One of Kathy’s Writer’s Workshop prompts this week was, ‘What has inspired you to write?’ I haven’t been feeling all that inspired lately… but when I got home this morning and read the news, I found some inspiration.
A man in rural Alabama shot at least 11 people yesterday (they’re still doing a body count). Most of them were members of his family; some of them were just random people he drove past; two of them were infants; most of them are dead. Like most of the people who commit this sort of horrific act, he killed himself (after a shoot-out with the police).
I’d like to say I’m stunned that this could happen in a small town in America. But I can't. I’d like to say I'm shocked that it could happen at all. But I can't. I’d like to say I believe it will never happen again. But again, I can’t.
As I read, my heart heavy, I thought about the other stories of gun violence I’ve heard about in the last year… the stories involving children…
A few weeks ago, I read a report about an 11-year-old boy in Pennsylvania who killed his father’s pregnant girlfriend with a kid-sized shotgun he’d received for his birthday (the same sort of gun, I must add, that my 8-year-old niece got from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas a year ago).
In January, a 4-year-old in Ohio wounded his teenaged babysitter when he got a gun out of a closet and shot him. It seems he was angry because the older boy stepped on his foot. This happened in a trailer full of teenagers and small children.
In October, an 8-year-old in Massachusetts, under the direct supervision of his father and a certified shooting instructor, died when he lost control and shot himself in the head while firing an Uzi submachine gun at a gun fair.
Back in November, I did a post called, “I’m Bothered” about an 8-year-old in Arizona who shot and killed his father and his father’s friend.
In June, a 4-year-old girl shot herself in the chest while shopping at Sam’s Club in Columbia, SC with her grandmother. It seems her grandmother was (legally) carrying a concealed weapon in her purse and, forgetting it was there, set the purse next to the child in the shopping cart. While Grandma was turned away, perusing the aisle, the little girl got the gun out and pulled the trigger.
And those are just the stories I came across… how many others were there? How many did I miss?
I have big issues with the way we manage our ‘right to bear arms’ and gun control laws in general, but I’m going to try not to rant about that. I grew up hearing (and still hear) "if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns." I know all the theories and justifications (and I even understand some of them). My brother and his friends could supply the military with the firepower they keep in their homes. I’ve seen the bumper stickers that declare how many lives are saved each year by defensive civilian gun use.
I’m not going to argue any of those points because I don’t believe it does any good. I don’t really believe our overall situation will ever change, even with events like Alabama and Virginia Tech and Columbine happening with alarming regularity, because a large enough number of our citizens won’t allow it out of fear they’ll lose a freedom they deem necessary to live comfortably. In fact, I've heard those horrific shootings used as fuel for the argument that all Americans should carry weapons in order to ensure their own safety and quick resolution when something like that happens. I find all of that disturbing, frightening, and incredibly sad. I just know I’m glad I don’t live in a place of darkness and fear; a place where I feel the need to arm myself in order to feel safe and simply live my life.
But the children? That’s a different story, isn’t it? I am of the strong belief that children have no business near guns. They should not have access to them… ever… not in Grandma’s purse; not in Daddy’s closet; not in their own bedrooms where they keep the rifles they’ve been given for Christmas. Does this mean Daddy won’t be able to teach Junior how to hunt? Absolutely. Does this mean my niece, a crack-shot, won’t be able to go target shooting with her parents? Damn straight. Does this mean that an 8-year-old won’t be on trial for murder? Let’s sure as hell hope so. And I have no problem with any of that. I don’t see it as a loss of any sort of freedom. I see it as protecting our children, pure and simple. They are not allowed to drive cars, or drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes legally… how is not allowing them to handle a weapon any different? It makes, in my opinion, even more sense than any of those other laws.
I do realize that the gun issue is only a symptom of a much larger problem – one that includes the violence kids are exposed to in the media, games, and real-life news, as well as the fact that we are taking away any ‘safe’ conflict they encounter, hindering their ability to develop strong, rational conflict-resolution skills. I was going to go on (and on and on) about all of that but this post wound up at about 2,000 words… too many, even for me. So I’m going to get off my soapbox… for now.
I am wondering, though, what one concerned mom in a small town in Virgina can do about this... there has to be something, don't you think?