To be honest, I didn’t really have much of an opinion on gun control before the Sandy Hook tragedy. I grew up in a gun-free home and was raised by parents who were seemingly uninterested in weaponry. However, I currently live in the gun-happy state of Missouri, where most of my acquaintances have gone hunting at least once and can rattle off the characteristics of various assault rifles on the spot. The best man in our wedding was an accomplished deer hunter and airsofting enthusiast. The maintenance man at our apartment complex has a bumper sticker that says “Gods, Guns and Guts: Let’s Keep All Three.” That’s what it’s like here.
Before I got pregnant, I tried to get into the sport of airsofting. If you don’t know, an airsoft gun fires plastic pellets and are very realistic replicas of actual guns. The facility where we played was an indoor maze, where you team up in order to shoot the opposing players. When you’re shot, you return to your home base, press a button, and re-enter the game. Whichever team has the most “kills” over a 15 minute span wins.
My husband has two G36 rifles and a Baretta replica that we used. All three now reside in our outdoor storage closet. I have no desire to play again, but during the brief period in which I did play, I started to understand the sort of chest-puffery that ensues from handling a gun. A piece of me really wanted to prove that, despite my vagina handicap, I could run with the boys, I could be good at this. Turns out, I never was much good at it. I wanted the accolades from the guys more than the expertise at gun handling.
Flash forward two years: I’m the mother of a 1-year-old girl. As of last Friday, 20 children and six adults are dead because of one disturbed young man with a gun. I don’t mean to presume that childfree adults don’t feel remorse over this incident; I mean to say that this massacre has hurt me personally in a way that is far deeper than if I hadn’t been a parent. I get teary-eyed every time I see a flag at half mast. I look at my daughter’s bright smile and crumple at the realization that so many parents are now deprived of their young children’s smiles.
Although there are multiple policy issues on our nation’s tongues, the first thing on my mind after this happened was gun control—specifically the availability of the types of weapons Adam Lanza used on his victims. Before this, I’d been somewhat of the mind that stricter gun laws would just fail society the way prohibition did. I also thought that some people may genuinely need guns for self defense, or even that mass shootings could be prevented at schools if teachers had guns.
But then I read some interesting commentary. Says a commentor on XOJane in response to the “stricter laws will mean only bad guys will have guns,” argument,
“A lot of illegally acquired firearms are actually stolen from ‘law-abiding citizens’ and sold on the black market, so if significantly less people have guns, there will be significantly less guns for sale on the black market and significantly less criminals will have access to them.”
Also, on the likelihood of a responsible gun-owner saving the day:
“Police officers and soldiers go through extensive live-fire and reflex training, have access to powerful and well-maintained weapons, and still end up on the losing end of gun battles on a pretty regular basis. A gun in and of itself is no more a guarantor of safety than a good deadbolt if you ask me.”
I get it now that pro-gun citizens want to own guns in case they need to go all Robin Hood/V for Vendetta/Die Hard on the bad guys. It’s a popular narrative for a reason: everybody fantasizes about being a hero. But this isn’t a movie, this is real life, and the stats just don’t support these fantasies. The stats say, more often than not, that the bad guy wins.
Things like this make me think our culture of violence really may be more to blame than we realize. I grew up without violent video games, without watching a violent movie until I was well into my teens and obviously without having access to weapons used for “sport.” But even I was seduced two years ago by the idea of being a badass chick with a gun. I have no doubt this mentality was sold to me by various movies and the proud attitudes of gun owners in my community.
I don’t have suggestions for policy changes. I’m certainly not a scholar on gun control. Frankly, I didn’t care much about it until this sickening tragedy. I just mean to say it’s time to look at a hero as someone who doesn’t just kill bad guys, but does good things for people who deserve it. It’s time to think of a badass as someone other than a person carrying a firearm. It’s time we work on redefining heroism for our children, and for ourselves. Personally, I’m going to start by getting rid of our airsoft guns.
(photo: Wasan Srisawat / Shutterstock)