Friday, October 9, 2015

Time to Talk about Guns

Photo courtesy of rbayak,
Please don't shoot me!

In 2012, 986 mass shootings ago, I wrote these words: “”In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.” 

Now it’s time to talk about guns.

In the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting, I had the unenviable task of appearing on CNN to defend the shooter’s mother, Laurel Harper, for sharing an entirely legal interest in firearms with her son.

Legal, but stupid.

Should Harper be blamed for her son’s actions? Of course not. Millions of parents share an interest in guns with their children. Harper did not have a crystal ball that could predict her son would become a mass shooter; in fact, it could be argued that mothers are the worst people to ask about their children’s weaknesses, because we prefer to focus, like Harper did, on our children’s strengths. Harper, who is grieving the loss of her son, the tenth victim of the shooting, couldn’t predict a mass shooting any better than anyone else can.

But was Harper irresponsible in how she owned and stored her guns? The clear answer is yes. Not because her son had a mental illness. Because all parents who own and store guns in their homes are irresponsible, regardless of whether anyone in the family has a mental illness.

What causes mass shootings? The same thing that causes 61% of all deaths by gun violence (suicides): easy access to guns. If no one in your family has suffered the negative effects of gun ownership, it’s not because you are a “responsible gun owner.” You are just lucky.

The research on guns and gun ownership is clear. Having firearms in your home makes everyone who lives there more likely to be a victim of gun violence, period. That’s irresponsible parenting.

In the wake of other clear public health risks, Americans have acted rationally. For example, seat belts save lives, so we pass laws that require car drivers to buckle up, and accident-related deaths go down.

But guns? Pry them from our cold, dead fingers.

I live in Idaho, a state where the Second Amendment is revered only slightly less than the Bible. I have enjoyed shooting as a sport; in fact, my brothers taught marksmanship at Boy Scout camps for years. I also enjoy hunting, and many of my friends provide food for their families by heading to the hills with their .22s each October.

But as I’ve learned more about the risks of storing guns in the home, my views on gun control have evolved.

I've avoided talking publicly about guns for this simple reason: I am afraid one of my Second Amendment-worshipping, gun-toting neighbors will shoot me. As I wrote this essay, my husband, reading over my shoulder, said, “Let’s update our wills before you publish.”

But our fear speaks volumes about why we need to talk about guns. In fact, we all are afraid—to go to the store, to the movie theater, to school. It’s time to face that fear head on and do something about it.

I believe that Americans should be allowed to own any type of gun they want to—as long as they are stored in locked cases at gun clubs. Want to shoot a semiautomatic and feel like an action movie hero? Knock yourself out—at the gun club. Want to take your kids hunting for the weekend? Check out your hunting rifles—from the gun club.

If Adam and Nancy Lanza had bonded over guns at a club instead of at home, 20 children would likely be enjoying fourth grade this fall. If Laurel Harper and Chris Mercer had bonded over guns at a club instead of at home, 10 people would likely still be alive today and turning in their midterm writing assignments. If guns were stored at a gun club instead of at home, more than 19,000 people who died by suicide in a single year might have had a chance to get the mental healthcare they desperately needed.

Our Founding Fathers were reasonable men. They surely never imagined a country where an amendment designed to keep the British from invading, at a time when guns could only fire one shot at a time with questionable accuracy, would lead to weekly mass shootings of innocent citizens.

I hope that Laurel Harper will join moms across America in demanding action from Congress on gun control. I’m one of those moms. Please don’t shoot me.


Arlee Bird said...

I thought you did a fine job on the CNN interview.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

A said...

Ms. Harper-Mercer's level of stupidity was astounding. When I was a Mad teen and started feeling suicidal/homicidal, my mom got rid of the guns behind my back while I was out of town. Our home was a gun-free-zone when I got back home and it remained that way until I decided that I could safely own a gun. That day came over a decade after my mom disarmed our family and right now I own 1 gun, not 13-and-counting. It angers me that everybody blames the isolated, and bullied whose parents either enable, abandon, or ignore him. Why couldn't Chris Harper-Mercer talk with his parents about his feelings the way I did. Why didn't Chris's dad spend more time with him? Why do we create a society that gives poor, disabled, and uneducated men no opportunity *besides* gun ownership to feel like men? Mad people shouldn't have to take the heat for the Harper-Mercer's failures as parents or for America's societal failures. Millions of Mad people are safe, licensed, and law-abiding gun owners. Our Second Amendment rights shouldn't be taken from us when we've done nothing to break the law.

A said...

"I am afraid one of my Second-Amendmen worshipping, gun-toting neighbors will shoot me." Hahaha! It sounds funny from behind a computer screen, but in real space there's an excellent possibility of something like that happening to any serious contender in the fight for gun control. You've stuck your neck out there and I applaud you for that, but be sure to watch your back.

Rubye Jack said...

Sorry but I really don't think the second amendment is much of a defense for guns. Regardless, I used to be in favor of gun control but with the proliferation of guns in this country, I really think it's kind of late for gun control. And, I don't really think gun control is an answer to all the shootings that keep occurring. When I was a kid, my father kept guns in the house and would only bring them into the house for cleaning. He kept them locked up in our garage. As kids we could have gotten to the guns if we'd really wanted to but the thing is we would never ever have thought such a thought.

I see the answer as simple. Take care of the mentally ill. Sane people don't go out and shoot and murder kids. In my opinion, this country has been a mess since Reagan closed down the mental hospitals and left the insane to their own devices. Most families can't afford mental health care for their children since most insurances only cover maybe five EAP visits; if that. I think both sides can agree that we need to take care of our mentally ill. At the same time, no one wants to be part of paying the cost. So what do we have in a country that can't afford or doesn't want to pay more taxes? Mayhem it seems.

A said...

And this country wasn't a mess when Mad people could be incarcerated in snake pits and forced-drugged until psychiatry killed them off? Mad people take offense to being called "insane". That word is neither a diagnosis nor it is used by Mad people to name or describe their lives experience. And the hospitals weren't closed by Reagan. Mad people fought for and won our civil rights in the district, circuit, and Supreme Courts throughout the seventies. Families were the people most responsible for the incarceration of Mad people in asylums and if they could get away with it, they'd turn back the clock and throw us away once again. To your misfortune, that ship has sailed. Mad people will never let that families, the law, or psychiatry ever commit that atrocity on us again.

Unknown said...

We need an organization like MADD. MAGNUM perhaps: Mothers Against Gun Nut Madness.

halojones-fan said...

If you'd said "I'm scared to write about how black people are involved in more crime than white people, because I'm worried that a black person will target me for criminal acts", you'd be pilloried for racism.

But "I think some random gun owner will murder me if I say something about gun control" you just toss off without a second thought.