Two weeks ago, in newspapers across the country, you likely came across a story citing the 10, 20, or 40 people shot in Chicago over the course of a weekend.
Savage thugs, you probably thought, thanking God for the money, resources, and opportunity to secure a life for your family far away from those types of problems.
As you sipped your morning cup o’ Joe, you likely contemplated the things that would make such people do such heinous things. That fleeting moment passed, then back to the New York Times or Red Eye crossword puzzle you likely went. As quickly as it entered your head, the topic of gun violence was temporary erased from your mind.
Then on June 20, 2012, just after midnight, a young man walked into a theater and opened fire on a room of unsuspecting people. By the time his massacre was complete he killed 12 and injured 58 people.
Those of us who are lucky enough to be distant observers of such occurrences feel hopeless, scared, and helpless to change the increasing acts of gun violence against the innocent. We look for something to change: a law, an amendment, sanctions, something. We pray that our leaders, Jesus, Mohamed, or S.E.A.L ‘Team Six’ can save us.
But time after time nothing happens and nothing changes.
I’ve began to wonder if we are looking to the wrong people to help us.
Looking to our political leaders for the will to enact federal gun control laws has proven to be an historical act of futility. The massive political and economic influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a juggernaut of sorts, creating a generation of statesmen who dare not say “gun control” out loud in fear of being politically castrated.
However, now gun violence no longer looks poor and brown and is no longer isolated on the other side of town. Now, we must accept that the profile of those likely to commit gun violence is more elusive than ever – perpetrators can be highly educated, with ivory skin, with a Phi Beta Kappa key. Now, we are forced to accept that gun violence can happen anywhere at any time.
With the acceptance of this evolving context around gun violence, the reality of our entire society’s vulnerability becomes apparent. To accept the prevalence of guns on the merit of profit, corporate interests, goose hunting, or protecting oneself from an occupation by the British army no longer fits what is or should be acceptable in our society. Our country is at war with itself.
I dare to hope that those in the seat of power at the NRA are more than mindless supporters of a draconian school of thought where the answer to all problems is always more guns. I dare to imagine that the leaders of institutions with the power to change our society see themselves and their loved ones in the shoes of those who have been or could be victims of guns violence.
When it becomes apparent that your child, your wife, your mother or father could be a victim of gun violence, I would assume that the lens in which you view the world might change. Yes, you could buy them all guns. But unless they are trained assassins you would never truly know if they would have the courage to use it in a situation such as the one that took place in Aurora, Colorado. And if they were brave enough to pull the trigger, you could never be sure that they wouldn’t miss. And if they missed, how prepared are they to protect themselves after that? I can only imagine that the one thing more frightening then a violent perpetrator is a violent perpetrator who has been shot at. Very quickly the solution of putting more guns in the hands of ‘good people’ becomes complicated.
In a perfect world, the NRA would seize this moment for what it is, a painful snapshot of what our society has become with an overabundant supply of guns, but also a true opportunity to become a part of the dialogue to help make our country safer.