The day after a man walked into a Texas church and opened fire, killing 26 people, I was standing outside an auditorium getting pat down, having my purse checked, before I could walk inside. I had driven up to LA for evening (madness, I know) with two friends to hear an author speak. Throughout the whole evening, there remained one security guard onstage, eyes continuously scanning the crowd except for the moments he bent his head down to listen to an ear piece. Two other security guards took turns walking around the packed auditorium, one standing up front, the other strolling around. Every 10 minutes or so they would chit chat quietly, and then the other would take his turn walking (I’m assuming) the premises.
The author was riveting, I have been looking forward to hearing him for weeks, but I couldn’t stop focussing on the security guards. I couldn’t stop staring at them, looking for any signs there was danger – either inside the walls, or outside, about to burst in. I was in a packed auditorium, the kind where people can barely squeeze by you to their seats, even when you stand up to give them room. There were roughly 1200 people in attendance, including those sitting in the balcony. I kept wondering what we would do if someone were to open fire.
This is what it means to be an American in 2017.
Not paralyzed by the fear of guns so much that we can’t leave our houses, can’t live our lives. But it’s a fear that constantly lurks in the back of our minds. Anytime we’re attending a large event. Anytime we’re walking past an upset man in a parking lot. Anytime we’re in the grocery store.
Or is that just me?
And today is one day after another shooting – the details still coming in, the facts slowly trickling out. A neighbor dead. An elementary school one of many stops. A semi-automatic rifle. Do we get to call it a mass shooting yet? What’s the definition on that, again? Is this official terrorism, or just another terrorizing event?
I’m lucky enough that I grew up around safe gun practices. Guns were properly locked away in proper gun safes. Guns weren’t toys. If you went shooting, you were taught how to properly clean the guns, properly carry them, properly use them. Guns came with a lot of responsibility. That was never forgotten.
I’m lucky enough that I have not been an eye witness to any horrors involving guns – but I have too many friends who have. I have friends who had shootings at their high school. Friends whose colleges went on lockdown. Friends who were in Vegas a few weeks ago.
Is it sad this makes me lucky? I personally haven’t been directly affected; only one degree of separation from gun violence. But in America today, that is lucky. In America today, that’s about as lucky as you can get.
WE ALL BELIEVE IN GUN CONTROL. Can we let that sink in? Can we accept it? We all believe a mentally ill person shouldn’t have access to an assault rifle. We all believe a 5 year old shouldn’t have access to an assault rifle. We all believe someone convinced of a violent crime still on probation shouldn’t have access to an assault rifle. The question isn’t IF gun control; the question is how much.
And yet we’ve allowed this to become a partisan issue, which in 2017 is synonymous with impossible to even have a conversation about. One side is hopelessly shouting gun control and the other side has been taught to believe that means zero guns, and we’re all shouting into the wind. (Similar to how one side yells pro choice and the other side yells murder. One side yells reform and the other yells red tape. One side yells taxes and the other yells handouts. One side – you get it.)
Guns should not be a partisan issue. Our safety should not be a partisan issue. When Americans are twenty five times more likely to get murdered by a gun than any other industrialized country – fixing that should not be a partisan issue. Fixing that should be the top concern of every citizen and especially every politician.
We’ve been taught to believe that “thoughts and prayers” are wrong. We’ve been taught to scoff at these remarks that follow shooting after shooting – scoff that they don’t do anything, scoff that they are empty words. We’ve been taught to distrust people who want to offer words that sound pretty at the time but don’t actually have any action to back up these beliefs.
We’ve also been taught to believe calls for legislation and action are wrong. We’ve been taught that it’s too soon to politicize someone’s pain, it’s too soon to discuss voting and laws and change when people are still mourning. We’ve been taught theres a right way and a wrong way to go about reacting to a shooting – and the wrong way involves calling for legislative change anytime between 24 hours – 2 months after the news breaks.
I’m so, so, so sick of the us versus them mentality that has penetrated our culture at the deepest parts. Forget refugees and immigrants for a moment (just a moment, though; they really need our attention) – we’ve been taught this about our brothers and sisters. We’ve been taught this about our neighbor across the street or our co-worker across the hall or our relative across the political line. If someone disagrees with us, if someone sees the world slightly different than we do – that makes them a them. We only want to deal with people who are 100% on our team – that makes people part of the us.
We kick people out of groups and leave churches over this mentality. We dissolve friendships and we end partnerships. We spend so much time deciding who is in and who is out that we forget to have conversations with people. We forget that people are people. We forget that we’re all in this life thing together, and most of us are just trying to do our best.
I’m convinced you see people’s ugliest sides when you discuss guns, abortion, and immigration. Or maybe that’s just another gift 2017 has brought. I’m grieved because these are important issues we need to talk about. TALK about. But somehow we’ve forgotten how.
The problem is, with a new mass shooting literally weekly (depending on your definition of mass), with shootings happening every. single. day. (93 Americans are killed by guns daily) – we don’t get a chance to mourn. We don’t have time to grieve. We don’t let any of this fully sink in, because a fresh new horror is waiting for us in the next news cycle. I can be praying for change and lobbying for change, but three days later we forget it even happened. Four days later we start all over again, with a new shooting. For such a smart, industrialized nation – we have a short attention span.
I’m praying for action and I’m thinking about legislation. I don’t understand, really, how you can do anything but.