As I hugged my six-year-old daughter and watched her walk into school this morning to her kindergarten room, her hooded little head bobbing up and down, I said a quick prayer that she comes home safe, but I realized quickly that prayer won’t help and that school shootings should tell us that we are all just fish in a barrel.
I have an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card in my wallet. It won’t stop a bullet from a madman’s AR-15. Instead, I recognize that I could be sitting in my neighborhood Starbucks sipping a coffee and fall prey to a lunatic who felt slighted by something and chose to take it out on strangers. I get shot for no reason. Wrong place, wrong time.
I could be on the elliptical machine in my local gym, listening to my favorite Jason Isbell record, when an American gun owner walks in and starts spraying semi-automatic weapons fire. He decided to do this because he can’t get a date from the fantasy girl who he “loves,” but who realizes he is a madman. Again, I get shot for no reason. Again, wrong place, wrong time.
No one should think that becoming a victim of a mass shooting can’t happen to them or, more tragically, to their children. It can happen to any of us at any time at any place. This is America for heaven’s sake, the place where people have twisted an Amendment to the Constitution intended to insure defense for our citizens into the right for anyone – mentally ill or otherwise – to own and shoot assault weapons.
I struggle with the gnawing feeling in my gut that won’t go away, but rather subsides until the next Las Vegas, or Texas, or Parkland, Florida shooter decides to make his “I’m a white terrorist who can’t cope with society” statement. I struggle with living in a country that was recently described as “a soul-crushing wasteland.” Any place where lawmakers do nothing to protect children from being torn apart by bullets fired from high-powered weapons has lost its soul.
There are people who should give us hope and inspiration that things may get better. The high school students in Parkland who look into a camera hours after their classmates were shot and express their demands that legislators take action on gun control inspire me. Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, who grew up in the Parkland area and spoke eloquently at the vigil there inspires me.
Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who herself was shot in the head by a gun-toting madman with a beef about something stupid, inspires me. She’s been in Congress and is well aware of what can and can’t be accomplished. After the latest school shooting, she said this week:
Defenders of the status quo – advocates of the gun industry and the politicians paid to defend it – will tell you that events like these are virtual acts of nature, products of mental illness or bad parenting, beyond our ability to control. This couldn’t be further from the truth … Every day we fail to take action, chose this fate. We tolerate politicians who fail to acknowledge this crisis and vote against our safety. We let our gun violence epidemic continue day after deadly day.
No one is more credible on this topic than Ms. Giffords. No one knows her subject matter, from a sad and painful variety of perspectives, than she does. I will hope that our elected officials take note of her message and take action in response.
Hope, however, will not save us. Instead, I will go on with my life and watch my back. Too many incidents have made me feel that we are all just fish in a barrel waiting for our calling.
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