A Rant: The Trouble With Guns.
Columbine changed my relationship to America.
Once upon a time, I was proud and unabashedly grateful to be a part of this remarkable experiment called the USA. Then suddenly, in a blaze of terror, fifteen children were brutally assassinated, 24 more were wounded, and countless more left with interminable PTSD. In the aftermath, our collective failure to heal the national addiction to guns murdered my faith in my country. Today, I feel like an orphan. The country that gave my family refuge, the place I felt comforted, safe, no longer feels like home.
I began to feel betrayed.
Just weeks after the Colorado tragedy, as I prepared to teach my first period of the day at a Connecticut high school, a shooter invaded our premises. The principal commanded us to lock our doors, to stay on the floor where we could not be seen through the windows that faced the hallway, and to wait there for updates. My students and I crouched against the wall of the room, terrified of what might happen.
Nothing did. The gun-toting stranger never fired a shot and was caught. But I decided then and there that I could not put myself in this kind of jeopardy anymore. I wasn’t just afraid of being shot – though I definitely was! – I could not envision being forced to watch in terror as children were mutilated. I didn’t have it in me. I quit teaching, went on to other things. And I got involved in trying to make a difference.
I wrote letters, posted blog rants, called lawmakers, and spoke out wherever and whenever I had a platform. Sent money to the groups promising to fight for regulations.
Guns proliferated. Every year brings a new array of tragedies wrought by angry teenagers or disgruntled postal workers or distraught fathers or rabid fundamentalists. . . all armed with guns. And oh, Sandy Hook.
Surely, I told myself, the images from Sandy Hook must change everything. Even if the men in our culture insist on suborning murder by clinging to their guns, surely Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, teachers, sisters. . . the women of America will rise up to ensure that our babies are not so easily jeopardized. Sure there will be an outcry to eradicate the monstrous misuse of weaponry that inflicts such terror.
I was wrong. Even as Alex Jones defamed the Sandy Hook victims, even as assault weapons continued to violate sanity, nothing changed. The horror persists. Today, I a longtime friend, a woman I respect and admire, posted a plea on Facebook for concerned citizens to write to Congress and demand they defeat the assault weapons ban, that they protect our right to bear arms, that they stop the Democrats’ bill to curb the insanity.
How can anyone justify the stockpiling of semi-automatic pistols and rifles? I empathize with those people who feel so threatened they might put their faith in a gun, but I reserve none for those who believe that our government should not – cannot – regulate the way in which guns are bought, owned, operated. Without regulations, our children are never out of danger.
Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, nearly 300,000 students have been on a campus during a school shooting. 949 school shootings have taken place since the Sandy Hook Elementary School exploded in December 2012. Just yesterday, February 13, four more people were shot to death at Michigan State University. So much carnage. Not only the dead. . . . the wounded, the destroyed families, the traumatized children and teachers who bore witness. Communities forever changed.
In January 2023, a six-year-old child walked into school with a 9 mm handgun in his little backpack. He shot his teacher and was miraculously stopped before he turned the gun on his classmates. The trauma of that day will live on in every one of those first-graders’ hearts and minds to their last breaths. Yet “given the child’s age, no charges will be brought,” reported the local police chief. Nor have charges been brought against the parents.
The absolute degeneracy that the case of the six-year-old shooter represents is stultifying. We live in a time, in a country where a small child, who must be reminded to put shoes on his feet to walk out the door, can blithely pack a gun and shoot his teacher. Ours is the only country in the world where this is possible.
I have a daughter and a grandchild living in Turkey. Every day someone asks me how I can stand knowing the dangerous conditions of their life there. I am frequently asked, “Can’t you insist they come home?” Danger? Sure, there are difficulties for a western woman living there, and there is volatility. But no one in Turkey, except the military police protecting the airports, carries an assault weapon. No child would dream of going to school with a pistol in his pocket. In Turkey, even earthquakes are more predictable than gun violence is in the US.
The gun industry is a cartel. It controls our lives in subtle and critical ways. And we allow it to keep on keeping on.