A March for Our Lives in March

I went to my first March last Saturday. It wasn’t the one in Washington but there was a local one that I decided I wanted to go to at the last minute. I didn’t have a sign so I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for me to go but I asked about it on Facebook and was assured that marchers without signs were welcome.

The crowd was large and parking was hard to find. People of all ages were there from babies to senior citizens. The bottom of one kid’s sign said “Babies against guns”. The top said “My right to live is above all rights.” His brother’s sign said “NRA go away.”

Other signs carried by children said “I can’t have peanut butter in school but you can have guns?”, “Arms are for hugging”, “School is to get an education not murdered”, “My life is more important than your gun” and “No guns, for safe schools.”

Adolescents and young adults held signs that said Protect kids, not guns, One life is worth more than all the guns on earth” “Students call BS”, and “18th century laws can’t regulate 21st century weapons.”

I took a picture of a “No more school shootings” sign perched atop an empty stroller. A woman commented that it was a good picture and I asked if I could take a picture of her sign, which read “I’m a ballet teacher. Should I carry a gun too?” with a picture of little girls in tu- tus next to a picture of a pink gun. Other signs that commented on the ridiculousness of arming teachers included “Bullets are not school supplies” and “Arm teachers with pencils not guns.”

A middle aged woman held up a sign with a picture of Maria from The Sound of Music that said”The Schools are alive with the sound of bullets.” A woman standing on the remnants of a dirty snow bank held a bright red sign that said “SOS save our schools from gun violence.” A man held up a sign that said “Taught not Shot.”  A woman standing next to him held up a sign that said “Finally a pro-life rally I can attend.” Then there was the woman whose sign had a list of things that were regulated more than guns: Alcohol, Sudafed, lawn darts, Roquefort cheese, Kindereggs, cars, fireworks and her uterus.

Older adults held up signs that said “Guns kill. Period”, “We are the majority”, “Choose life. Tighten gun laws” and “Resist, insist, persist, vote.”

There were signs calling out the NRA. One sign had NRA standing for national recall of arms. Another sign had it standing for no responsibility for arms (or children.)  There was a sign that said Ditch NRA or ditch office, a sign that said NRA, let go of my country  and a sign that said “The NRA can kiss my ass. Your blood money ends now. ” The most darkly funny sign said “Who’s afraid of the NRA? with the NRA as the big bad wolf and Donald Trump, Mitch Mcconnell and Paul Ryan as the three little pigs.

There were several signs pointing out that what we need is action and change, not thoughts and prayers. There were signs that stressed the importance of voting.  A woman wearing a shirt with the word Change beneath Obama’s picture was carrying a sign that said “I demand gun control and I vote!” I saw a sign laying on a table that said “We’re with the teens.  Get out and vote!” There was a sign that simply said “Vote, vote, vote” over and over again.

Some signs kept their messages simple but powerful.  There was a sign that said Disarm Hate.  There were signs that consisted of one word : Enough.

Another one-word sign simply said Love. And in the midst of all the anger and indignation at that rally there was a lot of love. People hugged, held hands, draped their arms around each other, carried one another on their backs.

There were signs that listed the names of the Parkland victims and signs that displayed the pictures of the Parkland survivors who are acting as advocates for gun control. While I was participating in a local march, those survivors were participating in the national march in Washington D.C. where they gave moving and eloquent speeches. They were mostly lauded for their bravery but some rabid defenders of the second amendment had a real problem with them exercising their first amendment rights.  I never would have thought anyone would have a problem with survivors of a horrific tragedy taking action to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, much less target those survivors in a cruel manner but these are interesting times we’re living in.

In addition to the signs, there were also powerful speakers at this rally. One young man described his terrifying experience as a student in a school that had an active shooter.  He sat huddled under a desk wondering if he was going to die. He pointed out that the shooter was not a bullied social outcast as the media stereotype would have you believe. Another young man discussed an aspect of gun violence that doesn’t get as much media attention: suicide. He described a friend of his who died of suicide by gun. He argued that although it’s commonly believed that people who commit suicide want to die, the truth is most of them don’t want to die. It is an impulsive act of desperation, as evidenced by the fact that most suicide attempt survivors do not try again. I’ve often felt depressed and thought about wanting to die but I’ve never attempted suicide or formulated a plan. I wonder if things would have been different had I had access to a gun.

When the talk became about the politicians who bow to the NRA, the crowd chanted “Vote them out! Vote them out!” Acknowledging that he felt awkward taking the stage amidst those cries, a New Jersey state representative explained that although he owns a gun, he supports gun control laws and will not bow to the NRA. I have no interest in owning or using a gun myself but I appreciate the voice of reasonable gun owners in the gun control debate. I’m annoyed that it’s even a debate to begin with. Gun control just seems like common sense to me and those feelings were obviously shared by a woman carrying a sign that said “Pass common sense gun control laws”. Another sign that sums up my feelings well said “Sensible gun laws!  Save lives. Don’t violate the second amendment. Worth the “hassle”. Arrrrgh.”

As the speaker portion of the march drew to a close we were reminded that we shouldn’t just go home, feel good that we participated in a march and then do nothing else. We need to take other actions as well, such as writing to our representatives and voting in upcoming elections. About a month before the march I wrote a letter to one of my representatives about the gun problem and a few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to get a response, outlining the steps he was taking to address it.

“Do you want to visit your brother? He’s here” my father said as we left the march.  At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I realized we were walking by the cemetery where my stepbrother is buried. My stepbrother did not die of a gunshot wound but he did die tragically and unexpectedly at a young age, as did the kids whose lives were ended by bullets ringing out in the hallways of their schools-in Parkland, in Columbine, in Sandy Hook and in so many other schools throughout our nation. As did those whose lives were ended by guns shot by madmen at a concert in Las Vegas, at a club in Orlando, or at a movie theater in Colorado. As did those who were shot in their church or in their own home by a relative, by a friend, by an enemy or by their own hand. My stepbrother was a victim of another poorly handled and hotly debated epidemic that is sweeping this nation-the opioid epidemic.

Afterwards I discovered that several of my friends also attended the march but I did not see any of them them there, probably because the crowd was so large. Although I could not kid myself in to thinking I had made a big difference in my country’s gun violence problem, I allowed myself to feel good about the fact that I had participated in my local March for Life. It was an energizing, valuable and worthwhile experience. I look forward to my next march.

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Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

“I’m sitting in an undergraduate psychology class when this guy runs in to the room exclaims ‘You gave me a D! Now I’ll never be a psychologist!’  He then draws out a gun, aims it at the professor and the professor falls to the floor. ”

“Oh my god” I say from my desk.

It’s February 12th, 2018 and I’m sitting in a different undergraduate psychology class listening to my professor describe one of her experiences as an undergraduate .

“Then the professor jumps up and says  “Okay, everyone, now I want you to write down what just happened and give a description of the guy who shot me.’ ”

“Would an experiment like that be allowed today?” I ask.

“I certainly wouldn’t do that kind of experiment today, not with all the school shootings we have and guns being everywhere” my professor replies.

Two days later, on February 14th, 2018 I’m doing my readings for that class when I get a text from a friend.

“I see there was yet another shooting, this one in Florida.”

I feel no shock or surprise, just sadness and disgust.

“What part of Florida?’ I ask. I’ve traveled the state of Florida pretty extensively so I can’t help but wonder if this latest shooting happened in an area I’ve been to. Maybe it even happened in a building I’ve walked in front of.

“Parkland in Broward County” my friend replies. The town’s not familiar to me but the county is.

I Google “Florida shooting.”

“20 people injured.  At least it doesn’t say anyone is dead”

“It’s a developing story.  Hopefully they all stay alive” my friend replies.

A few minutes later another text comes through saying “Unfortunately, there are ‘a number of fatalities’. ”

“Happy Valentines Day, America!” I exclaim in to my phone.

“What a loving country. This is at least the eighth school shooting in seven weeks.”

More details from this latest shooting emerge. 17 people were killed. The shooter was a 19-year-old male who had been expelled from the school for fighting. The guns he used were purchased legally. He had a long history of disturbing behavior but the FBI failed to follow up on reports they got about him.

We’ve reached the point where shootings that result in few or no fatalities barely make the news-I couldn’t tell you the details of any of the other school shootings that happened this year-but the Parkland shooting has resulted in enough carnage to get everyone’s attention. It has resulted in a mass outpouring of grief and outrage. At first I try to limit the amount of memes I share on social media advocating for gun control and calling out the corrupt politicians for their complicity in the deaths of children but then I decide to share every last one of them.

When I return to school on Thursday the flag in front of the library is at half mast in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting. It’s a nice gesture but it won’t prevent future shootings. I can’t help but wonder “Is this school next? Will the next school shooting be in the very library this half-mast flag is in front of?” The last school I attended had a shooting in its library.

On Friday night I’m watching a news show. The talk centers around the Parkland shooting. One guest points out that none of the other school shootings have resulted in change so what’s going to be different this time? Another guest points out that’s what different this time is that the child victims of this tragedy are speaking out.

The kids who were in that school are sharing their experiences, staging protests, calling out those who oppose gun control, making their way to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe the outraged voices of those whose lives have been torn apart by our country’s gun epidemic are reaching a crescendo. Maybe they are becoming as loud, as regular, as impossible to ignore as the gunshots that ring out through our school hallways. Maybe they are becoming as threatening and dangerous to the anti-gun control crowd as guns are to this country. Maybe this is another ‘me too’ movement of sorts-“I too have been affected by gun violence and I will not stand for it anymore.” Maybe the addition of the voices of children who have watched their friends bleed to death on a schoolroom floor are what will push us toward a tipping point.

One can hope.

Panacea

via Daily Prompt: Panacea

Another SAT vocabulary word from WordPress. I’m familiar with this one though. I’m sure most of those gun-crazy assholes who become outraged at the prospect of enforcing gun control in the wake of every mass shooting don’t know the definition of panacea. They probably think it’s some kind of STD. However, if they’re not arguing that gun control violates the second amendment, they’re essentially arguing that we shouldn’t bother with gun control because it’s not a panacea to the violence and murder problem.

They’re absolutely right about that last part. Enforcing gun control would not completely eliminate all violence, murders or massacres. It would not even completely eliminate all violence perpetrated with guns. There will always be criminals who slip through the cracks.  However, that does not mean that enforcing gun control is pointless. Gun control would drastically cut down on the number of gun related deaths and injuries  (and overall violence related deaths and injuries as well. Despite what gun lovers imply, gun control would not result in the number of deaths and injuries caused by other weapons rising to the level of damage caused by guns.) That is certainly something worth striving for.

It would be nice if we could take one action that would end gun violence once and for all but true panaceas of that sort are very rare. When it comes to the major problems that are plaguing our society today they really don’t exist-not for gun violence, not for domestic violence, not for rape, not for sexism, not for racism, not for mental illness, not for poverty.  The reason no one solution will serve as a panacea is that none of those problems are caused by only one factor. They are caused my a multitude of factors converging.

Our culture of toxic masculinity contributes to the gun problem- the kind of culture that causes boys and men to use big guns as compensation for small penises. Then there’s the culture of selfishness that leads those men to believe their right to have unrestricted access to high powered assault rifles trumps (pun intended) the right of others to remain alive and safe.  Those issues need to be addressed in addition to not instead of gun control.

We all need to do just do our best to help ourselves and each other, knowing that our best will not result in perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck Off, Forty-Five

Another day, another mass shooting, another idiotic response from forty-five. He ticked off pretty much every box in the gun crazy asshole’s guide to responding to a mass shooting.

*”Who would have thought something like this could happen?”

*”Now is not the time to talk about guns.”

*”A civilian with a gun is what saved the day.”

*”This is not a guns problem, it’s a mental health problem. It’s a mental health problem of the highest order.”

Gee,Charleston, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas and the countless other mass shootings, none of those gave you an inkling that something like this could happen? None of those shootings were the time to talk about guns either. When is the time to talk about guns? At a time when no mass shootings have happened recently? A time like that doesn’t exist in this country.

I’m pretty dubious of the claim that this tragedy would have been so much worse if a civilian with a gun hadn’t intervened. Even if it is true 26 is an unacceptable number of fatalities and the fact that he was able to kill 26 people shows that civilians aren’t all that effective at stopping people like him. Furthermore, a civilian never would have needed to stop him if a guy who assaulted his wife and child and was dishonorably discharged from the military hadn’t been given a gun.

This is only a mental health problem because the shooter was named Devin. If he was named Muhammad or Pedro, it wouldn’t have been a guns problem, it would have been a terrorist/immigration problem and we would have needed to talk about the terrorist/immigration problem right this second.

Of course this is a guns problem, you fucking moron.  YOU’RE a mental health problem of the highest order.

 

Top ten things I do not want to hear right now

1. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people – No, people with guns kill people. It’s not like guns are only dangerous in the hands of evil people who want to cause harm either.  Just look at all the kids that are accidentally killed by guns that have not been properly secured.

2. Gun control violates the second amendment-  No, actually it doesn’t. The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms. It does not give every single person an inalienable right to high power assault rifles. Most freedoms in this country are not absolute. The first amendment says we have the right to free speech. However, we do not have the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater or publish lies about our neighbors in the newspaper. Why? Because those actions harm people. Unrestricted access to guns harms people. If only those people who are so hung up on honoring their interpretation of the second amendment were as concerned about honoring those other amendments or the spirit in which the constitution was written.

3. If guns are restricted people who want to commit murder will find another weapon to use- If they’re really determined to kill they might find another weapon but it’s highly unlikely that they will find another weapon that will allow them to pull off killing such a large amount of people in such a short amount of time. When was the last time you heard about a knife attack that killed 60 and injured 500 within 15 minutes? It’s nice that these anti gun control people have such faith in the inherent human determination to murder but I have faith in man’s inherent laziness, stupidity and impulsivity. I would bet that being deprived of a gun many of these would be murderers would abstain from murder (and suicide) altogether.

4. If you’re going to ban guns you should ban knives, cars, planes and pillows too because they also kill people- Maybe the people who use this argument could use a little help from Big Bird. One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.  Can you guess which one of these things is not like the others before I finish my song? Well, if you guessed the gun was not like the others, you are absolutely- right! The gun is the only item on that list designed for the express purpose of killing. The other items on that list are mostly used for things like eating, sleeping and transportation.

5. Now is not the time to discuss gun control- Someone says this after every mass shooting and it’s such bullshit. On the contrary, the aftermath of a mass shooting is the perfect time to discuss gun control. When someone dies in a senseless tragedy, it usually comforts their loved ones to know that they did not die in vain, that something positive came out of something overwhelmingly negative, that their death might prevent others from suffering the same fate in the future. Right after a shooting is when people will be most emotionally impacted by pleas for gun control and most likely to take action. However, I will confess that when 20 first graders being shot and killed at Sandy Hook failed to bring about gun control changes, I began to suspect that nothing would. (And I do realize that when GOP leaders say now is not the time to discuss gun control, it’s not out of respect for the victims or an attempt to maintain decorum. They just don’t want to acknowledge the tragic results of their opposition to gun control. )

6. Just because people are getting shot doesn’t mean I should have to give up my gun shooting hobby- No one is asking you to give up your hobby. I’m sure you can shoot targets or animals without the kind of high powered assault rifle capable of killing dozens of human beings within a matter of minutes. If you’re a responsible gun owner with no criminal history, in the end you should have nothing to worry about. If you’re whining about the fact that increased gun control might subject you to stricter background checks or it might make it take longer for you to purchase your guns, then I’m sorry but the violin I’m about to play for you is so small, I’m having trouble locating it right now. It’s kind of selfish to say your right to practice your hobby is more important than the rights of other people to remain alive and safe. You should probably reconsider your priorities.

7. This shooting was a government conspiracy to deprive citizens of their guns- I guess your head is shoved so far up your ass you’re unable to loosen your tinfoil hat.

8. There was this horrible mass shooting in Las Vegas, which reminds me of this horrible person named Kira who said mean things to me online a few months ago- That’s a very bizarre, disgusting and creepy false equivalency (I wish I was kidding with this one.)

9. America is the best country evah!!!1! Just be grateful that you live here rather than protesting against any of its injustices- This notion that America is better than any other country is very outdated and inaccurate. There are many countries that are better places to be than America in many respects. One of the ways in which countries such as Australia and The United Kingdom are better than the U.S. is that they enforce gun control and thus have little gun violence, whereas we do not enforce gun control and thus have a lot of gun violence. Yes, there are also things to be grateful for in America but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protest the things that are wrong with America. Protesting injustices that go against the ideals our country was founded on and is supposed to represent is not disrespectful. Au contraire.

10. Give blood to help the victims of the Las Vegas shooting- Unlike the rest of the shit on this list, this is a message I wholeheartedly support. Personally I’m just not in the mood to hear it right now because I’m feeling frustrated by a failed attempt of mine to give blood yesterday.  I filled out a long survey about my sex life and drug use, answered another series of questions confirming that I had not had sex or done drugs since I filled out the survey 20 minutes ago, endured two painful needle pricks to test my iron levels, followed by 15 minutes of the nurses poking and prodding at my veins while complaining about how difficult they were, only to ultimately be told that I could not give blood. When I got to the car I started crying. However, the grief and frustration I felt over not being able to give blood are nothing compared to the grief and frustration I feel, that many of us feel, over all the senseless gun deaths and our country’s failure to do anything about it.