I’ll be honest; I have never been a proponent of guns. I have never owned, one, never held one, and never shot one.
I grew up in the heart of suburbia, in a safe neighborhood, in a safe town, in a safe county. I rode my bike on autumn Sundays, and collected fireflies in jars late into the summer night. You may even say that I lived a utopian childhood. I had not a care in the world, especially not for my safety.
My idea of hunting for food was, and to this day remains, going to the supermarket or opening up the refrigerator. Needless to say, gun violence and control was something completely off of my radar. It was something that happened to people who were not lucky enough to live where I did, not fortunate enough to be able to sleep soundly at night. Or so I thought. But the sad truth is that it will not matter where my future children grow up or how hard I try to shelter them, because gun violence does not discriminate. It doesn’t care about your race, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. It has proven time and time again that it can and it does happen anywhere: a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; a middle school in Nevada, or at an international airport in Los Angeles.
Although the locations have been different, the scenes that have unfolded and the tragic details plastered across my screen, are one and the same. They are scenes of despair, unimaginable sadness, and unanswered questions. They are scenes happening all too frequently and they will only continue to occur unless something is done. While these larger acts of violence receive a multitude of media attention, a majority of the violence with the aid of a gun is occurring quietly each and every day. Gun laws and the lack thereof in this country have allowed gun violence to become a cancer, growing daily, spreading rapidly among the communities we call home.
The statistics are staggering.
“In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Firearm-related deaths and injuries result in estimated medical costs of $2.3 billion each year – half of which are borne by U.S. taxpayers. And once all the direct and indirect medical, legal and societal costs are factored together, the annual cost of gun violence in America amounts to $100 billion.”1
As a law school grad, who studied the second amendment, I certainly understand that the Constitution can be interpreted in many different ways and the politics involved in protecting our right to bear arms is complex. However, by my own personal beliefs, I find it hard to imagine that the forefathers of our country who fought wars with muskets and cannons would have wanted this. But if we are taking it at face value, then yes…you are allowed to own that AR-15 that you’ve always wanted (…and yes I had to look up the name of that gun.) But your ownership comes at what cost?
Many argue that we have the right to own guns in our homes to protect ourselves. And while this is true, I wonder just how many people have been helped by certain semi-automatic weapons. I don’t recall the last time I read an article, or watched a segment on television in which the “lucky” homeowner proudly exclaimed “Thank goodness for my semi-automatic weapon, otherwise I would never have been able to fend off those 30 men who robbed my home at once!” I haven’t heard it because it doesn’t happen. These are not guns for the protection of one’s home or for hunting or target shooting; these are guns designed to kill as many people as possible. After all, these are civilian copies of military weapons with features created to improve the likelihood of death and therefore don’t belong in civilian hands. Not to mention in the hands of those without background checks. This is not to say that all guns should be eliminated; I don’t have an opinion in that regard. But something needs to be done in order to protect ourselves.
After the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the media spoke mostly of the theater’s liability for leaving exit doors open, or of the shooter’s encounter with a school psychiatrist prior to the event, arguing that it could have been prevented. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many suggested that the solution to the horrific violence that occurred was to train teachers to shoot and to supply them with guns, or alternatively to place security guards and metal detectors in schools. After all of these horrific, tragic, unimaginable incidents, the government continues to find a need for these weapons in the home, placing much of the blame everywhere but where it truly belongs.
We can easily play Monday morning quarterback, while we lounge safely on our sofas watching CNN and criticizing how those involved should have reacted. Or alternatively, we can aid those to defend themselves should such a disturbing event occur. (At a school in West Plains, Missouri, they are in fact doing just that by training teachers to carry concealed weapons.) But let us not forget that we are only treating a mere symptom of an underlying problem.
The fact that background checks are not required for the purchase of all guns is unspeakable in and of itself. (I will save the discussion of the reprehensible treatment of mental illness for another day.) Though it most certainly wouldn’t solve everything, the abolishment of certain types of guns for home use as well as background checks for every potential gun owner would be a good place to start. Furthermore, the safe keeping of guns and ammunition in the home is of the utmost importance.
We are dealing with our own “weapons of mass destruction.” We can no longer deny that the lack of gun control is waging war on our innocent. We would not accept this from those abroad, so why do we continue to accept it from our own citizens?
The right to bear all arms is a widely debated and polarizing topic. There are many aspects of this hot-button issue, which you and I will probably never agree upon. And that’s honestly okay. After all, you’re talking to the girl whose life has managed to go on without a hitch sans ammo. But as the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting approaches, I hope that we can continue the discussion of gun violence and control across this country, if for no other reason than for the twenty-six beautiful lives lost on that day as well as the many others whose lives have been cut far too short at the hands of a gun. After all, it could happen anywhere. There is never a better time than the present. Let’s not stop fighting for a solution.