Friday, June 17, 2016

My stance on all of this

While everyone else is sharing their mind about the latest tragedies and how it ignites the issue of gun control in our country and how that translates into some political showdown, my heart aches.

My heart is aching for the victims and their families, and I cannot help but internalize it and think "What if this happened at the school down the block?" "What if I was one of the mom's reading her child's last text from a place they felt safe?" "What if I had to break the news to my child that his friend had fallen victim?" While I hope those remain "What if's" I never ever ever have to answer, I have had to do some soul-searching to figure how I feel about the issues at hand.

That's me on the far right with the braids and awesome flannel after someone killed a deer at Thanksgiving circa 1988. I'm sure we kids had a lot to do with it, especially the one in the pink raincoat (who's former lunchbox is now Mom's gun case).

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of guns. Maybe fan is a strong word, but I don't have anything against them. I've been around guns my entire life, without issue. Born and raised in Arkansas, I joined my dad for pre-dawn hunting trips as a little girl. The opening day of deer season was a school holiday. I won a .22 rifle playing BINGO at my dad's company picnic when I was 10 (which I proudly swapped for a 6-inch black & white TV with AM/FM radio since I already had a .22 -- thankyaverymuch). I won the Annie Oakley award at camp when I was 13. And I can still hold my own shooting clays with the guys. When I first moved to Atlanta and lived in the hood, my roommate landlord kept a pistol at the house - my requirement was that if she felt the need to have a gun in the house that she be OK if I felt the need to use it, and she happily obliged. My mom's a card-carrying member of the NRA - probably the only Methodist pastor who carries her gun in a pink case whose former life was toting my little sister's lunch to elementary school at the local Baptist church. And we've taken shooting lessons together.

That's Pastor Pat at shooting camp.
Don't mess with her.
I am FINE with guns. I respect them. My stance has always been that if you're gonna have a gun, be comfortable with using it. A gun you're scared of using is the most dangerous one. I'm all for responsible gun ownership. Responsible. That's where I think we've gone awry.

While the Annie Oakley side of me loves the thrill of pulling the trigger and hearing the beer can target "ping", the Mom in me cringes when I see my 3 year old run down the hall making blasting noises. It breaks my heart to know that for the past year I've been teaching him "What do we do when you see a gun? Hide. Run and hide." That should not be one of the first lessons I have to teach my son, yet it's one we repeat regularly. As often as "please take your plate to the sink."

I am scared to death. Scared to death that protecting my own kids is out of my hands. We have all the time and energy in the world to argue, but it isn't doing a damned thing.

My three-year-old is obsessed with bad guys and loves "getting" them - whether it's with a light saber or his Karate Kid crane kick or is super powers. But also imaginary guns and water guns. I've seen him running around with water guns playing with his friends, and it thrills me to see him having a good time, but it makes me panic inside to see him take to the trigger so readily. With another little boy on the way, I'm sure there are lots of good guy vs. bad guy bouts to be held on our lawn, but it scares the shit out of me to think I'll soon have two precious boys with an innocent affinity for shooting and blasting and ka-powing. Part of it is boys will be boys, right? I'm one of 3 girls, so I don't really know. I played with Barbies, but I didn't turn out to be a size 0, blonde, have an elevator in my house, or drive a convertible, so I'm sure it'll all be okay, right?

What pains me is the debate that will never end: protect the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Okay, what about the Declaration of Independence...which outlines the right of LIFE first and foremost and pre-dates the Bill of Rights by fifteen years? Which is more important? The right of my child to go to school in a safe place? The right of mine to know he'll come home unscathed by flying bullets? The right of a child to ride his bike down the street free from the risk of gunfire? Or the right of someone to recklessly abuse a man-given right to protect himself? The 2nd Amendment right was for self-protection. When someone walks into a crowded school, theater, night club, or mall and starts randomly picking off bystanders, that's not self-protection. That's not a hunt in the forest providing food for his family. That's evil. And there's far too much evil in this world today to just cross our arms and pout that we have the right to own a gun.

I'm not asking anyone to take away the right to own a gun, but let's use some sense.

  • Need to have a gun? Take a test. Get a permit. 
  • Semi-automatic weapons have no civilian purpose. 
  • Those with significant mental illness have zero business purchasing high-powered life-ending artillery. Let's do something to address the mental illness.
  • Guns are stored in child-friendly homes loaded and unlocked. Could we require insurance policies on the damages guns inflict to encourage responsible ownership?
  • There are very broad limits to the amount of ammunition one can stockpile, much less purchase in a single transaction. Yet we limit the amount of Sudafed one can buy.
We require you to have a license to drive a car, and no, "operating an automobile" is not outlined in the Bill of Rights, but the right of LIFE is unalienable. Which means, according to our forefathers, it can't be taken away. Yet, it too often is. By people who took advantage of the 2nd Amendment and committed a horrendous act. And most always the victims are innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, likely pursuing another inalienable right: the right to pursue happiness. What are we doing to ensure that right isn't taken away?

We require you to be of a certain age to consume alcohol - some might argue that interferes with the right to liberty. So should we open the floodgates and let a bunch of drunk toddlers start shooting high-powered weapons as they drive down the highway?  Heck, those kids deserve to get to do what they want, too. I don't think so.

I have zero problem completing an application or taking a test if I want to purchase a gun. I have nothing to hide. And I'm not paranoid enough to think the government will put me on some watch list or care that it's none of their business. I trust the DOT to pave the streets I drive upon each day. I trust the FAA to regulate the airline I fly and ensure my safety is at the forefront. I trust the Board of Education to educate my child in a safe environment. I trust the FDIC to insure my financial institution. Do I love every decision the government agencies make? Of course not. Do I follow blindly? No. But I know we must do something. I know we can't continue the way we have been and expect change. I know sometimes we have to compromise, and put others ahead of our own selfish wishes. If I have to give up the ability to walk into a Walmart on Tuesday to buy a gun without a due diligence process, so be it.

I don't see this as a black and white issue. I see it as a compromise. You aren't giving up the right to bear arms. You're preserving the right to life. And quality of life. And, just like the "hide when you see a gun" lesson we're teaching our son, we're also teaching him about compromises.