By Blaine Stum
I am not numb.
Like many on Thursday, I watched the news unfold of the horrifying shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Ore. with a mixture of horror and despair. I also watched it knowing, “This will happen again.”
I am a part of the Columbine generation. We walked the halls of our schools after that tragic event knowing that the same thing could happen here. I remember teachers and counselors trying to help us process it all. I’m not sure any explanation would have made sense to us. We were to young to grasp the finite nature of life; especially in the context of such senseless violence.
I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing gun violence up close and personal. It’s not something I talk about much if at all, because, frankly… witnessing someone get shot in the head is not the type of thing I enjoy reflecting on. The experience has lingered with me ever since. It never changed my perception of guns: I’ve always known they are meant to be a weapon, but it changed my response to gun violence from one apathy and despair to one of, “What can I do?”
A lot of what we do is ritual. Our daily routine becomes second nature. When it comes to gun violence, our ritual is well known: Express shock and horror. Send thoughts and prayers. Argue about what really caused the most recent tragedy. Rinse and repeat. The debates lead nowhere; except to an acknowledgement that this will happen again. It doesn’t have to though. We know evidence based practices that restrict gun use in ways that matter. We know wholistic mental health treatments that destigmatize mental illness and truly reach for the root cause. We know that the hate and intolerance we allow to continue unabated will only lead to more hate and violence. Yet, even as society acknowledges this, we (collectively) refuse to act.
We can move beyond apathy and despair. We can do something. We need to. For everyone’s sake.
Blaine Stum is a 30-something-year-old native of the Spokane area who was raised in Spokane Valley. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He works in the local political arena and has been involved in LGBT non-profit work for several years.