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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Writer's Workshop: Inspiration? Or Desperation?

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?

30 comments:

Heather said...

I struggle with the gun issue all the time. I know they've protected a lot of people, but it's so scary that unbalanced people can access them so easily. Yesterday's tragedy occured just one county over from where I live. It makes me so sad to think that someone could kill their own family (and others) so randomly. My heart breaks for their community.

mo.stoneskin said...

I can't remember exactly when the Dunblaine massacre was, but these kind of events are rarer over here, and when I read those accounts I'm reminded of how I felt as a child walking home from school having just heard about Dunblaine. I was scared, lonely, just overcome by a sick feeling in my stomach.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Diane, I am with you (again) - On a day when a seventeen year old has killed 15 adults and fellow students near Stuttgart in Germany.

If that man in Alabama had not had access to a gun, I cannot imagine he would have been able to single-handedly strangle (or some other method of murder) ten adults and children - End of argument to me...

I wholly disagree in children, as you say, having any access to weapons, and the more people carry them about as if they were a mobile 'phone, shoved in a handbag or a cupboard, forgetting they're even there, then more and more and more babies and children will face needless early deaths... This is only my opinion, my bloggy wonder - Hope you feel more like you very soon x

Annie K said...

While I understand your point of view on this and I as well consider this to be a horrible tragedy, I have to disagree that children should never be around guns. My son is 13 and an avid hunter. All of the role models who have taught my son to shoot and hunt are extremely amazed at his practice of gun safety. It's something I always talk to him about(or have pounded into his head) prior to any hunting/target practice trips and he knows to take it very seriously.

I also grew up shooting and have a respect (so-to-speak) for the weapon. Unfortnately, there are idiots everywhere that will get their hands on guns...just like they'll get behind the wheel and kill someone. Or sell drugs to someone who dies from that.

Is there an easy answer? I don't think so - and I don't think it's fair to take away my right to bear arms because some lunatic goes on a killing spree. I do think it is up to parents to be involved - especially if there are guns in the home and to pound safety into their kids heads and lock up their firearms like a responsible adult would.

And to be honest, if someone were to come after me or one of my kids in our home with a gun - you betcha I'm gonna do my best to shoot his ass first and protect my family any way I can. I hope it never comes to that though...

Tabitha in Bliss said...

It is heart breaking to hear about people losing their lives.

Diane said...

Annie... I'm not suggesting anyone take away your right to bear arms. I'm not stupid enough to think that will EVER happen in this country. We are, sadly, too far gone for that. I'm suggesting we limit it to an ADULT'S right to bear arms. I do not believe children should EVER have access to weapons that can kill - one child dead by accident or on purpose is too many. And nothing will make me change my mind. Kids aren't allowed to drive until they're 16 or 17, or drink for several years after that... how, in good conscience, can we put GUNS in their hands? You teach your kids to be responsible and that's great. But other people don't. That little boy who shot his father's girlfriend did it with his OWN gun, which he'd been taught to use properly. The kids who shot up Columbine had been around guns their whole lives. No. I believe it's wrong. It has to stop somewhere. You're right... there are no easy answers... but that little bit seems easy to me. We shouldn't let kids handle guns. Ever.

Ronda's Rants said...

I understand people's right-to-bear-arms but I have a right to feel safe...guns shows should be outlawed and there should not be ANY children size guns!
This seems like common sense to me!
People will kill people with or without guns...I get it! But...it is so easy with automatic weapons!
I can not watch the news right now...
A 21 year old beat a two year old girl to death here while her Mom stood there and watched!!
I have not stopped crying...I can not listen to this anymore!

HLiza said...

One thing that make me feel relieved is this case hardly happens in my place because the authorities make it so difficult for people to own guns. I cringe whenever I hear accidents like this elsewhere..

Sam_I_am said...

I've never lived in a house where there wasn't a gun. I'm eventually planning on getting my carry permit. But I was also taught from a very young age that they weren't toys. My dad took me outside when I was about 4 and he shot a tree and showed me the hole and I said "It made a hole, Daddy." and he said "Yes, so imagine what it could do to a person." Now, Fiance and I took my nephew, who is 15, to the shooting range and as soon as he starting acting and talking stupid, we took the gun out of his hand and told him that until he could take it seriously and recognize it as a weapon, he wasn't going to shoot it. He now wants to work on his rifle shooting merit badge, so we talked again about how it is not a toy, but a weapon. That event in Pittsburgh happened about an hour from where I live. The boy was jealous that dad's gf was pregnant with a new baby. However, in our house, the guns are locked up and we don't even have any children. Gun control is an issue like abortion, we're set in our ways and our minds won't be changed. I do feel, however, that people need to talk to their children and teach them that they aren't toys and keep them out of their reach. Parents also need to pay more attention to the mental well-being of their children. I child who is suffering emotionally, is going to be more likely to want to cause physical harm to someone or something.

theoddduckling said...

I despise guns. Have since I was about 6. When a friend would ask me to go hunting with them in high school, I always declined.

Every time I read about a child hurting themselves or someone else with a gun, I flashback to watching a man be blown apart after a point blank shot from a rifle.

So needless to say, I have a very odd stance on the 2nd amendment considering where I live.

Michelle said...

That boy in Germany was 10 minutes away from my son. My son knows people at that school. This is scary stuff and I do not understand legal guns AT ALL....

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

ugh, this is such a tough issue! My in-laws are hunters and gun people and I am NOT AT ALL. I hate guns and want them nowhere near me or my children. But what did my FIL get my stepson for Christmas when he was SIX? Yes, a tiny little rifle. I was livid. But they have a totally different view on guns. Unfortunately, he is my stepson so I can't put my foot down, but you better believe that my daughter is not going NEAR a gun EVER.

Lee said...

It still saddens me that, in 2001, about 3000 people were killed in a terror act in the US and it was considered a fit thing to go to war over while, in the same year, nearly 30,000 people died from guns and it is deemed a breech of 'civil liberties' to do anything about it.

Protege said...

Unfortunately, these incidences are now not limited to the US alone. Last year there was a student that went on a shooting spree in Finland and just today in Germany.

Mel said...

You know the way I feel, so it's redundant for me to write it here. So, I'm not sure why I'm writing anything. Maybe just to let you know I read it and it was good.

sherri said...

I have never shot a gun, nor do I ever plan to. We did not have guns in our home while the kids were growing up.

However, one night we had a drugged up Maniac on our front porch throwing a crazy fit and threatening to Kill Big Al. All we had in the house was a ball bat.The other drugged up guy of course, had a gun, while threatening to shoot him!

I felt very vulnerable until the police finally arrived and hauled the guy away.

This was one crazy incident, but Big Al decided we would have a gun in the house after that. (Not where anyone else could get to it and not loaded, but nearby where we sleep.)Not that it would ever be used, but it makes us feel better knowing it's there.

I know you probably don't agree, but you'd have to be on the other end to really know where we're coming from.

I don't have the answers.

But I think as far as the teens go, just like with sex, they need to be informed and educated. Much of the problems around here are kids finding guns and "playing" with them and someone ends up hurt.
They have no knowlege of the dangers and how they actually work, which makes it even more dangerous.

As far as idiots and evil people having access (even younger ones) how can we ever control that?

I feel differently about concealed weapons. I don't see the need.
Maybe there is n exception, but that makes me very uncomfortable.

Diane said...

Sherri,
As I say, I'm not advocating no guns at all. I'd love to do that, certainly, but I do believe we're too far gone for that. We've created a society of gun violence because of our Constitutional right to bear arms and I don't believe it will ever change. Do I choose to have one? No. That's a decision I hope I'll never regret, given that I live in this country full of guns... for now, anyway.

No, I'm advocating simply that children have no business near guns. I simply can't understand how we can all agree that children shouldn't drive (in fact, in VA, they have to stay in BOOSTER SEATS until they're 8 YEARS OLD... because my niece, the one who owns a gun, is so small, her father made her sit in a booster until a few months ago and she's nearly 10 now! But he has no problem taking her to a shooting range and allowing her to fire a weapon)... they shouldn't drink... they shouldn't smoke... hell, we don't even let them play on see-saws or concrete playgrounds anymore for fear they fall and bump their heads... but we have no problem putting guns in their hands? Educated or not... how many 'educated' kids drink and drive? Have sex without protection? My kid is incredibly smart but at 9 years old, do I think she possesses the judgment necessary to be responsible around guns? Probably, but I'm not willing to stake my life (or hers) on it. In my opinion, they simply should NOT have them. Some kids might actually be able to handle driving at 14... should we let all of them do it? No. I don't care how responsible each individual child is... on an across the board basis, guns should be illegal when it comes to kids.

blognut said...

Well, Diane, I know this will be a huge shock for you, but you haven't written anything here that I disagree with on the gun topic. If it were up to me, there wouldn't be any guns. For the sake of the constituation and the hunters out there arguing with me, I'll settle for no automatic guns as I do believe it's hard to argue that you need to shoot a deer 99 times in 60 seconds.

Kids shouldn't have 'em - period - end of story. They shouldn't even be allowed on those stupid paintball ranges if you ask me, not that anyone did, but there's my opinion pouring right out of me again.

Thanks again - I think you saved my sanity today... at least for a little while. ;-)

blognut said...

OMG! THAT was a funny way to spell constitution, wasn't it?

Debbie said...

I did not read the comments! maybe I should have :) but I wanted to share my feeling without being swayed or changing my mind based on it repeating someone else's viewpoint!
THis is a huge subject! I actually group up in a 3rd world country! My dad carried a machine gun with him AT ALL TIMES to protect us! I hate guns now. Funnily enough as I think back to my childhood where guns were seen a protection and we lived in fear! I never heard of a child shooting anyone with a gun! Other then the 'trained child soldiers' that were rampant in my home county; Africa! So that makes me wonder..is it guns? is it the way we are raising our kids? BUT can we truelly in this day and age seperate one from an other !Can we believe that our children will be the ones NOT exposed to violence therefore 'safe' from the influence that creates destruction when you miss guns and kids? can we truelly belive that 'our' child will be the one NOT desensitized in this country of media at every angle??
We have no choice but to be realistic! GUNS are a weapon and our children, sadly...so very sadly, are trained to use them! NO MATTER what kind of home we are raising them in!

Diane said...

Debbie, I think your point about carrying guns at all times and living in fear was SO relevant. That's the direction we're heading... and it's a direction we've mapped for ourselves, sadly.

I mentioned at the end of the post that I know this is only part of the issue and I could go on and on... a lot of that was about how our kids are being de-sensitized to violence. It's all part of a vicious cycle... but something has to give. This is a place to start... it's so simple and it makes so much sense - to me, anyway. Take guns out of the hands of children. Does it put an end to the overall problem? No. But it's a beginning... and we have to start somewhere, don't we?

Blognut... it's settled... we're twins (and tonight we're both the 'good twin' ;) XO

Blu said...

Yes and yet again we are saddened in Europe too.
This time it is in Germany. I understand that as long as there are guns there will always but an occasional accident. But these shocking incidents that occur in schools, what is the answer? Rural France is full of guns!!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7938876.stm

Sometimes Sophia said...

The idea of keeping guns out of the hands of children is a good one, but unenforceable by law. Sadly, we've created a culture of death where violence and greed grab all the headlines and even provide the basis of much of our so called entertainment. No wonder we are desensitized. Being a child is all about discovery and imagination and not living in the context of adult society. If we fill our minds and our children's minds with violent video games, tv shows, and movies that simulate a horrific reality in the most convincing way - a way that diminishes the value of every life, and degrades human sexuality and spirituality - it's no wonder our world is filled with senseless tragedy, including unspeakable violence committed to and by children.

Last week, Charlie Gibson commented on viewers' pleas to "report some good news." Maybe if we were more concerned with celebrating what is good and just, instead of cupidity, violence and infidelity, some of that shift in viewpoint would trickle down to our kids. Maybe we should turn off our TVs, boycott violent movies and video games, and spend the time instead trying to do good in our communities and to foster a greater sense of responsibilty/respect for human life and the environment.

J Gilman said...

Amen to all of that! You are so right. I have 4 kids, the oldest (a boy) has no interest in hunting. My youngest boy does. And guess what? He goes out in the woods with his Dad or his Grandpa and walks around QUIETLY and LOOKS and LISTENS. He does not carry a gun and he won't until his is a teenager and has completed hunter safety. You know what else? This form of "hunting" for my 10 year old has given him appreciation for just being outdoors in nature and seeing things that you don't usually get to see. No gun required. I love your blog. I'm going to make you an honorary Vermonter!

blueviolet said...

Sometimes I think it's just a lost cause out there, that we're sliding into a point of no return. I feel helpless.

April said...

I 100% agree with Annie K and Sam_I_Am. I grew up respecting guns and the precautions you take while in posession of a gun. My sis-in-law was always scared of guns and my advise to her was to never touch one. My children have no way of getting access to our guns. My oldest son does shoot them but only after safety classes and us knowing he was finally responsible enough to handle one.
My thought is guns don't kill people, people kill people.
Example:
The man in Alabama killed those people he just used a gun.
The child that killed his fathers girlfriend, someone should have locked that gun up when not in proper use.
The 4 year old that injured her babysitter, someone should have had that gun locked up.
The 8 year old in Massachusetts, his father is just an idiot.
The 4 year old in Sams, her grandmother was totally negligent.

Most accidental shootings by a child are because someone was negligent. Not because they allowed their child to shoot a gun. My children know guns are not toys and know what can happen if treated like one. Our rifles are are unloaded and locked in a safe (even my sons shotgun) and our pistols are where my children (and me) can't reach them and have a trigger lock on them.

Accidental car wrecks kill more people then accidental shootings in the USA. Should we also outlaw cars? Of course you don't think that because you use a car.

I totally disagree with this statement you made "We've created a society of gun violence because of our Constitutional right to bear arms" Not going to explain because that should be obvious.

Also, fully automatic weapons are illeagal.

This is the closest I have ever been to writing a rude comment but this subject really gets to me as I am sure it does you too, just for different reasons. But, I did agree with the Brady Law.

Diane said...

April... As I said, I've heard all the arguments; all the cliches... a million times. I grew up in an ultra-conservative house where guns were/are always present. What I said in this post was that as far as I'm concerned, children have no place NEAR guns. Period. And I believe anyone who disagrees with that... who feels it's OK to put guns in the hands of children... is... well... let's just say they have an attitude that's completely beyond my comprehension. Guns and kids don't mix. They should NEVER mix. THAT is what I said.

Jenners said...

I see that this has become quite a little hot topic here. All I can tell you is agree with you 100% and I have NO IDEA what you can do -- other than what you have done, which is to discuss the issue and bring it to people's attention.

Lisa said...

oh god this is horrific- what are the gun laws in the USA ?
ours are very very strict over here but that is only to obtain them legally- i imagine the illigal gun trade would be a different business.
something to think about while trying not to think about it- thanks diane x

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