One summer morning many years ago, when I was about ten years old,
I was reading our morning paper. There was an article with
large headlines spread across the front page. It told of shootings the
night before of a woman and her two children, killed in their
beds by her ex-husband. Unhappy with her remarriage after their divorce,
the man broke into the home she shared with her second husband,
who shot the man in the hallway of the home. Both men survived, and
the killer went on to serve a life sentence in prison.
I remember thinking, "Why would a man shoot his kids?
Didn't he love them? If he loved their mom so much,why did he kill her?"
This story affected me because the little girl, Jeannie, had been one of
my 4th grade classmates. Her brother, Tommy, was one
of the "big kids"; he had been in 6th grade.
Their mom, who I'd known as Mrs. Whitaker, had
been the leader of my Brownie Scout troop.
My little friend, Jeannie, did not die right away from her injuries.
She survived long enough to get through surgery to repair the wounds
and the amputation of one of her arms that had
been torn apart by the shotgun. I think that must have been the first
time in my life that I was touched by the death of someone I knew.
Someone who I'd been in classes with from 1st grade was ... Gone.
Because in a moment of unthinking rage, her daddy had picked
up his gun, driven to his ex-wife's home and killed the
three people he had said he loved.
While this event was tragic and painful, it is just a precursor
to the increasing numbers of similar deaths that have taken place
over the years, with weapons that themselves are both
more numerous and more powerful. I see it in my own family -
Men whose closest participation in hunting is at the grocer,
buying a cut of meat in a plastic tray, insist they need these assault
weapons to "protect their families." They have big, loud dogs
and security systems in their homes. They have cell phones beside
their beds, and yet, they feel the need to have guns so powerful
the bullets would not only kill the intended target,
but could tear through the walls to maim
or kill their beautiful babies. To be of any use, these weapons would
need to be kept at hand, loaded for use, should the evil they fear
make it past the alarms and the big dogs.
Not only have these men not considered the likelihood
that their children could be the unintended victims of their delusions,
they have not considered the life-long effect of the psychological
trauma caused by the taking of another life. For ten years, I slept beside
a man who had been a sniper, both in the military and for other
government organizations. Frequently, I was awakened by his nightmares,
the guilt and terror from missions forty years before, haunting him still.
And he was trained. Taking another life is very difficult ...
or it should be. What will these men do if they turn someone
to pudding in their living room, or god forbid, should a swath of bullets
make its way into their children's rooms?
A faction of the nation seems
to be in the grip of some sort of communal paranoia,
fed by fear-mongering columnists and billionaire lobbyists
whose self-interest knows no boundary. These people have
manipulated the fears of people to their own ends and,
among other things, convinced them they *need* assault weapons
and that the US government is working to deprive them
of the "right" to bear arms. All they want is to continue to feed
off the fears of the populace, and too many people have fallen victim
to their bull shit. These guns are only needed by the police
and military; for anyone else they are nothing more than cold,
black penile extensions.
It is in this spirit I joined a group of people on Friday night
to demonstrate against the increasing prevalence of
gun violence in our society, one that had as its purpose the request
that applicants for gun permits undergo mandatory
background checks. If an applicant has nothing to hide,
why should there be a problem? Right? Right.
It should be so easy. We need some reasonable people
to come together on this, to negotiate.
At this point, it seems impossible.