We have been back in Switzerland for a few days now. This trip back, thank goodness, was uneventful. The flights left on time, and somehow they arrived early. My son was ecstatic, because I let him sit with me in “economy plus.” He could not believe how much more room there was. I was crabby, because the seat does not fold down into a bed like business class. Oh the difference 30+ years makes. 🙂
Since I have been back, the news has been full of what happened in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. The only political type statement I am going to make is: “There is something broken in the USA.” We have one political party that proposes things the majority of the country does not want to see happen, and the other political party is all about sending thoughts and prayers, but refuses to actually propose anything. One shocking statement I heard that says a lot. “Two children died from contamination from Abbott Labs formula, we shut the plant. 18 children die in their classrooms and nothing changes.” We have some really messed up priorities in the US.
In my previous life, I was the Technology District for a school district in Wisconsin. In the Army, I learned to never volunteer, but one day at work, I forgot the lesson. My boss had signed up to attend a two day training seminar. At the last minute something else came up and she asked for a volunteer. I did not have anything pressing on my calendar, and all I could think about was wasting the money that had been paid; so I said, “I can go.” It turned out to be a two day seminar on ALICE. If you work in education, in the US, you probably know what that means: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. (The scary thing is that three years after leaving the school, I did not even need to look up what the acronym stood for. The one thing I really learned from the training is that in an event like this someone is going to die or be seriously injured, but if you have a plan in your head about what can be done there is a chance of survival. I will never forget watching an elderly woman who was maybe 85 pounds if she was carrying a suitcase lay out a SWAT member from the Green Bay Police Department. The officer was pretending to be the shooter in a classroom and as other people distracted him; she gave him a flying tackle that would have been the envy of every NFL linebacker! So after attending the event I was given an additional duty for the school district: Write the plan for what happens if an armed intruder comes into the school.
I spent a few months researching school and workplace violence. I learned more than I really wanted to know about causes, reactions, response, recovery, and aftermath. I called schools and asked for their plans. I worked with the local police department, and county sheriff’s department to learn about how they would respond if something ever happened. I took another couple of months and wrote a draft. For some unknown reason I kept this stuff. I was able to write the school’s “administrative rule for unarmed and armed intruders” in four pages. The actual plan for how this would be implemented was much longer, and honestly it was never completed. Heck, it may never be completed. As part of the “rule” we had to have one yearly evacuation drill and one yearly lockdown drill. As is usual with all bureaucratic nonsense. We learned something new each time we practiced. What started out as a pretty simple plan to evacuate and rally at a predetermined point became a monstrosity that could never be implemented in event of a real emergency.
I took this very seriously. We had drills where the police department came into the building with simulators and blanks. We made it so realistic, that there were teachers crying for hours after a drill. One thing we did learn from this drill, though, is that even if the police respond the way they are supposed to (unlike Texas) you are really on your own. If the police do not know exactly where the gunman is, they have to go room by room. After about 30 minutes of the first drill, we had to call it off, and make it so the police could actually “take down” the intruder. It takes a LOOOOOONG time to clear a modern school building, and our buildings were relatively small. I should add, we only did the realistic drill when it was only teachers. I did not want to potentially traumatize students with gunfire for a simple drill.
I also had the job of explaining the plan to our Middle and High School students. This was another annual thing, and it literally was the hardest day of the school year for me. We would bring one grade level at a time into the auditorium. I would walk them through ALICE, and what it meant. I would explain the evacuation plan and talk about what would happen when we got to the meeting place. Then I would ask for questions. Every year, there would be at least one kid that had to show how funny they were and ask a question they were sure would fluster me. I am both kind of proud and shamed to say, that every single time this would happen the kid would immediately quiet down when my response was something like, “Then you or some of your friends are going to die.” (That is why they wouldn’t let me talk to the elementary students. My soft side is pretty well hidden.) This kind of discussion should not be necessary for a school, but unfortunately something like this should be made mandatory for all schools and businesses.
Every once in a while I think about things I miss from the United States. I have to say mass shootings is NOT one of them. There is something incredibly messed up when we have to train 5 year olds how to survive a gun battle. Unfortunately, this problem is not just in schools. Only two weeks ago another teenager brought a legally purchased gun into a grocery store and killed 10 people, because he was afraid that minorities were going to take over the country. The US does not have the only mentally messed up people in the world, but we sure make it easy for these people to get their hands on something that will do a lot of damage to innocent people.
I do not think we need more regulations on gun purchases, but I do think we need to have actual background checks where someone actually checks the background of the person buying the gun, on ALL purchases not just ones from a store. I don’t care if it now takes me a month to buy a shotgun. What I do want to see are large capacity magazines come with a $500 per magazine tax, mandatory proof of insurance for gun owners, and at least some purchases of ammunition come with a reporting requirement. I also think the Federal Government should start tracking all gun and ammunition purchases. I think local law enforcement would like to know that someone just bought 5 AR -15’s, and 10,000 bullets in small increments.
Last night on Social Media an acquaintance took me to task for believing that “guns kill people” and that we do not do anything to limit driving cars even though more people are killed by cars than guns every year. The first part is just silly. No, a gun by itself cannot kill someone, but put in the hands of a psychopath a gun can kill a lot of people. I wanted to reply to the man that I would love it if we would put the same on restrictions on guns that we do on cars.
Right now to buy a gun all you need is to be 18 years old, and not have any felonies on your record. Supposedly there are some mental health requirements as well, but everything I have read is that the US does an awful job reporting mental health issues to the right authorities. Just show up to any gun store with an ID, and you can walk out of the store with a gun. Some states might have a waiting period, but I believe those are gone in most states. Yes, you had to fill out some paperwork, but by Federal Law that paperwork cannot be shared with your state. Heck, it cannot even be shared with the Federal Government. All of the paperwork that has been filled out since that law went into effect is stored in a gigantic warehouse in West Virginia! We have a LOT more requirements to drive a car.
First off the car has to be registered with the state; so that potentially everyone can check to see who owns a car. Next comes the license. You have to receive a certain amount of training from a licensed teacher to even get a training drivers license. Then a written test showing that you know the rules of the road, and finally a physical test that proves you can operate the vehicle safely. I believe all states require minimum levels of insurance before you can legally drive the car. I would actually be pretty happy if the US would implement these requirements to own a gun. Would it fix everything? Not by a long shot, but it would be a step in the right direction.
I apologize to those that came here to read about the new city we visited, and instead got this dark morose stream of consciousness. I promise we have some visits on the calendar. Next weekend, we are checking a new Country and City off of the visit list. We are driving to Luxembourg for a few nights. The weekend after that we are re-visiting the first city I visited after moving. We are heading back to Milan for a weekend. Julie and I both want to see “The Last Supper.” Since our son spent a semester in Milan we thought it would be fun to visit with him; so he can show us the parts of the city we missed the first time.
Until next time…