I’ve written and rewritten and deleted and added and tweaked this to death – and the fact is, it will never be quite right. So here’s what you get. It’s not perfect, but it’s honest, and a lot shorter than it could have been.
Look, I’m from Texas.
What that means in reference to guns is that I have friends who have concealed carry licenses, I grew up with deer heads on my grandparents’ walls, and I actually taught 6 year-old children how to shoot .22 rifles at YMCA camp.
So, it’s not that I fear what I don’t know. It’s that I fear what I do know. I fear what I grew up with – not the guns that people use to hunt or protect themselves, but the guns people use to express their own rage, fear, and power (or lack thereof).
- In 1999, I was 11 years old when two high schoolers murdered 12 of their peers and one teacher, in addition to wounding 23 other people at Columbine High School. I decided that I would never own a gun, a promise I’ve so far kept to 11 year-old me.
- In 2007, I was a PA and undergrad at the University of Missouri when a mentally-ill student killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. Upon hearing that the second person murdered at Virginia Tech was an RA (my non-Mizzou equivalent), I had nightmares – not about dying, but about not being able to protect my residents.
- In 2012, I was in my 4th year as a middle school teacher when a 20 year-od murdered 28 people – 20 of them children – in Newtown, making it the second-deadliest school shooting. I knew I would have done exactly what Victoria Soto did and protected my students no matter what – even if they were much older.
- Also in 2012, a gunman killed 12 people and injured an additional 58 in a movie theater, giving me one more reason to be constantly aware of my surroundings, no matter where I am or what I’m doing…
Let’s not even mention that I can name 13 books*** off the top of my head about real or imagined gun violence.
I think every job I’ve had has been in a high-risk environment. Based on my experiences growing up, and considering that I’ve always worked in education in some way, can you blame me?
Honestly, at this point, my psyche has modified an old adage:
Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and getting shot in a rampage.
This is why Code Red drills in my classroom get serious fast. The moment one of my students plays around instead of following procedure, I very sternly explain to them that they’re essentially saying they don’t care if I die – because if they did that in real life, and someone decides to come into our classroom with a weapon, I’m going to be the first one to die. Period. That’s what I’ve signed up for, because if someone wants to hurt one of my babies, they’re going to have to go through me first, and they probably will.
My freshmen babies are always silent after that.
Yes, I know, it sounds dramatic. But to me, it’s a very real possibility – dramatic or not. It’s so real to me that when I was condensing my teacher space to allow more room for student activities, etc., I got rid of the 1950s desk with drawers because it would be too heavy and too short for us to easily upend and fully block the door with in an emergency.
Seriously. That’s why I kept a long and wide table instead.
On Wikipedia, the lists of school-related attacks around the world has been broken down into primary, secondary, and higher-ed.
There are so many there can be three lists.
And that’s just schools.
Gun violence certainly doesn’t stop at schools; these attacks just get a lot of media attention because children are involved. During the Democrats’ filibuster this week, 48 people were shot – in just those 15 hours. But so far, the media attention hasn’t been enough to bring any change.
In 1996, a man in Dunbar, Scotland, entered a primary school with four guns and killed 16 children and one pregnant teacher, as well as injured 15 other people before killing himself. By 1997, the legislature had responded by banning handguns in Scotland.
What did we do when just three years later, Columbine happened? Nothing. Our legislature did nothing, and continued that trend for the next 17 years.
Maybe Orlando will change this.
Last Saturday night, 49 people thought they would go out, relax, and have a good time at a nightclub, assumedly deciding that the hangover the next morning would be worth it. I wish that had been the worst outcome
Do I believe these acts were driven by hatred and fear toward the LGBT community?
Absolutely. And that’s terrifying in a completely different way. Change is desperately needed here, too. But here’s the thing on that front – we’re actually making progress as a nation.
Is it enough progress? Hell no. But it’s got forward momentum. Things have changed for the better since I was younger in regards to rights, acceptance, and recognition for the community.
The opposite is true of gun control.
Let me be clear: I’m not of the opinion that we should completely outlaw guns.
Do I like them? No, no I pretty much hate them. But then, I also hate ice cream, and you don’t see me trying to take away your right to enjoy it.
All I want, and what I think we as a nation deserve, is a stricter control over who can and cannot purchase firearms in this country. Maybe even what type of firearms (I know, I know, liberal alert – watch out).
What I don’t want is to read another story in a couple of years about the new “deadliest US mass shooting.”
We can do better than this.
***Here are the 13 books, in order of my personal preference: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick; Columbine by Dave Cullen; Violent Ends (story collection); How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon; This is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp; Why Kids Kill by Peter Langman; Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan; All American Boys by Jason Reynolds; Hate List by Jennifer Brown; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult; If I Grow Up and Give a Boy a Gun – both by Todd Strasser.