Let’s Talk About Guns

So, here goes. Let’s talk about the yet-another-school shooting. It’s taken me some time. The world feels heavy and dark in these days. To be honest, I have been heavy and dark these days. And every day, when I stroke my son’s cheek to wake him up for school, or hug my daughter goodbye as she goes to catch the bus, my breath catches in my throat for a minute, and I have to remind myself to keep moving. To let them go. I can’t keep them safe forever. I have to move through this life and trust my very essence will not be destroyed. 


So let’s talk about guns. And mental illness. And fucking social media.


Sit down. Grab your wine or your coffee or whatever your Friday night vice. Shit’s about to get real. And as you can already tell, I’m in a cursing mood. Be warned. And please don’t bother complaining. You know who I am by now. There’s no use pretending I’m someone I’m not.


I see a lot of stuff on social media. I see stuff about congress. I see stuff about the NRA. I see stuff about social media and I see stuff about guns. Let’s break this down a little.


There are a lot of people who truly believe that mental illness is behind mass  shootings. I don’t disagree. If the desire to take out as many people as possible is not yet in the DSM-5, it should be. It absolutely should be. I think you do need to be mentally ill to desire the destruction and murder of large amounts of people who have nothing to do with you — especially children.


I know people worry that the association of these murderers with the mentally ill will create a stigma for all mentally ill people. I disagree, but I am also very sensitive to this concern. I am smart enough to know that not everyone who is mentally ill is going to shoot up a school. I also know that our country has failed people struggling with mental illness, because we don’t talk about it openly. If we did, people struggling with things like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, PTSD or post-partum would not be ignored or hidden away. And the people who love them would not be afraid to get them help. The people who love them would not feel ashamed, as if there is a secret to keep. They could get help for their loved ones, just like they might do if their loved one had cancer, or a broken leg, or blood gushing from their head. They would get help.


So yes, school shootings are about mental illness.


But don’t you DARE tell me this isn’t also about guns.


Don’t you dare tell me that “this isn’t about inanimate objects — it’s about how our country has failed to legislate mental illness.”


Don’t you dare tell me that “In a DUI, we blame the driver, in a bombing, we blame the bomber, but in a shooting, we blame the gun?” as if you don’t know what we’re talking about when those of us who want better gun control say so. Don’t you dare. Don’t feign that kind of ignorance. It’s unbecoming of you. And quite frankly, it’s disgusting. 


If you are a law abiding gun owner, I have no problem with you. And you should have no problem with submitting to a thorough, federal background check and psychological testing. You should have no problem being told that you don’t get to have an AR-15 just because you feel like it. What do you need it for, if you’re not planning on killing a whole bunch of people?


As a gun owner, you have asked Americans time and again to give up our rights to safety so you can have the pleasure of your guns. What are YOU willing to give up to keep our children safe? The time it takes to fill out a form and wait a few days? The inconvenience of some additional personal information being collected about you, when you want to acquire a deadly weapon? Is that too much to ask of you, in order to keep children safe? 


Don’t you dare tell me that mental illness is to blame for mass shootings, and then refuse to allow the government to require psychological testing before a person can own a gun, and THEN feign innocence and ignorance and yes, even outrage when someone even remotely suggests that guns might be a problem here. You can’t have it both ways. Stop sharing your fucking memes and think for hot second. 


And for the Christians among us…I ask you this: remember the garden? Peter and the ear? And Jesus? Before you go running to write your next check to NRA, let’s take a look at what being a follower of Jesus really means. Because I’d really like you to explain to me what Jesus would say about you giving those funds to the NRA as opposed to, say, I dunno….psychological help for orphans. But I’ll get to that in a minute.


And listen — I’m not saying outrage isn’t an appropriate response. I am fucking outraged. I believe God is outraged, too.


We’re all quick to call the guy who did this scum. We’re all so quick to say we should hang him up by his toenails! Give me a minute alone with the mofo…Let him rot in hell. 


The truth about him, though?


He is a child, like the children he killed.


He is an orphan. (You know…like the ones the Bible says we’re supposed to take care of?) In fact, he is an orphan, twice. He was an orphan (whether by circumstance or by choice I do not know) and then he was orphaned when both of his adopted parents died, too.


He is mentally ill (for my definition of mental illness, see above).


He was allowed to own a gun.


Don’t tell me this isn’t about gun control. Don’t tell me this isn’t about how we treat the least of these.


Don’t tell me this isn’t FUBARed beyond belief.


I hold the NRA ultimately responsible for this. As the primary body that represents gun owners, this organization has done NOTHING to promote safe gun ownership in this country. They have blocked every attempt at rational, common-sense gun laws that don’t want to take away the rights of law abiding citizens to own guns, but want to work to keep guns out of the hands of people who are known abusers, the mentally ill and potentially violent, known criminals.


My dad is a former cop and was a hunter. I literally played with empty shotgun shells as a child growing up, and one of the highlights of my childhood was when my father would take me to the local turkey shoot, stand behind me and help me shoot a gun at a target. While I have no desire now to shoot or own a gun, I get it.


But I also get why it’s important now for gun owners to own the responsibility of life or death that they literally hold in their hands every time they pick up their shiny toy. For our children, it’s time to own your responsibility.


And if that means you’re inconvenienced a little bit while pursuing your hobby? Well you know what? Respectfully, I don’t give a shit.

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