I wrote an article on guns and their place in American life the other day, in the wake of the Colorado tragedy.
And, like a lot of opinion pieces written in the wake of any incomprehensible disaster, it was mostly fired off from the hip. From my hip.
I was so stunned by what had happened in the hours that followed the initial reports that I did what I always do as a writer (and not much of a reporter by any effort or stretch of the imagination) and I tried to come at something I see as an issue from an outside angle, from a radically different position.
But now, as the dust begins to settle a bit and each of us is forced to carry on with our individual lives, I want to revisit the dialogue, as a parent and as an American citizen.
So much of what gets thrown around in any cyber debate these days is the big question of what exactly is the difference between opinion and fact, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to something as powerful as our potential liberties at stake. It’s difficult to separate our ingrained beliefs/opinions from whatever any studies might report.
It’s hard to pluck something out of our hearts and try and reason with it even when lots of other people are telling you that the things you think or ponder are wrong.
And a lot of times the whole thing just sort of crumbles in your fist, like a wet cracker, and you’re left wondering what the hell you’re even arguing about to begin with.
Allow me then, if I may, to redirect my focus and talk guns again.
In my first article, I tried to wrestle with something that often bugs me whenever I hear about some wack-job firing a semi-auto into a crowd, and that’s the whole question of whether or not those kinds of weapons have much use in any civil, or wannabe civil, society other than killing other people.
I missed my mark a little in my first article, I think. I suggested that maybe all of our guns are something to be considered, something to question, but I can see now that as a topic of debate amongst a free people, it was a pretty goofy stick to chuck upon the fire. As a nation, we ain’t giving up all of our guns. No way, no how. And in all honesty, I understand that and pretty much agree with it.
I mentioned in my other piece that I really love turkey hunting. And as it happens, I bought myself a really gorgeous shotgun last year, one that I’d been holding out on for a long time, in hopes that I would ultimately find one for sale, which I finally did. And no, I don’t really want to hand that over, because my time in the turkey woods is something that I hold dear to me, and it’s something that I’d love to share with either of my kids someday should they wanna tag along.
It’s just that as I sat there the other day, trying my best to process the fact that a whole theater full of regular everyday people had been shot up, and as I learned that one of the dead was a little girl only a few years older than my own daughter, I couldn’t even see straight.
I couldn’t even imagine the terror of her final moments. I just couldn’t seem to comprehend any way that her family could ever possibly come to terms with all that had happened.
And as a dad who loves his kids, just like I know that you love yours, I wanted to change it all myself; I wanted to climb up on the whole mountain of American guns and smelt ’em down, like some kind of a Superman… or a Batman… or something.
I wanted to protect my kids with my own fantasy, I guess. In the heat of the moment, I wanted to be God. But God I ain’t, and I think we can all agree on that one.
So, I find myself wondering a bit more rationally today. (Or rationally, in my mind.) There are always going to be those who see any type of debate on gun control as totally irrational from their standpoint and that’s just the way things are. There isn’t much I can do about that. Nor do I desire to.
For the rest of us though, as moms and dads, or even uncles and aunts and cousins and neighbors; as Americans who aren’t quite certain what to think when it comes to gun control, where do we stand?
Where should we stand?
It’s puzzling to begin the discussion about guns and their place in our world because it’s such a wide open topic. And sitting here today, I can state that while I don’t believe that America should or would give up their rifles and shotguns and pistols, I do find myself still struggling with the other side of the story, which is the semi-automatic firearms and the guns in that class, which can do a hell of a lot of damage in very short order.
Do I want those guns out on the streets?
I’m not so sure that I do.
But, then again, I am a turkey hunter and I’d have little use for them unless I simply wanted to obliterate a gobbler and be left looking down at a stain on the leaves instead of a meal for my family. Maybe those weapons serve a higher purpose than occurs to me. If they do, I’d welcome your thoughts on that.
Or, maybe as a nation, we are afraid that giving up even a tiny piece of the firearm pie will result in us being forced to give up more and more of it as the years go by. It seems to me that lots of people tend to think that way when our civil liberties are concerned, and I get that. A wary populous is a people on their toes, so constant vigilance is a good thing for any democracy, in my mind.
Still, I am 40 now, and for me personally, I cannot for the life of me come up with any examples, really, where I feel as if I have ever experienced my own civil liberties intruded upon to a point where it really ruffled my feathers. I’m sure there are many folks who don’t feel that way, but it doesn’t apply to me or to how I look back and view my American experience thus far.
I’m left then, trying to reconcile my own fears for my own kids’ safety, and for all kids in general, out in a world which will someday soon be theirs to live in way more than mine.
I’m left trying to come to a place where I can feel really comfortable with the choices we can make as people/as one nation committed to leaving behind a better land for our children than the one that we inherited from the past.
So, what exactly is the American thing to do?
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