Heartsick: A Reflection on Gun Violence in America

Heartsick: A Reflection on Gun Violence in America
Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Two mass shootings in less than two days.


I am heartsick.

My smile belies the pit in my stomach as I look at my 9-year-old daughter frolicking in the water. I am safe in the knowledge that those I love most in the world are all within my immediate purview.

“I’m going out to sea,” she calls to me as she pushes herself away from our little boat with her legs. I take a mental picture, snapchatting with my future self.

Earlier that morning, my son walked down the stairs while my husband and I were talking.

“There was another shooting,” I was saying.

“I know,” my husband’s response.

“Overnight,” I said.

“What? Overnight? Another mass shooting?” he asked in disbelief, emphasis on the word ‘mass.’

“Nine dead” was my reply.

My son: “What’s going on?”

Always curious.

There’s that split second when you think, should we tell him? I like both my kids to be informed about what’s happening in the world around them, but I don’t want them to be terrified, to be permanently heartsick.

Like me.

I decide against telling him. Instead I say, “America needs a reboot.”

“I know that,” he says. Then he walks out of the house to put something in the car that sits safely in our driveway.

Back on the lake, I watch my kids’ every move like a hawk as they swim in the murky water.

“Don’t get too close to the propeller.”

“There’s another boat coming. Stay near.”

“Don’t let the water go up your nose.” (Just in case this warm, fresh body of water provides a nice home to Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba I’m currently obsessed with.)

But what happens when they’re out there somewhere? At a shopping mall? At a family-friendly festival? At a concert?

My worries expose my privilege.

I’m not Chantel Grant or Andrea Stoudemire. Moms who devoted themselves to ending gun violence in their Chicago neighborhood. Moms who were devoted to the safety of their children. Moms who were gunned down on the corner where they volunteered, distributing food and watching over children at play. Now their children will grow up without mothers. As if their children’s lives weren’t going to be difficult enough, growing up African-American and poor in a country that began betraying them long before they were born.

I started out this essay saying there were two shootings in as many days. But there were more. In Chicago, Mt. Sinai Hospital had to shut down its Emergency Department because it was overwhelmed with gunshot victims.

Who wins? Who profits from the deaths of innocent people? The NRA (the National Rifle Association), the main lobbying effort of the personal firearms industry. More violence means more scared people. More scared people means more gun sales. More money for manufacturers, more money for the NRA, more money for Republican politicians, more deregulation of our well-regulated militia, more money, more money, more money. 

So take a mental picture, to snapchat with your future self about the way things were in 2019 and the way things could be…

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

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