I wrote this piece 8 months ago mainly in response to the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television. In light of the recent shooting in Orlando Florida, which has now been confirmed as the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, I feel compelled to revisit this piece. And I’m not going to lie, I absolutely hate that I feel compelled to look back on the mindset I was in when I originally wrote this. I’ll probably write a separate piece about the fact that this shooting was clearly a hate crime against the LGBTQ Community, but at this moment, I am reminded that gun control is a very real threat to our society, and it is what fuels most hate crimes in America.
I’m going to start this off by saying I am not a professional when it comes to the subjects I’m going over today. I am not a politician, or a scholar, or a person of the law. I will not be bringing in statistics from random sources, or quotes from people who think they know what’s best regarding the subject. This is all going to be purely my opinion, my personal experiences, all from the heart. It’s more of a rant than anything else. That all being said, lets talk!
I have never once seen a real working gun in person. I have seen antique guns, sitting behind glass, and I’ve held prop guns, designed purely for stage or costume use. But I have never been in the presence of a real, functioning gun. I have never looked at a gun in person and thought “that is a dangerous weapon designed to do nothing but harm”. And what scares me is that I know there are people in this world who look at very real, functioning guns and either relish the fact that their only purpose is to cause harm, or they just don’t care. They don’t process that fact. Guns are toys to them.
I can’t remember the first time I heard about a mass shooting somewhere in America. It might have been Columbine. I was about to turn 6. I don’t remember hearing the gruesome details, my parents were protective enough to keep me in my happy Sesame Street world for as long as possible. But I remember hearing something bad happened. I remember the Virginia Tech Shooting. I remember the Aurora Theater shooting with clarity. For as long as I can remember, I can remember hearing about shootings.
When I was a kid, I remember going on lock-down at school from time to time, as if turning off the lights and locking our doors will keep a shooter out. It was a joke to us, a chance to play card games instead of class. We should have been scared, and I can’t for the life of me find a reason for why we weren’t scared other than the fact that we must have all been desensitized to the idea of a school shooting.When I started student teaching, we had to hide all of the kids, 3rd graders, behind the teachers desk because there was news that a “heavily armed man” was headed towards the school. When the kids asked me why it was happening, all I could say was that sometimes these things happen. But they don’t have to happen, and that’s what kills me. Whenever a shooting happens we ask “why did this happen” instead of “why didn’t we try to prevent it?” Because we CAN prevent it.
When that poor news reporter and her camera man were shot on television, I had a phone call with my father. He talked about how he saw that woman’s smiling face, and he saw my face. I talked about how I’ve begun to shut down whenever I hear about a shooting, mass or otherwise. I am just so tired of hearing about the death that when it happens, I just turn everything off. They didn’t think they were in danger, we all get lulled into this false sense of security, we forget that there are people out there that have guns. I know that I tend to just not think about people owning guns and walking around on the street with a concealed weapon. I asked my dad why this keeps happening, why we haven’t changed, as a nation. I remember my dad replying with something that has stuck with me.
“If our nation can’t look at a person going into a school and killing a bunch of kids and not think ‘we should change something’ then we’re never going to change”
And I agree.
Now I know that there will be some person who reads this and says something along the lines of #notallgunusers but here’s the thing, we ALL have to be a part of this conversation. You can’t look at me and say “I’m not going to do that, I need my gun to protect myself” and then stop the conversation. The NRA and supporters need to stop thinking about themselves and LOOK AT OUR COUNTRY AND FACE THE FACTS. As long as someone has access to a gun, that person has the potential to kill innocent people. The fact of the matter is, you can never know who is going to wake up one morning and just decide to shoot people. You can NEVER know. It could be mental illness, or just in their nature, or maybe just a bad day. But you can NEVER know.
You say you need to carry a gun for your protection? To keep yourself and your loved ones safe? Fat lot of good it will do you if the other person pulls out a gun and either shoots you first or scares you so much you don’t think to use the precious gun you fought so desperately for. A lot of good it will do when the shooter has access to bigger, more deadly guns. When the shooter has been planning this assault for a while, and has taken the possibility of you having a gun into account because it was so easy for them to get theirs.
Guns do not protect. They just try to harm the other person before they harm you.
I’ve lived in countries where it is nearly impossible to get a gun unless you’re military. I felt a thousand times safer walking around knowing that there was a slim to no possibility of someone carrying around a gun, and I know for a fact that they do not get nearly as many shootings per year as we do. Here, I find myself suspicious of everyone around me. What if that guy has a gun in his bag? What if that woman has a gun in their purse? What if they think I’m looking at them weird and that triggers a reaction? What if the person I rejected decides to take it out on me?
Go ahead and tell me that I’m paranoid. Tell me all the reasons why we shouldn’t have better gun control. Then look at the faces of the hundreds of innocent people who have been killed over the years by people who had access to guns due to our nations indifference to gun control. Look at those faces and tell me that this couldn’t have been prevented if we had upped up the gun control.
Yes, there will always be crazy murderers out there, intent on making the world pay for something or other. But we can make it so they have a harder time harming others. We can change things if we look past the end of our own noses and understand that we, as a nation, can not move forward if we are standing still. And when it comes to gun control, we are frozen.
So what do we do now America? Do we count down the days to the next shooting? Or do we take the necessary steps to lower the possibility that you will see your friend or loved one on that screen? From the looks of it, we’re just going to ignore it and go back into our vicious cycle.
See shooting, mourn shooting, talk about changing, never changing, waiting.
And now we’re here. 50 people are dead and 53 are wounded after a man walked into a Gay Club with an assault rifle. 290 days after a young woman and her camera man were killed on live television. 1 day after 3 people were shot and killed in California. 2 days after 1 person was shot and killed and 3 more were injured in North Carolina. The list goes on, the countdown is pointless.
My mom said something to me on the phone today that really frustrated me. She said “Things like this (shootings) are happening every day, we’re just hearing more about them now.” And she’s right. People are getting shot and killed every day. EVERY. DAY. They don’t all show up on national news, but they are all important. To the people who still cling to the notion that the way guns are regulated now is working, stop fooling yourselves and face the facts. What we’re doing in America regarding guns isn’t working.
I said it 8 months ago, I’ll say it again today, and I’ll say it again the next time a shooting happens and is shocking enough to be picked up by the national news-
Things need to change. Easier said than done I suppose. I can’t make the change, sitting here on my laptop. My words here won’t compel the government to change the gun policies overnight. But my words here, your words on Facebook, our tears of mourning, are more powerful than we realize. I hope that this post will reach people who don’t think like me and will maybe, just maybe, open up doors to helpful conversations towards change. Comment on your friends statuses, mourn together, open the minds of others who don’t understand. Because together our voices are loud. This may all be a silly dream but who knows? Maybe we can go a year without a mass shooting hitting the news.
Or we could just rinse and repeat.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those in Orlando, to my fellows in the LGBTQ community, and to the rest of America, because we are all affected by this. Thank you for listening.