Several years ago, shortly after we’d moved to Dallas, a woman handed my neighbor her evening purse to return to their table at a function they were attending while she took a turn on the dance floor. “My God, Inez!” he said. “What do you have in here?”
“My piece,” she said. *Welcome to Texas.*
A another of my neighbors volunteered that if ever I was worried about anything at home alone with our kids at night (he had noticed both that my husband often worked late nights or traveled on business and that a strange white car had been parking on our street recently), I should call him. “I keep a gun at the ready,” he said, “and I will bring it right over.” *Over my dead body*.
That said, I grew up with guns safely locked away in a cabinet in our house. My father had a fine collection, some of it from his father, and he had golfing-drinking-hunting buddies with whom he hunted about once, maybe twice a year, and always, he assured us, very carefully.
Thanks to Dad, I understand guns for sport -- guns as equipment, sort of like golf clubs and baseball bats and tennis rackets, (albeit considerably more lethal). And having lived in New York, and Texas, I understand the fear that breeds the need to keep guns for self-protection, if your mind -- and your eye-hand coordination -- works that way.
What I don’t understand is “gun rights,” or what’s really at stake in the current battle over some kind of civilized, rational gun control. Nor do I understand gun manufacturers so obsessed with expanding their business -- and profits -- that their marketing strategy requires a veritable *army* of folks to promote teaching children how to shoot, to obscure data and scientific research related to gun violence, to vociferously and relentlessly lobby (and/or threaten the electability of) state and federal legislators, and to kill any and all new regulation related to guns.
The gun rights advocates make it sound as though the same government that issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon to my sister-in-law last year after a weekend’s training might, next week, storm into her home and carry off her gun and all her husband’s hunting materiel. I have seen nothing that suggests for even one moment that anyone is going to take a single gun away from anyone. Or, for that matter, erode a single Constitutional “right” by restricting access to massacre-ready weapons and clearly excessive rounds of ammunition.
The first time I heard the NRA suggestion that we arm classroom teachers to keep our children safe, I got literally sick to my stomach. Those poor children. Imagine the view of the world we give them if we truly believe it is that dangerous. The perception itself does violence to the young soul. That’s what made me sick. That, and the twisted, self-righteous “logic” that insists more guns (and more fear and more violence) is a rational response.
What kind of a world do we live in when the go-to response is “Buy more guns.” When you’re afraid, or angry, or depressed; when things go wrong at home or at work; when you’re stuck in traffic; when someone cuts into line; when you feel slighted; when you lose something, or somebody, an election, or a game; when, Whatever, fill in the blank -- *buy more guns*. Really?! Is that the best we can do? I sincerely hope not.
And that’s what I believe is at stake here -- our sense of who we are and what kind of a people and nation we can yet become. For our children. For their peace of mind, literally and figuratively.
So I will speak out, finally. When confronted with gun rights advocacy, I will differ and no longer politely demur. I will voice my support for the President’s proposals. I am writing to my [Congressmen] (Find yours: www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml) in support of universal background checks and banning the sale of assault and other automatic weapons. I am writing to my lame-brained governor to insist he enforce all the gun laws on the books even if he doesn’t want to. I have asked my broker to make sure none of our retirement funds are invested in firearms. I am donating to the [Brady Campaign] and Gabrielle Gifford’s [*Americans for Responsible Solutions*.]
It has taken me a week to write this post. I got caught up in the politics and the history and the culture and the blame game and my disgust, indeed, my sense of betrayal that American corporations and an organization like the NRA could so control politics and public policy with their aggressive, insidious, and relentless campaign against any and all forms of gun regulation that I couldn’t think -- or write -- clearly. (Not that being entirely rational necessarily helps advance the conversation about guns.) I am not having an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter. I am having what my friends might call a “Come to Jesus” moment about exactly what kind of fear-based and violent culture we’ve let dominate our world, and about how sad -- and bad -- that makes me feel. And I am struggling to get in touch with what I can do to reassert the values that matter to me as much as gun “rights” matter to others -- quality education, for example, equal opportunity, and economic and social justice. Then we can give our children Hope. Fear, after all, is not a life-affirming force.
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