hook Massacre. I now have a family of my own — wife and two kids. I’m sitting in work as the alerts start coming in on my phone — 14 kids, a teacher killed in an elementary school shooting in Texas. That same feeling fell over me — it was like a punch in the gut. A feeling that took me back to my college house in 2012. But this time it was even heavier. Being the father of two boys under the age of 4 changes you and the only thing I wanted to do in this moment was rush to their day care and hold them.
What happened in Uvalde, Texas, could’ve just as easily happened in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I would imagine the punch to the gut that I felt was not unique to me. How can you see the faces of those kids and not feel some kind of pain?
There was something else that seemed different between that day in 2012 and yesterday. It was the anger that filled social media in the minutes and hours following. I would see tweet after tweet from elected officials, activists, opinionated Americans pointing fingers, calling names, defending their own views, blaming everyone else but themselves. These are the moments you truly see just how broken we have become. Not just broken as a nation, broken as humanity. We have become such self-righteous individuals who can hide behind our social media accounts, blasting others for what has taken place. We expect everyone else to make the sacrifices and changes for us instead of getting involved ourselves and advocating for the change we believe in. And by getting involved, I mean more than just the social media posts.
Posts like “enough thoughts and prayers, we need policy and action!” I agree – we absolutely need policy and action. But those 21 families ravaged by the unspeakable absolutely need our thoughts and prayers. The community needs our thoughts and prayers. And our leaders must follow up with action.
The other go-to line that comes around each time a shooting occurs: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” In fact, guns do kill people. It was a gun that killed all 21 victims in Texas this week — and sure, if there were stricter laws, the perpetrator likely would’ve found a way to get around them, but we as a country must do everything we can to make it as hard as possible for someone to act out in this way. And on the other side, I fully agree that there is something deeply wrong with the mental health of our country that we need to be looking at all we can do to help the growing mental health crisis all at the same time.
As much as I want to say we must leave politics out of it, it is our elected officials who have the power to truly implement change. I am a registered Republican. The party looks a lot different from what it did when I was old enough to register back in 2008. It looks a lot different than it did in 2012. But so does the state of politics in general America. Two parties of extremes. Politicians and elected officials on both sides, constantly spewing hate and unacceptance of those who may disagree with them. There is no middle ground. Moderates are abandoned by both parties. Efforts to work across the aisle are extremely rare, if at all in existence.
We can’t afford for another decade to pass without anything being done. But we must stand up and speak out. There are others like me out there that support action on gun laws in America. There are others like me that want to see this country heal the brokenness that is stemming from so much hate we see every day whether from social media or from the very mouths of our country’s leaders. I have no intent in writing this column other than maybe it would encourage others like me to speak up. Call your congressmen, senators, governors — tell them to stand up for America. Stand up for the children of America. Protect our schools. Let’s not look past the fact that we are humans. We can mourn the lost lives and pray for those affected while also working together to take action and call for the change we need to keep innocent people safe. We need to stop pledging our allegiance to party ideals and instead look at what we can all do to create a safe, better America for all.
Unfortunately, the political fighting will likely continue in the days to come. But let’s stop for just a second and realize that “they” are not the problem. I am the problem. You are the problem. We are the problem. And only we can fix it.
Lincoln R. Ferguson is a fourth-generation Oklahoman working in the oil and gas industry. He has served as senior adviser for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and press secretary for the Oklahoma attorney general’s office.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Viewpoint: Mass shooting like Uvalde, Texas, could happen in Oklahoma