How do you write about something that’s on television 24/7 and about which viewers are already muttering “Enough, already! We’ve seen it! It’s horrible! We have to move on!”?
I think you point to something so clear and obvious that it’s inarguable.
But not right away.
When I was twelve, I was given a twenty-two caliber target rifle. I had learned to shoot at summer camp, and I was pretty good, achieving sharpshooter status with four bars. Of course, in order to do this, I became a dues paying member of the N.R.A.
One of my friends and I would hop on our bikes on Saturdays, carrying a packed lunch, and peddle out toward a state park with our rifles slung over our shoulders, and pockets full of .22 longs and .22 birdshot. This was a perfectly normal way to spend a bright sunny summer’s afternoon. We also had fishing rods with us just in case we got bored shooting at birds which invariably disappeared and if they hadn’t, what would we have done with them, anyway?
But we were all proud at that age to have moved up from Red Ryder BB guns to .22’s. Rites of passage.
By the following year, we had other things to do. Baseball, and hiking, and maybe cutting lawns. Our .22’s were closet-bound, and we hardly ever remembered even owning them.
And so summer Midwestern life continued, and as we grew, eventually we gave away our own .22’s or lost them in moves, or let them rust in disrepair…shooting was always more fun than cleaning and oiling and adjusting sights.
Then we were away at school, and until a mass shooting in Texas, for example, interrupted our happiest days, we hardly gave a thought to guns.
Now we think about them all the time. Should we ourselves arm once more against shadows in the night? Is self-protection justifiable in terms of gathering an arsenal? If we’re not actual hunters, seeking deer and boar and turkeys and even bigger game, do we need to have weapons in the house? Weapons about which we’ve been told are more dangerous to us than to intruders in the night?
Statistics become meaningless when there are as many firearms as people in our country. Accepting the current incantations about the Second Amendment, what more do we need to do? As we watch and hear about “carrying laws” throughout the country, of course we’re astounded but no longer to such a degree. The apocalyptic warnings that accompany each state’s granting of these “rights” have not brought mass death and destruction.
And while we firmly do not believe in “bad apples” as opposed to the opportunity for mayhem, our country is weighted down now with matters that seem far more pressing: the budget, the debt ceiling, jobs and the lack thereof, the general state of the economy, the do-nothing and ignore-everything Congress. Besides, it’s Christmas-time.
Thank you for waiting. So — here’s the obvious.
Without people, without real live human beings to worry over our national problems, what is any of us doing here?
When children can be eliminated in wholesale madness, we lose just that many people who could have benefited us all in later years solving the big problems. And we lose their children, and their brain power, and their sentiment, and their patriotism.
Annually we lose thirty thousand souls to gun violence, and these losses are mortal, to the United States of America and what it wants to do, and dreams of being able to do.
We gain, and this I think is small recompense, thousands of families determined to stop the expansion of gun rights and assault rifles.
We lose hope. We understand frustration and unreason. We realize that gun advocates – whether for simple hunting pleasures, target shooting, nefarious deeds – are as tone-deaf as our Houses of Congress.
What we are left with is grief. Unquenchable grief and anger and disbelief.
And still nothing changes.