by Lisa Unger | February 20, 2018

Time for Change

Lisa Unger, author, Floridian and mother, shares her perspective on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

I sent my daughter off to school yesterday with a stone in my heart, my stomach clenched.

“Be good to yourself,” I tell her most days. “Be good to others. Learn something.”

I don’t think about it. I can’t. If I did, I’d keep my 12-year-old daughter at home. We wouldn’t travel or go to the movies. We wouldn’t go to the mall or concerts. I wouldn’t send her to school. How could I send her to school, knowing that a few days ago another mother sent her baby to school and her baby didn’t come home.


Why do we have access to machines that spray bullets? Who has that need? That right? Why is it “American” to be able to have and use a gun, any gun? The right to bear arms—against each other? Against children? Against people dancing in a nightclub? At the movies? At a concert? Innocent people, living normal lives. These are no enemies to democracy. They are America, everything that’s right, hopeful, good and free—our countrymen and -women, our husbands, wives, children, our teachers, doctors, friends.

We mourn them. We are a country in mourning.

And I feel shame, even though I’ve never owned a gun. I’ve never even lifted a hand toward another human being—except my brother. Sometimes I still punch my brother really hard on the arm. Because. He’s my little brother. My daughter and I saved a wasp in our house. We used a Tupperware to trap him and release him outside, all the while screeching and terrified of being stung.

We don’t hurt anyone, anything.  Yet I feel shame, shame that children die in our schools because another mentally ill child had access to a firearm that gave him the ability to be his worst and darkest self. That there was no one watching or listening closely enough to stop it before it began. Yes, he was ill. They, the shooters, the destroyers, the killers among us, are all deeply broken, mentally ill people who do terrible wrongs because of an emptiness inside. They suffer. So we suffer. Because we as a culture don’t seem to understand mental illness or what to do about it, they fall down a twisting abyss inside themselves. And when they emerge in rage, blistering sadness or crazed mania, they can go to a sporting goods store or a gun shop and buy a machine that sprays bullets. Something designed to kill people—quickly, efficiently harm, destroy and eradicate people—in mass. Children. Our children.

When does it end?

After Sandy Hook, I thought, “My God, this is it. How can we go on? Surely change must come.” No. President Barack Obama’s speech rocked me to my core. Surely, his words are enough to remove guns from places where anyone—anyone—can get them. No. And then it happened again and again. Again and again. And some more.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Huh? People with guns kill people. People without guns—yes, they can kill people too. And do. But not as well. Not as fast. There’s a fighting chance. Time for heroes, for second thoughts, for someone to come, for more people to get away. Let’s buy ourselves a little time. Because everyone who gets away is one who goes home to her mother, father or husband. That’s something; for someone, that’s everything. In a mass shooting, time equals life.

Now is the time for change. Please stop giving your vote to politicians who take money from the National Rifle Association. Gun manufacturers profit from the death of our children. The company who made the gun purchased by Nikolas Cruz earned a profit on its product, sold to a mentally ill person and used to kill innocent children in their classrooms. This money is covered in blood, and it bloodies the hands of the people who take it. And when we vote for those people, it bloodies us all.

Today, I sent my daughter off to school. “Be good to yourself,” I told her. “Be good to others. Learn something.”

Inside, I say, “Be careful.” And I pray that the world is a better place than it sometimes seems. That love, kindness and grace will win in the end.