In the days following the Newtown shootings, I found myself with a lot of feelings about guns and gun control, and not many intelligent ideas to string together. I still don’t know that I could write anything about civil liberties and the 2nd Amendment without sounding like the blonde I am, but I can tell you why I feel the way I do.
First and foremost, you can’t plan for crazy, and I think you have to be Crazy to commit mass murder–whether you are Stalin or SomeDude, if you are willing to commit murder, you need to be committed. When Crazy decides to kill, Crazy is going to find a way. Whether it’s with a rented van full of fertilizer, a few boxcutters and hijacked airplanes, or automatic weapons, Crazy is going to find a way to cause pain and destruction. Because Crazy usually plans this mess out before going to town, it is often a solid strike, and the damage is done before we can send in Sane to stop it. We can’t legislate to stop Crazy because Crazy isn’t paying attention to the rules to begin with.
The problem with Gun Crazies is that guns are easier to obtain. They don’t even have to belong to the Crazy. Crazy can steal them from his mother once he’s put her down.
I grew up around guns. I also grew up around threats of gun violence (and once in my 20s, when I was traveling and took the pistol with me, I made a threat of my own.) Fortunately for me and my people, no one ever made good on those threats to either themselves or other family members. I always knew where the guns were, I also always knew not to touch them because I didn’t know how to use them and had been drilled on what could happen. I had my own BB rifle which I employed with caution, and in my early 20s, a friend’s husband taught me to shoot a pistol and a rifle. I’m a fine shot, and I really enjoyed target practice.
You know that I’ve been home invaded, had my person invaded, been backed down an alley for an attempted mugging in NYC, and been chased down by pervs in cars a couple of times. I’ve had more than my share of perpetrated or attempted violence–none of it involved a gun. Horrible things can happen even when there are no weapons involved. It’s just a lot harder to inflict mass violence without them.
So what do I think? What do I feel?
I think Crazy is going to plot, plan, and destroy no matter what we do. My grandfather always said, “Locks are for honest people.” I think it is more than just gun control. We have to consider representations of gun violence in society. We have to consider representations of violent death in society. We have to be honest that when tiny children are shot up in elementary schools, they don’t die from perfectly round bullet holes, but they are buried by their grieving mothers, missing the lower halves of their jaws and the sweet lips that were kissed goodnight, and missing their hands that were held to cross the street as Noah Pozner’s mother shared through the media. She said, “I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
I’ve never been Crazy, so I don’t know at what point you say to yourself, “I’m going to go on a killing spree.” I especially don’t know what makes someone do that to children. And maybe that’s where we need to start? Because while guns are certainly a concern in the hands of Crazy, the problem is the Crazy, not the gun. Most of these Crazies aren’t concerned with personal pain. They end up shooting themselves. So what is the thought might stop them? What is the Crazy after? How do you short circuit that before they are in their kevlar and driving to the elementary school? (And I’m always more concerned with people amassing body armor than weapons! You know someone is in serious F-CK YOU UP mode when they come wearing their bullet proof vest.)
I send my 7-year-old to school every day, hoping, praying, trusting that I will get him back safely every evening. It would gut me to lose him–there aren’t English words to describe what it would do to me. It would destroy me to lose him in the way that Veronique Pozner lost her son. I don’t think I would ever sleep, or eat again.
I read a suggestion that we license, register, and insure weapons like we do vehicles, requiring inspections and upkeep. I don’t exactly trust the government not to use that registration information against law-abiding citizens, but I do see the sense in that. That still doesn’t keep Crazy from stealing a gun or even from getting his own, but it’s a start? And, if the weapons are insured, then if Dick Cheney accidentally shoots you in the face while you’re hunting, at least you can go to the doctor.
See? I can’t really formulate a real thought. Every time I try, I find myself just sad and thinking about how nihilistic I would become at the loss of my child.
I know one thing for sure: We have to keep talking about it. We have to keep working toward a solution. We can’t be afraid of conversation. We need to reason together, no matter what our thoughts are, and find real ways to protect our people from Crazy–which we cannot plan for. And we have to be good to each other, and band together so that when Crazy strikes, we present a unified front against it. That unified front is the best form of defense and prevention. It takes a Village to raise a child, and to keep that child safe. If all the village elders are over there shouting at each other, who is watching the kids?
There are no easy solutions. There are no quick solutions. There is only deep, abiding sadness in these past events, and hope that we can prevent worse.