Gun-Shy and Not Afraid to Show It

200036821_65fa54e337_oIt’s taboo to say. It’s an unpopular opinion to have. But with 355 mass shootings so far this year – more than one per day – I’ll come out of the closet.

I’m afraid of guns.

I don’t make exception for hunting rifles. I grew up with those. I understand their necessity; my father used his to put meat on the table when we were too poor to afford it. He practiced gun safety religiously; his guns were locked up with the key stored elsewhere. He and his friends shot skeet at my uncle’s house on summer weekends. They encouraged me to try, sometime around my eleventh birthday. I didn’t want to, but I took the rifle anyway. The kick knocked me on my ass. I walked away shaking.

My sister, on the other hand, got her first BB gun somewhere around age 7. She turned out to be a crackshot – we called her Annie Oakley. Blond ponytail wagging, she put a BB through the eye of a running rabbit and killed it. Now she’s a cop and has one of the best firearms ratings on the force.

I could tell story after story about guns, about dove hunting, about a handgun saving my father’s life, about his friend killing someone in a hunting accident. In the midst of the crack epidemic, the news convinced me that black people from North Philadelphia were going to drive to my suburban house, steal our TV, and blast us with their illegally obtained handguns(1). Guns were always around. And I was always afraid of them.

I was afraid of them because I felt in my bones they were made to kill. Kill pheasant, kill deer, kill people. It was a short step from one to the other. And I was frightened by that power to call out blood, to call down death.

Now that I’m a parent, I have to ask every potential playdate mama: Do you have a gun? Where? Is it locked up? I’d already been appalled to find some friends kept their (loaded) handguns “up where the kids can’t reach them,” which meant “on top of the cabinets”. Another stowed her loaded gun on top of her closet. “The kids won’t find it,” she said. So I question everyone. I never make assumptions, no matter how liberal someone seems.

Because I am afraid of guns. And I am afraid of my child being shot. This year alone, toddlers shot 43 people.

That’s the nightmare, of course: not being shot, but having your child shot instead. 355 mass shooting has me scared to go to the mall – with decent reason, since Dylan Roof cased it before his shooting spree in Charleston. Any large gathering brings out the fear that a psychopath will select it for his mass murder/subsequent suicide. They’ve shot up schools, movie theater, political ralleys. They shot up a church in my state. Nowhere seems safe, all public places suspect. The recent shoot-up of a Christmas party in San Bernardino only underscores that feeling.

I’m not naive enough to think we could get rid of all the guns in this country. But we need sensible gun control. We need to kick the teeth out of the NRA, band together, and make buying a gun at least as difficult as getting a driver’s license. We need to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses (which would also decrease the suicide rate), ties to terrorist organizations, and ties to hate groups. We need to examine open carry laws.

Then, maybe I won’t need to be afraid of guns.

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  1. There is so much wrong with this that I can’t even begin to untangle the issues of race, poverty, crack hysteria, and the irresponsibility of the media.

Photo credit: Steven Z, Flickr.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode