The news of a mass shooting in Clovis hit, aptly, like a bullet to the back, stinging, shocking, numbing.
Then … nothing?
No. Not at first. Nothing comes later.
That’s how it is, yes? A community is rocked by another gunman gone wild and we grieve, we rage, we vow never again, we promise something will be done. Then nothing is.
Shoot, lather, repeat.
Sometime after 4 p.m. Monday, news of the latest shooting in the United States – this one in our own backyard – began breaking through the wall-to-wall coverage of raging floods and Russia. Two were dead inside the public library in Clovis, we heard. Four others were injured as well.
And a teenage gunman – described by one witness as happy, laughing, smiling the whole time – was taken into custody while the rest of us made attempts to make sense of it all.
But it never makes sense, does it?
Nathaniel Jouett, the 16-year-old Clovis boy identified as the shooter, was a troubled boy, we learned, as all teens who mow down innocent lives with live rounds tend to be. Pastor David Stevens at Clovis’ Living Word Church of God said Jouett had a “very hard life” before he started coming to church.
But he was doing better, Stevens said, since the days when he kept a gun at his side and a suicide note in his pocket. He had been baptized. He was dating the pastor’s daughter.
Sixteen hours after she posted happy photos of the two of them on Facebook, wreathing their heads with pink heart emojis and announcing to the social media world that she was the luckiest girl alive, it appears that the gun and the suicidal thinking had returned.
So here we go again, pondering how someone so young and so apparently disturbed could so easily obtain a firearm. We consider ways to regulate that access without screwing with the Second Amendment. We consider installing metal detectors in libraries or arming all librarians.
Briefly, all too briefly, we consider whether more mental health counseling is needed, especially by troubled youths.
We consider whether this kid should be locked away forever, as if that would solve anything.
We shake our heads and say, what a tragedy. We leave flowers in the bloodstains. Government officials offer thoughts and prayers to Clovis. Gun safety advocates implore government officials to turn thoughts and prayers into responsible action. People like me roll out the devastating data on gun violence. And so it goes – until it doesn’t.
But things are happening, said Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence.
“There is no more time for complacency when it comes to gun violence,” she said. “Not one person in this country is safe from gun violence; not mothers, children, fathers, friends, loved ones, Democrats or Republicans. This public health hazard has come to define us both as state and a country.”
Her group has seen some success, especially with programs that focus on youth gun violence. That includes the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence, which asks youths to get involved in preventing the deadly use of firearms, and the Murals to End Gun Violence, art designed and created by students. The students are on their fourth mural. Both programs have only been implemented in Northern New Mexico.
Earlier this month, Viscoli’s group assisted Albuquerque residents Ron Schwartz and Yusef Lovato in creating The Face of Gun Violence, a website that memorializes those shot and killed in New Mexico since 1999.
Many of those faces are children.
The next big focus is promoting the group’s First Born program, which provides new parents with gun locks and gun safety information, Viscoli said.
Small but meaningful changes, she said. But bigger things, like changes in law and policy, continue to stall out.
SB 259 – a bill the group pushed that would have forbidden domestic violence abusers under restraining orders from possessing guns while the order is in effect – was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez this year.
So, what then?
I don’t have the answers, but I know nothing will change if we can’t even begin a meaningful discussion from all sides of the gun debate. I’m getting tired of repeating myself on that.
I’m tired of the platitudes and promises that go nowhere. I’m tired of asking gun owners to be more responsible with their arsenals, tired of gun lovers thinking that all gun safety advocates want to do is take away their weaponry.
I’m tired of the nothing. I’m thinking some of you are, too.
So start talking. Keep talking. And keep listening, too. Surely we can do that much this time.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.