Spoiler Alert: This post relates to a political issue. If you would prefer not to hear what I have to say, please move along. Thanks!
Another mass shooting. Another “quiet loner” armed to the gills and packing a gripe about … something. Another 10 people dead for doing nothing more than existing in particular place and an especially unfortunate time.
After years (YEARS!) watching these tragedies take place, then grumbling to myself, hoping they would stop by the time I had kids (those kids are now 8 and 11), then trying to move on, today I finally did something. It was a small thing, yes, but it’s something you and everyone else around you can do, too. I wrote my U.S. senators. I wrote my U.S. congressman. I told them how I thought they were being pathetic little bitches by letting us know their “thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” then not actually doing anything about the root cause, which is that anyone who is so inclined can get a gun in this country, no matter who they are or what they intend to do with it.
Then I took the letter and posted on Facebook for all my friends to see. I offered every single person who could see it the opportunity to copy and paste that letter and use it to contact their own legislators, warning those who would offer NRA-inspired stupidity to try to counter my arguments that their comments would be deleted. I really didn’t want to hear their shit, because it always goes like this:
“When a drunk driver kills someone with a car, you don’t ban the car.”
“Freedom is expensive. And maybe it’s not for everyone. But you don’t get to decide whether or not it’s for me.”
“It’s a mental health issue.”
“I react to things like this by accepting the reality, even one as heinous as this one, and by making sure that I am never the victim being written about.”
“I still think it’s the attention in the press that causes it. People want to be famous. They want to go out with a bang and drag a bunch of people with them.”
“So, you’d rather your child face a murderer without any chance of resistance than to have said child accidentally injured in crossfire? I dunno… but I’d take 50/50 over 0/100 if it was my kid.”
Those, by the way, are actual direct counter-arguments to a friend’s Facebook post suggesting some sane measure of gun limits to, you know, maybe discourage future mass shootings of people at schools, political rallies, movie theaters and whatnot. Some of them have a hint of nuanced argument – the 2nd Amendment one is valid, because I’m not for banning all guns. Others are little more than automatic repetition of things they’ve heard people say, no different from the “Ma-ma” you’d get when you turned an old-fashioned baby doll on her back.
But, wow. If those are the ways you respond to 10 human beings not on a battlefield or in any confrontational situation being slaughtered, well then, you’re just a fucking asshole. My problem is refraining from telling said people that they are fucking assholes, because that response does not foster a good, productive back-and-forth dialog.
I am, by birth and by upbringing, a product of the American South. And the South is a place where people do indeed love their guns. So when people attack me for being a liberal pansy-ass gun hater, I have the street cred to tell them to screw themselves. I have happily lived among those who own weapons. I have, indeed, fired weapons. I enjoyed it. I understood the “wow, this a powerful destructive extension of my penis” feeling it gives you. And similarly, I have no beef with hunters and sporting shooters. Deer, duck, skeet – shoot it. Go forth and God bless you. Share with me your bounty (not the skeet, though – it’s a little chewy). I’m happy to pick the bird shot out that confit if it means a free wild game entree.
But don’t you ever fucking tell me I’m a lesser American because I care deeply about the safety of the people around me, and because I don’t believe that their safety will be enhanced by having more armed citizens. We’ve got plenty of those, and they really don’t seem to help a bit. As far I’m concerned, every open carry asshole is one big accident waiting to happen. You want better mental health care to limit gun tragedies? Let’s start by giving you, Mr. Glock on His Belt in Target, a quick evaluation of what makes you tick. Something tells that “feelings of emasculation and inadequacy” would be mentioned pretty prominently. News flash: this is not a recipe for optimum mental health.
So if you’re as pissed off about this as I am, I offer you the same thing I offered my Facebook friends: A verbatim copy of the letter I wrote to my two U.S. senators and my congressman. You may copy and paste and modify it to your own personal liking, but if you’re as tired of talking and hearing about this as I am, please do something. I’m making it super easy for you, so even if you’re too lazy to write your own letter and you mostly agree with what I’m saying, all you have to do is fill in a few fields of info on your legislators’ Contact Me page and drop the letter text in.
And really, isn’t it the very least you should do?
Dear [Name of Legislator]:
With the news yesterday of yet another mass shooting, I’d like to take this opportunity to urge you to introduce legislation that will significantly limit the ease with which firearms are available in this country. As a citizen and a parent, I have heard enough lame excuses and waffling from our legislators on why this action can’t be taken and have heard few – if any – recommendations on how it can be effectively addressed. I stand with President Obama in saying your “thoughts and prayers” are no longer sufficient.
It’s time for right-thinking representatives in government to step forward and offer solutions and legislation that will severely limit the availability of handguns, potentially ban or significantly limit who can own military-style rifles and other semi-automatic and automatic weapons, and require in-depth background and criminal checks for those who seek to purchase ANY firearm.
For too long, I and many of your constituents have put up with weak, pathetic excuses for why the United States can’t take serious action to help reduce the rampant gun violence that seems to take place only in this country. Even after Sandy Hook, in which first-grade children were gunned down without mercy, legislative solutions amounted to the sound of crickets in an empty auditorium.
I put the blame for this both on our great national fascination with gun ownership, and also on those elected representatives who don’t have the moral fortitude to stand up to immoral and self-serving special interest groups like the National Rifle Association, which in my mind is focused solely on helping the firearms industry continue to manufacture and sell more guns. Your flaccid response to yesterday’s shooting without any suggestion of how such incidents might be curtailed in the future is an excellent example.
In short, I believe it’s time for you and your fellow legislators to take a moment of introspection, and understand that the greatest threat to the safety of your constituents and our children is not terrorism sponsored by a foreign power – it is our own neighbors, armed to the teeth and ready to slaughter large numbers of random individuals at the drop of a hat. Guns are tools that allow them to readily and easily do so. They were built to kill – there is no other use for them. And therefore the ability for nearly anyone to acquire one – or five, or a dozen – is unacceptable.
I look forward to seeing a more substantial response to this crisis soon. If not, I’ll be among those who work hard to ensure the next occupant of your [Congressional/Senate] seat is one who understands the firearms crisis this nation faces and is willing to take action against it.