While the world was dealing with Newtown, Conecticut; my family was planning a funeral for my husband's mother. It's one thing to deal with a death that you are expecting and hoping to put off for awhile longer and quite another to deal with sudden, senseless deaths - 27 times over.
I grew up around guns. Our neighbors had them. My family owned them. My father, uncles and brothers used them. We owned BB and pellet guns. We used other people's guns. We went target practicing. We lived on a vineyard in the summers and the farmer had an automated shot gun system that set off rounds regularly to scare varmints away from the ripening grapes.
Guns were visible in the homes I visited as a child. I knew not to handle a gun without supervision. I was given target practice lessons in both guns and arrows as a child. I could hit what I aimed at, but I never was spectacular at shooting.
The one prevailing lesson impressed upon me was that there are rules when it comes to handling guns, and if there is a rule you NEVER break; it's the rules regarding guns.
I could take or leave guns up until I decided I would divorce my first husband. My first husband was a man who was chased by a lot of mental demons that he refused to deal with in an effective way. He was charming while we dated and was careful to avoid being with me when he became morose, angry and out of control. After our wedding, he let his true nature out. He was drunk a lot of the time. He got mean when he drank too much. We also owned guns. I also found out that the rules regarding guns that were taught to me that were to be followed as faithfully as any Sunday School lesson are not universally held by all gun owners.
After one very scary night that could make for compelling reading for you, but really doesn't have much to do with this diary; I decided I could leave guns. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that unresolved/undealt with mental problems, guns and alcohol are a deadly mix. Guns and alcohol without the mental problems are a deadly mix. I found out that people under the influence break gun rules and don't care if anyone around them is upset about the fact that they are breaking gun rules.
Although, our divorce wasn't solely over alcohol and guns; the fact that I never could sleep easy in a shared house with him did majorly impact my decision to leave the marriage. Guns were not necessary for my protection and could be a major factor to the detriment of my health had I remained living in that house. I learned a new gun lesson - guns escalate domestic violence.
Some years later, I was talking with a friend and the conversation turned toward guns. Her story was pretty horrific. Again, she's from a family that used and owned guns. She recounted the tale of one night when her brother was entertaining some friends and showing off his gun and was demonstrating how it had to be loaded before it could hurt anybody and unintentionally killed himself. Again, the details of the story aren't as important as the result. There was no alcohol involved. Just stupidity and a disregard for gun handling rules. You know, the ones where you are taught to NEVER point the gun toward you or anyone else, NEVER look down the barrel of a gun and the one that says you NEVER pull the trigger when your gun is pointed toward you or anyone else while handling the gun for cleaning, demonstrating, loading or unloading. I learned a new gun lesson - sometimes people don't follow the rules and die for it.
Gun Deaths Since Sandy Hook
The Huffington Post's The Price of Freedom is a story out today with pictures of people killed with guns since Sandy Hook. It's horrifying. HuffPo counts 1,280 deaths while The Slate includes police shootings as well and the number rises to over 1500. Huff Po gives us faces of those we've lost to gun violence since Sandy Hook.
Who Do We Trust With Guns?
I know I have no need to have a gun around the house. I have, upon occasion, handled a gun and used one at a gun range, but I don't own a gun. My neighbor disagrees and has guns. My brother has a job that requires him to have both a gun and a concealed carry permit. While visiting him over the holidays, I never saw his gun. Didn't need to. It was in the gun safe and only he had the ability to get it out of the safe. I wasn't worried about the gun in this home. I even repaired his concealed carry vest while I was there.
What was troubling however was his neighbors across the road who got new shotguns for Christmas. They were only too delighted to use them in their back lot for target practice all Christmas day and the days after while we were there. I was comfortable with my brother's gun handling, but I wasn't sure about his neighbor. My brother assured me that he looked into his neighbor's "gun range". It points down hill into a grassy dip behind the house. The target is straw backed and meant to absorb the rounds. (I don't like outdoor gun ranges, but in a rural area, they are the norm.) They don't drink until the guns are put away in a gun safe my brother installed for them. It's one thing to trust someone you've known for years, it's another to trust someone you've never met.
That's where my concerns currently lie. Trust. I can't verify my trust in people who own guns. Guns don't scare me as much as a jackass holding a loaded gun scares me. I get chills (not the good kind) when a gun novice picks up a gun.
I have a friend who works in compliance. He has a stock in trade phrase: "People, we need to govern ourselves appropriately, because if we don't; the government will come in and govern for us." Are we there yet? I don't know. You'd think the death of 20 kids who simply went to school would be enough of a catalyst to bring about some sensible gun regulation. I guess the debate centers around what sensible gun regulation means.
What Do We Know?
Studies show one thing. Other studies show sobering facts. It seems that I'm reading story after story of gun violence. It's stories of people with guns who don't handle or clean them safely, or store them properly, or it's a story of someone who should know better, but decides to handle the gun improperly anyway. Sometimes it's a curious kid who dies for their curiosity. Too few of the stories are about someone defending themselves. Too few of the stories have happy endings. Too many are tragic stories.
Gun Regulation and Safety
I'm ambivalent. Will gun regulations prevent criminal acts? Not all. Will gun regulation protect against stupid? Maybe, usually not. Can we identify those who are mentally ill in time to prevent a gun violence tragedy? It's possible, but I'm also in favor of finding ways to prevent the mentally ill from becoming victims of violent crime too. One thing is certain, the status quo for gun laws is killing far too many people far too often. I get the 2nd Amendment, but we need to comprehend the idea that our grass roots militia is not well regulated. If it were, we'd have fewer senseless gun deaths. Surely we can do a better job of protecting ourselves against gun violence. I don't see why we can't close the background check loophole. I don't see why we can't outlaw high capacity clips. I don't see why we can't mandate standards for gun storage and handling. I'm also aware that others see these few items as onerous. The question is how to balance our rights with public safety. We can do a better job.
I can't find the right note to end this diary. I have no quip. Snark is inappropriate. Wittiness in the face of all these tragic deaths is callous and uncalled for. WE need these deaths to end. We need to end gun violence. Really, we do.