Dear Mr. or Mrs. Lawmaker,
We’ve got blood on our hands.
‘Guns,’ they’ll say to counter the argument, ‘don’t kill people, but the people who hold the gun in their hands and pull the trigger do.’ True, on a technicality. Guns are just a means to an end for some sad boy or girl (mostly boy, white, boy) who feel big and mighty and powerful as they hold this destructive toy in their hands because they get off on some sick fantasy of taking out the world that once made them feel so small, sad, and powerless. Or at least, that seems to be the theme.
A year after I graduated from college, I was working as a Teacher Assistant in a kindergarten class. It was December, but the sun was out, vibrant and warm. The main teacher was out sick, so I was on my own when a lockdown was called over the speaker. It was probably a drill, I thought to myself as I huddled in the corner surrounded by a group of five year olds who had no idea what was going on. It’s nothing, I kept saying, because even though I believed it was fake, the fear was still very real. It couldn’t happen in an elementary school, I said. It was a drill as it turns out, one that I failed because I never learned how to lock the door.
That Friday, it had been a long and draining week, and as I waved the students off on the bus, I couldn’t help but feel relieved. That was, until I went upstairs and checked my phone for the first time all day and heard what had happened in Newtown, CT. I did and felt a lot of things that weekend, but the most profound was the desire to go chasing after that bus, holding my students and wishing I could hug them all and tell them I would save them, protect them from the badness. I, at the very least, learned how to lock that door, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough.
Even now, outside of working in a classroom, I formulate ideas in my head of how to escape. Don’t we have to? Whether it’s at work, in a movie theater, church, at the mall, going to a doctor’s appointment, in a restaurant, at a baseball game, lounging on my couch. All I can do is hope that I’d protect those I loved with any power I hold and hope that it would never happen in the first place. True, for the most part, that fear doesn’t press itself into my life, but it lingers, hovering ever so closer the more mass shootings that occur.
People will do anything if they feel as though they have a cause. It doesn’t make it right or justified. It’s why there’s terrorism threatening everything that we thought we knew about peace and safety. It’s why we’ve got to be better, smarter, firmer about who gets to hold guns in this country. The mother of the Newtown shooter, if I had to guess, could not fathom her son would do what he did. We see him only through the lens of his being a hating, violent son of a bitch. She knew him before. Maybe he was weird, violent, different, or sick. She probably should have known better than to buy him a gun. This was wrong, but she was his mother, and so she couldn’t see, could not possibly comprehend what her baby would do with that gun and his anger at the world. But we could have, the laws could have, we should have prevented it. It shouldn’t have been easy for that boy to get a gun, for that baby of that mother who just couldn’t see, to do the unfathomable act of destruction. Now dozens of babies lie in the ground.
I used to know all of their names, those victims in that school. I mourned them, and then in April, my hometown city, the streets my friends and I in college always felt so safe walking down, as though we owned them, when the bombing happened at the marathon, I felt that too and I mourned them.
There are too many now to remember names and faces, but I still mourn them. It’s all I, you, or any of us can do, to hope that one day it’s not us or our loved ones. We feel very sad and sorry, but that’s not enough.
I don’t have the answer. I’m not saying to take guns out of everyone’s hands because a reasonable conversation and conclusion would never come from that solution. Just make it harder. I’m not a lawmaker. I would never pretend to want to have anything to do with politics. But you do. We voted you in. You made the choice and we made the choice, now do your job. This is messy and complicated, it’s scary and it’s hard.
Think of all the lives that have ended and have changed because of our inaction. Think of all the lives that can continue if we do act.
It needs to be done.
Scared, But No Longer Silent
“Out, damn’d spot! out, I say! One-/two-why then ’tis time to do’t. Hell is murky. Fie,/my lord, fie, a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear/who knows it, when none can call or pow’r to/accompt? Yet who would have thought the old man/to have had so much blood in him?” (V,i,35-40).