Alright, let’s talk about guns. Everyone from coworkers at holiday parties to President Obama are talking about guns, gun violence, and gun control.
I suppose with my reputation as an opinionated feminist with some pretty liberal tendencies, you imagine me a pretty anti-gun sorta gal. Not so fast. In truth, I’m somewhere in the not-quite-ambivalent middle.
Remember, I grew up in Alaska — and not just anywhere Alaska but Wasilla, Alaska (where you-know-who also grew up). It’s just about the wildest west we still have left in these United States. While I have never owned a gun myself, I certainly grew up in a culture that didn’t just value guns, it prized guns. EVERYONE had guns! Up until the middle of my high school years it was legal to bring a gun to school! Just stow your hunting rifle on your rack in your truck or check your gun with the principal when you get to school — no big deal — kind of legal. When I was in high school, I routinely got a ride to school from my neighbor, a female cabbie who carried a side-arm at all times — because you never know what kind of animal was going to get in the back of a cab. Indeed, that same cabbie taught me how to load and unload different kinds of hand guns as well as shoot them before I went to college. The logic being: Just because you don’t want a gun, it doesn’t mean you should be ignorant about guns. And there’s all the hunters in my family who live in the Midwest. Friends who are military veterans.
So, you see, guns and gun culture has been a big part of my life regardless of my desire to own or shoot one. In fact, I’d wager I’ve had more experience around guns than most white middle-class folks.
I’ve also experienced the other kind of gun culture. In high school, we moved to a ghettoized neighborhood in East Anchorage. There were three gangs on my street who fought for territory. (If that surprises you, then you will freak when you see this data showing that Alaska has the highest rate of gun violence in the country.) On more than one occasion, one of the gang members brought a gun on the school bus (hence, my bumming rides from my neighbor). And I lived in an apartment directly above a drug dealer (who was shot dead in the middle of the night my first winter in Anchorage). So, I’ve been around the so-called “thug” element of gun culture, too.
But as the tragic mass-shootings of 2012 reveal, it doesn’t matter where you live. (Indeed, Las Vegas tops several lists for gun violence including being first in gun-related suicides and third in gun-related deaths.) This has been a bloody year in American history with more than 140 people injured or killed in mass shootings — nearly the same amount as Columbine and Virginia Tech combined.
And the fact is, these killers got their guns legally. That says a lot about our society and our priorities. We have more regulation and checks on owning a car than on owning a gun. The NRA has been a big part of this, introducing nearly 100 laws across the country since 2009, which weaken controls and protections.
I believe in freedom and I believe in the Bill of Rights. In fact, that’s why I support the ACLU and their frequent battles to protect civil liberties — especially the Freedom of Speech. But our freedom is not free. And with every right come responsibilities. I can’t walk into a crowded movie theater and yell, “Fire!” But a young man can stockpile guns and ammo bought online — without any background checks, waiting periods, or mental health evaluations — and walk into a movie theater and, well, fire. And so I ask you: If we as citizens accept certain limitations on our free speech for the good of society, shouldn’t we also take our share of responsibility when it comes to the right to bear arms?
Instead, pro-gun politicians want to deflect with cop-outs like Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell who suggested on the radio that if the teachers had been armed at Sandy Hook Elementary, they could have stopped the shooter. But the facts suggest otherwise. It is ludicrous to think that someone with (presumably) a handgun could stop a killer armed with semi-automatic guns and bulletproof body armor! And here are five real-life examples that bear that out. So, STFU McDonnell!
What we do need are some realistic controls on weapons that have no other purpose or use in this world than to hunt humans. I have many family members who are hunters and none of them use semi-autos to bag a caribou! AK47s are battle weapons! They are designed to shoot people — and fast! There is no reason that any civilized society should continue such a laissez faire attitude about these kinds of weapons. And, indeed, no other First World nation does.
When the NRA and others start flailing about and crying about the Second Amendment and that it’s all a slipper slope… it reminds me of my two-year-old daughter having a temper tantrum. But unlike when my toddler tantrums and I have to be the calm, rational adult, in this case, I can tell the NRA to shut the fuck up! Seriously! You’re not only wrong. But you are hurting America.
And if you don’t agree with me, why don’t you ask any of the parents of the children who died on Friday.