The first time I wrote about kids and guns in this space was in 2012 after the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater. I still remember when I heard about it -- first thing in the morning, like most people on the East Coast who had gone to bed before the late night attack -- and thinking of all the movies I've watched in the theater in my life without incident, imagining what that level of horror must have been like for the victims. I also remember exactly where I was where I heard about several other shootings: Columbine, when I was a junior in high school and my mother was a high school teacher, and I was more fearful for her than for myself. Sandy Hook, when I almost tweeted out a stupid joke before realizing that something unfathomable had just happened, and later cried my way through dozens of pertinent submissions for my silly blog.
I remember where I was when the planes hit the Twin Towers, of course. I can conjure up the confusion and fear I felt then, but it was actually nothing like the fear and sadness I feel today when I turn on my television or open my laptop and expect to read about another mass shooting in a mall, on a playground, or at another school. The near-promise of "global terrorism" in America after 9/11 managed to scare people into quietly taking off their shoes in airports, and yet the ACTUAL promise that we will continue to experience domestic terror on a truly frightening scale only leads to more Second Amendment rhetoric and pro-gun galvanizing. It's gotten so bad that the common local response to the worst shooting rampage in Roseburg, Oregon's history (America's latest mass shooting du jour) is to get more guns and not to tighten restrictions on gun sales, to the point that some residents didn't even want President Obama to come to their state. They don't need his "progressive legislation"; they just need more goddamn ammo!
This "guns are our friends" attitude has left many Americans feeling very tired. How many people need to die at the hands of domestic terrorists before we manage to fix the problem? You'd think Congress would've told us all to sit on our hands or they'd turn the car around by now, but instead the issue continues to fracture Americans into two distinct camps of thinking. You're either pro-gun control or you're not. There doesn't seem to be much in-between, much like there's no reversing the irreparable harm that a single bullet can cause.
This week, an 11-year-old "bully" murdered his 8-year-old neighbor when she wouldn't let him play with her puppy (maybe because he's a sadist?) and I also came across a disturbing story from 2013 about a 5-year-old boy accidentally who killed his 2-year-old sister after firing his own weapon, a .22-caliber rifle that he had received as a gift for his birthday. Prior to killing his sister -- a child who wasn't old enough to tie her shoes -- the boy had been, according to CNN, "playing" with his gun. I'm still astonished when I read details like that and they aren't immediately followed up with a description of how the parents have been charged with negligence and the child is being relocated to live with people who don't install gun racks over baby cribs. No, instead we get quotes like the one from the children's grandmother who said, "It was God's will. It was her time to go, I guess." Yes, crazy lady. It was a toddler's time to go be with the Lord, who was complicit in her peaceful death-by-firearm.
These stories touch us all in a very deep way. We wonder if it'll be our loved one who gets randomly murdered in a parking lot by a woman trying to stop a couple of idiots from stealing merchandise from Home Depot (which also occurred this week). We feel shitty when we learn that kids today can't grow up without participating in lockdown drills -- drills that, when I was a kid, were purely preventative and not based on real incidents and real lives that have since been lost in deadly school shootings. It's easy to say there's nothing we can do to stop this culture of violence, but that's actually not true. We can speak out against gun violence, call our local representatives, attend rallies, and get involved. Or, here's a simple way to protest the current climate surrounding gun laws: Don't be pro-gun on Facebook.
Facebook is a petri dish of politics and a mirror of our societal beliefs. It makes sense that pro-gun citizens use it as a tool to promote their views, but it's also heinously disgusting. Parents post pictures of their small children holding guns as though they're holding teddy bears. (Or, in the case of the image above, sleeping with a fake gun designed to look like a real gun literally while the child is cuddling with a teddy bear.) Parents are "badasses" when they express their distrust of government and humanity and their interest in arming to "protect" themselves (by owning a multitude of weapons and purchasing bullets on the internet as swiftly as ordering a box of diapers). They advance the idea that guns should be carried by teachers, administrators, and security guards, regardless of those people's backgrounds or beliefs, because they think you can stop a shooter with a quick draw and some target shooting practice. In short, they're paranoid, delusional, dangerous, and lacking intelligence in a serious way. And I will continue to write about them so long as mass shootings continue to ruin the quality of life in this country.
*Note about this video: Celine is applying her feelings about teachers carrying firearms in schools to a TED Talk given by a kid who's "stoked" on activities like skiing. His hero is a base jumper named Shane McConkey, not a gun-toting psycho like Wayne LaPierre.
If you want to help push forward the gun legislation we so desperately need in the U.S., start on Facebook. Tell your pro-gun friends that the rhetoric they're promoting online is dangerous. Don't be afraid to effect change in small ways. Otherwise, we'll keep seeing pictures like this in our newsfeeds sandwiched between stories about kids getting murdered while they learn in school. If you don't see a connection between those things, there's a decent chance that you're part of the problem.
Let's check out some more examples of the ways gun culture has infiltrated our lives, and the paranoid depths to which some parents will sink in order to supposedly "protect" their families, using Facebook as their primary channel to advertise backwards and often scary agendas.
1. Mamas Protectin' Their Babies
I hate these stupid viral images that float around social media like old party balloons from an NRA convention. It's the complete package that I detest: The notion that the more you love your kids, the more you need a firearm to protect them. The innocent look in the little boy's eyes, and the fact that, despite her head being cut off, you can just imagine the evil look in the mother's eyes as she prepares to off someone for denying her child access to a candy machine. And, of course, the fact that it gives the impression that "mothers are gun-toting rage-a-holics, too." What's up with that trend?
"Where is the LOVE button" isn't exactly the first thing that came to my mind upon seeing this highly stylized photo resembling a movie poster. It's worth noting that the woman in this image is Amanda Collins, who was raped at gunpoint on the campus of the University of Nevada and has since become an activist for concealed carry permits on college campuses. As terrible as her story is, what's crazy is that she believes the solution is to incorporate more guns into the equation. This doesn't "level the playing field" if you're sitting next to someone unstable in class, or you're being assaulted by two men instead of one in an empty parking garage. It's for this reason that the states with the most relaxed gun laws also tend to have higher levels of violent crime.
2. Vigilance In Protecting Our Little Princesses
The person who submitted this summed up better than I could by saying, "I live in Canada... these people are in Canada!! :((((( This makes me so confused. Especially Cheryl! "You guys are so american! Love it!” What is there to love about the way America handles gun ownership?? The irony in saying that she is extra safe with guns around her is too stupid."
You're preaching to the choir, Submitter! The old trope about boys and men protecting their sisters/daughters is as predictable and boring as a sexist Disney movie, and yet people still cling to the stereotype that "girls need protecting" with enthusiasm and smiley faces.
3. The Stroller Holster
Kayla is trying her damndest to convince Mike that having a loaded gun pointed, essentially, at the back of his baby's head while he transports her in a mobile carrier is the stupidest fucking thing anyone could possibly do while Mike is all, "Nah, bitch, you don't know what you're talking about." How many brain cells do you think Valerie, Mike, and Chris have combined? Like four? "I'm any hand I need to be..." sounds like Mike's working with about half-a-brain cell to me. Not to mention, what exactly is he so afraid of? Someone robbing him at gunpoint? Running up and snatching his baby? I hope Mike knows that when I'm walking down the street, it's HIS crazy ass that I'm afraid of. And what's truly "sick" is the nonsensical paranoia that people like Mike indulge in, to the point of being more inclined to shoot his neighbors than he would be to trust them, listen to them, or help them.
4. You Can't Be Too Careful Or Too Paranoid
If Rebekah hadn't called her husband "Rob" then I might've thought she was the wife of Mike, purveyor of The Stroller Holster. What the hell is wrong with Rebekah that she assumes anyone knocking on her door is a criminal? I used to go door-to-door selling the newspaper when I was 22, and I guess I should've just been glad no one chased me off their property with a handgun. Was I REALLY there to sell the paper, or was I just SAYING I was there to sell the paper when I was actually trying to commit violent crimes on unsuspecting suburban homeowners? Don't let someone else tell you what to think; if you ever feel remotely unsafe in your own home, the best thing to do is get irrationally overprotective and squat in the corner of your foyer with your husband's loaded 9mm pistol. Stay there as long as you need to. Yell out, "Get out of here or I'll shoot you in the face, pal!!!!" if you have to. No one knows fierce protection like a deluded mama bear with access to a firearm. TRUST ME.
5. Gangsters Breeding Gangsters
First off, in case Ashley is reading this, I want her to know that it's called a "sepia tone," not a "brown filter." But I'm glad she said that, because it lets us in on the calibre of idiocy we're dealing with here. Daniel and Samantha can't just take a nice photo of their baby all dressed up, because that would be too obvious. A prop like a gun takes this picture to a whole other level. I mean, I hardly even noticed the beautiful foliage in the background because I'm so focused on Samantha's hand on that slick-lookin' deadly weapon! What a gangster, holding her li'l future gangster! You know what they say about babies in America: Their first love is their parents, and their second love is their parents' personal gun collection. Well-done, Daniel and Samantha. You seem like the kind of responsible gun owners who are raising future leaders. "Old Western," my ass. This is America in 2015.