Journey of a thousand miles

Age of the Geek: It was just another Wednesday.

My Wednesdays are pretty routine. Get a slice of breakfast pizza at Kum and Go. Drive around to various courthouses to pick up the latest reports. Visit my great aunt at the care center. It was Valentine's Day, so I made sure to pick up a couple roses.

And while I was going through my Wednesday routine, 17 people in a South Florida high school were shot to death.

Like I said. Just another Wednesday.

The American process of dealing with mass shootings has become as routine as my Wednesday. The left throws their hands up in the air and shouts "Now can we talk about gun control?!" The right shouts "No! It's too soon!" and scrambles to find anything else to blame for the tragedy. Everybody speculates on the shooter's means and motives like it's an episode of CSI and within a matter of days the incident has faded from the public conscious and the countdown begins until the next one.

This is the world we live in. More accurately, this is the world we, American voters, have chosen to live in. After all, it's not like we didn't know this was coming. It's always coming.

We've done nothing to stop it. We've chosen to do nothing. 28 dead in an elementary school and we did nothing. 58 killed at a concert and we did nothing. Again and again and again this happens and we do nothing.

There's no shortage of suggestions for things we could do differently when it comes to keeping semi-automatic rifles out of the hands of mentally imbalanced people. From light measures, such as more thorough background checks and longer waiting periods; to moderate ideas like licensing and registration; to even extreme measures like bans and buybacks, there are plenty of things we could try. But we do nothing. Every measure, no matter how light or extreme, is met with the same uncompromising response.

It's impossible to know that any of the measures we have failed to take over the years would have prevented this latest tragedy, but continuing to do nothing makes the next one a certainty.

I used to be somewhat passionate about this issue. Ten years ago I would have written a column about how crazy it is that cars are more strictly regulated than weapons explicitly designed to kill large numbers of humans in small amounts of time. But 12 of the 20 deadliest shootings recorded have happened between then and now and even I have limits on how many times I can bang my head against a brick wall.

I'd given up on the issue. After all, what's left to be said? Everybody knows all the arguments on both sides by heart. It seems pointless to keep going through the motions every time this happens.

I may have been wrong though. Or maybe we just needed the right messenger.

Under normal circumstances, and take note that I'm using the term "normal circumstances" to describe more than a dozen people being murdered in a school, I wouldn't have written this column. But I've been inspired by the actions of the survivors.

These kids, who have spent their entire lives under the shadow of Columbine and come to age in a world that has all but given up on protecting them, seem to have finally moved the needle. It's still far too early to know how much, or if their activism will have any lasting effect, but for the first time in a long time I'm optimistic.

They didn't get a vote. They didn't choose this world, but it will be theirs soon enough. What happens next will be up to them.

I wish they didn't have to march to their elders and demand them to do better. I wish my generation would have been the one to say "enough is enough," but we've failed them too many times and it seems they're finally done with waiting.

Good for them.

They're already making a change, as demonstrated by Scott Pappalardo. The older gentleman has been the happy owner of an AR-15 for thirty years. He has the Second Amendment tattooed on his arm. He's exactly the kind of guy you would expect to see on Facebook sharing memes about "Good guys with guns" or "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Instead, Pappalardo posted a video of himself taking a saw to his rifle. He made a choice to do something.

From a practical standpoint it's a token gesture. It's unlikely that his rifle would have ever been used to harm anybody. What's important though is the gesture itself. It's proof that a mind can be changed and an example that others can follow. There are millions of guns out there, but now there's one less.

This is how change happens. It's slow, often frustratingly so, but you've got to start somewhere.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and hopes for a better future.