I was going to start this post by apologizing for taking last week off from posting, but to be honest, I’m not sorry at all.
It wasn’t that I was super busy or anything; well, I was, but I always am, so that wasn’t the issue.
It was that I just couldn’t bring myself to write last week.
If you haven’t heard about the tragic shooting in Las Vegas that occurred last Sunday night, then you’ve definitely been living under a rock. And if you’re not thoroughly outraged by what happened and calling for change in this country of ours, then you’re living in a bubble.
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a liberal area. Or maybe it’s because the state I call home has some of the most restrictive gun laws (and one of the lowest firearm death rates, I might add). It could also be because I’ve experienced real and impactful losses as a result of gun violence. Whatever the reason, I fully and firmly believe that very strict gun control laws would make our country a better place.
I once had a friend from the midwest go head to head with me on this issue. My friend argued that guns were essential for self defense, and as evidence she relayed a story she’d read on Facebook about a young woman using a gun to defend herself against a home invader. I’ve noticed that these sorts of stories get shared and played over and over again as a sort of sick inspiration for second amendment advocates.
You know what stories don’t go viral, though?
The ones about kids playing with a loaded gun and accidentally injuring or killing themselves or other children. Or the ones about people struggling with mental illness who are able to take their own life a lot more effectively when a gun is available to them. Or the ones about domestic violence turning deadly, and the families torn apart as a result.
In fact, statistics show that very few people are able to effectively use a weapon they keep at home for self defense. In 2012, for example, twice as many people died as a result of accidental shootings than were killed in self defense shootings. And for every one self defense shooting, there were 78 gun suicides.
This isn’t about hunting or skeet shooting, and it really isn’t about some romanticized idea of self defense. This is about what our country needs right now. All this week, I’ve had to deal with people telling me that “this is not the time to politicize, it’s time to mourn.” But we wouldn’t have to mourn at all if we had the right policies in place. And we shouldn’t have to mourn.
On one of my first days student teaching, I learned that a classmate of my 8th graders had been shot and killed at a local playground in Brooklyn the evening before. I was supposed to teach my class how to write an effective opening paragraph for a 5-paragraph essay that morning, but instead I spent the period letting them share their feelings about what happened. I assured them that they’d feel better with time, and taught them to write opening paragraphs the next day, instead.
While time does heal wounds, it’s clear to me that some wounds need treatment, not time, in order to heal. In my six years teaching since that day, I have had to talk my students through Aurora, Lafayette, Oregon, Charleston, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and now Las Vegas. I am so, so scared that these sorts of events are becoming normalized; at this point, my teen-aged students react to news of mass shootings the way they do to news of natural disasters; as if they’re really sad, but there’s nothing that can be done about them.
Gun violence isn’t a hurricane, and mass shootings aren’t tornados, though. We can control guns. We just need to push for real, legal, political change. We might need to push past a ton of false information, weak men complaining about wanting to keep their favorite toys, and corrupt politicians trying to remain on the NRA’s good side… but we can do it. And we should do it.
Don’t worry; I’ll go back to my cheerful, non-political writings this week. I’ve got a 5k and volunteering stories to tell you, after all. But behind the scenes, I am also going to do what I can to help make common sense gun control laws happen. I’m going to contact my representatives. I am going to speak up. And I am going to fight like hell to make sure my students don’t go off into the world thinking this kind of tragedy is somehow okay.
I’m not sorry if you don’t agree.
*this post contains stock photos