So, shoot me!

Yeah. It’s about guns.  So shoot me.

Of all the typical, banal, most trite, most tribal, most revisited, warn-out, decidedly unresolved “controversies” between the left and the right, this is the one that I like the least.  It feels like such a waste of time, and yet it’s also so important, and so boring, and so revisited and so, who cares? And yet, I care, and we all care, and… and….

The constitution grants me, blah, blah, your own personal militia, blah, blah, your own backyard atomic bomb, blah, blah, always sounded ridiculous, not worth arguing.  Then there is also the fact that guns and people and culture is a whole thing, inseparable. Kids I teach grew up with dogs and farms and trucks and church and lots of guns.  It’s sort of like saying to the city-slicker, Well, now, here Jim/Jane, we’ve got to revoke your people watching right. It just ain’t right, people-watching.  It’s dangerous. It turns people into stalkers.  Of course it would make them angry.

So basically yawn on both sides of the isle.  Except, yeah, the inconvenient thing? Kids get killed. Like, really frequently. Like, every day. Especially in schools. And I’m not talking about getting killed by criminals — though there is plenty of that.  They’re getting killed by white-break, cornflake type kids with guns. Because of a certain misperceived freedom of gun ownership that is so tied together with personal identity and culture that even my most beloved and staunchest liberals will unfriend me on Facebook if I say I don’t support second Amendment rights. Which, hey, it’s not what I’m saying at all.

But two of my favorite people in the world are my two relatives who are so smart and open minded and eloquent, and  both support unrestricted gun ownership. And I’ve argued heartily with both of them and felt wowed by how well they hold their ground, and yet still feel hurt and frustrated, and often feel unable to articulate anything that we haven’t already revisited so much on just about every social website, like, “more people get shot with their own guns during house break ins than with house break-ins where the house owners don’t have guns.”  And their, “People need to be allowed to take their own safety and their family’s safety into their own hands.”

My favorite people!  Say that owning a gun is for your own safety!  And I know that it’s not because of all these kids getting shot with guns their parents didn’t hide well enough, and all those people who don’t know how to use their own guns, and all these facts, and still I have to be sitting there frustrated, thinking “But why aren’t they listening?” And they’re sitting there rolling their eyes, saying, “But you’re so privileged. You’ve never lived it. You’ve never had a gun pointed at your face.”

But guns will not make you safe. And why can’t I articulate that? But for some reason lately I just see a lot more than I used to. It’s as if I’ve been cracked open with a ray of cosmic light and I hear things I have been told and they take on new meanings.

It occurs to me that I have a different understanding of safe than my two favorite guys who love guns.  I like safety.  I really, really, really like safety. I’m such a coward that it’s not even funny how much I love being safe, really, but I never ever, ever, ever thought that owning a gun would make me safe.  I feel uncomfortable around any weapon. I don’t think owning a baseball bat or a knife will make me safe either, just to make sure I clarify that for you.

This is what I think will make me safe:

* living in a neighborhood where people have real purpose in life, not just hoarding money and joining gangs and doing drugs and running prostitution circles. This might be elitist and middle class, but this, to me, a woman, and a “foreigner” vulnerable to rape and to violences that my counterparts on the opposite end of the gender game are often in the privileged position to ignore. And also because of my funny accent, how I inspire certain negative feelings…I think safety in terms of neighborhood.

* and by neighborhood I mean, not that we must all be yuppies in gentrified America, but that we must, all of us who share a community, value human life

*safe means that I can trust my neighbors rash, hormone-drunk teenage kids to have parents who care enough to be somewhat tough on them when they get a little too wild, while also nurturing them and giving them a true sense of empathy and compassion for everyone else

*safe means living among educated people, which is the reason why I have dedicated so much of my damned life and time making sure I got educated, and making sure I am still getting educated, every day, every hour, as much as I can.

*And yes, I work hard, damned hard, and yes, the reason I work hard is because I perceive safety in jobs that pay relatively well, and I perceive safety in being a useful contributor to society

*safe means trusting the people I live with

*safe means I have food, and shelter, and clothing, and reasonable comforts, and that I can rely that other people around me also have shelter, and clothing, and reasonable comforts — not so much out of a sanctimonious sense of righteousness, though no doubt I do suffer from righteousness now and again, but because if everyone who surrounds me is sheltered, fed, and clothed, I can rely to a relative degree of certainty that they will not be led to act desperately towards me (oddly enough, people who support owning guns don’t support helping the underprivileged)

and THAT to me is safety or the measures by which I pursue it, at least

So, where does the gun come in?

And this is my big moment of insight for today, the moment when I ponder if I should buy a taser or something and it hits me: Honey, if I need a gun (or taser/knife/baseball bat), that means all the other measures of safety have already collapsed, and I am already not safe.

Here is what puzzles me, then. I have to analyze that old compelling scenario, the scenario that is always shoved in my face when we talk about guns:

Someone breaks into your house drugged out of their minds, armed to the teeth, wants to rob you, but also decides that’s not enough and threatens you and your family at gunpoint, with the intention of taking your life, and no opportunity for you to escape, no opportunity for you to reasonably hope for a police force intervention, and points that gun at you with the intention of hurting you permanently, or better yet, kill you., and you happen to have the gun nearby, loaded and all, and you happen to be so good at handling the gun and at dissembling the evil attacker who wants to kill you and your family that it is not going to be wrestled out of your hands and used against you (and your family)

Thus, you argue, the gun will make you safe.

Ok, admittedly, in that scenario, where all other measures of safety have collapsed, where you cannot count on your neighbor, cannot count on the frequency of police patrolling, or on moderate order, cannot count on a safe escape, or in your own resources, etc. etc.  …in that scenario you want the right to hold power over life and death over the person who is holding that power over you. Is that more or less it?

But if you don’t live in that kind of neighborhood, isn’t it likely that legislation of ownership of firearms is already a moot point?  If you live in the kind of place where that scenario is not a statistical impossibility, but a real possibility, a possibility that is enough to pit against other scenarios of safety that owning a gun might  compromise (for a limited list, see below) where the law doesn’t rule, then why do you care that the law does not give you that right? Aren’t you already beyond reach of the law?  And in case you’re one of those conspiracist; isn’t it fair to say that if your government is unleashing its militia against you (with tanks and missile launchers, etc.) that it is highly unlikely that it will matter to anyone what the gun ownership is, in that scenario?

Because I guess what keeps me stuck in my “liberal” (or humanitarian, from my perspective) mindset, is that I really believe don’t believe that scenario is possible for the vast majority of people who argue in favor of no restrictions.  I don’t believe that it’s enough of a possibility to justify your empowering an entire nation, which, for the most part is made up of good people, but which, let’s face it is also made up of dysfunctional alcoholic, mentally disturbed people, drug addicts, people whose  meds haven’t quite gelled yet, people who are emotionally broken and messed up due to a recent divorce or terrible humiliation, or, etc. with a history of abuse of their wives/husbands, people who are drunk and cannot handle their drink —enough to justify everyone, everyone, everyone with a right to own a gun.

That’s your reason, that scenario. That’s your reason?

Let’s see the other likely scenario that can occur if you do own a gun:

* You are a responsible gun owner and keep your gun locked up and safe.  Someone breaks into your house. You are not near your gun and it’s not loaded.  The break in however finds the gun and steals it.  Uses it later to commit murder.

* You are a responsible gun owner and keep your gun locked up and safe, (and therefore it is not near your bed or anywhere near you for that famed scenario), but all the same, you have the gun. You have children. You teach your children to be responsible with guns. You teach them how to use them and how to be careful, etc.  Your children with all their best intentions use the guns safely but make a mistake and shoot themselves. (This happens a lot. Look at the news.)

* As above, responsible gun owner, etc. safe children, etc. children are really smart and never make a mistake with the gun, but children have friends who are not so smart about guns and find the gun and shoot themselves or others

* As above responsible gun owner, etc. responsible children etc. but that break in does happen and you still manage to get to your gun and load it but in the process it is wrestled away from you and used against you as a deadly weapon, and then, because the situation is now high andrenaline, this gun is going to be used on your family as well.  Well, this happens too.  A lot.

* As above responsible gun owner, etc. children safe, safe friends, safe, this safe that but the neighbor’s teen son got drunk and wants to impress some new people in town says “I know where there’s a gun…”

Ok, I could go on.

My scenarios are so much, much, much more likely to occur because they already occur so frequently that they fill the statistics, and they occur for people who are otherwise “safe” in my definition of safe: safe jobs, safe homes, safe neighborhoods, safe communities and stable governments. And yet, guns makes them NOT safe; it makes them into death statistics.

Let’s revue the scenario for which you are willing to gamble that your life will become a gun-accident statistics:

1. being threatened at gun point

2. being near a gun that is loaded

3. not losing it to the person who is attacking you

4. being in a situation where escape is not possible

5. being in a situation where intervention from authority is not possible

6. being so good at shooting that you can be sure you’re going to be the winner of this little confrontation

THAT SCENARIO WITH ALL THE CAVEATS AS ABOVE, the right to possess a gun in such a circumstance, the right to be able to say that if you had your back to the wall and a gun in your hands, and all that, that you would be CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED to shoot somebody, that right, is more important to you than the day to day safety of yourself, your family, your children’s friends, your neighbors and all the people in between.

Guns do not make you safe. If you need a gun in such a situation, you were never safe.  If you hold a gun to someone’s face and someone is holding a gun to yours, that gun is not what is making you safe.   What you’re saying, then, is that you’re not safe.  You are not safe, and you want guns. Think about it.

And don’t tell me that if someone walks into a movie theater and opens up a shooting spree that owning a gun will make you safe: if that person got the gun in the first place it’s because there were no laws strong enough to prevent him from emptying his cartridges into you and your friends at the movie theater.  What you’re saying is that you don’t trust in the law. You don’t trust in the law, and  you don’t trust in the community. You don’t value safety in the way that I value safety. You value safety only as a life/death survival situation, which somehow, you perceive as being a day to day reality

You know, I do understand that whole argument about identity, growing up with guns and being a part of your life and all that, but let’s be honest about what you are saying when you say things like “guns don’t kill people” and all that fine rhetorical bullshit.

I will end with a memorable quote posted on FB by a memorable friend whose identity I will leave anonymous for his sake:

From the reader comments on the CNN story of the movie theater-texting shooting.  “This gun did nothing on its own, it takes a person to pull the trigger.” Still, don’t you just hate it when a gun wanders into a movie theater and sits there with its trigger all out and waiting to be pulled?

Published by laura

I'm the author of two short story collections, a story cycle, and a collection of short memoirs. I am an educator, literary translator, journal editor, and writing coach.

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