After spending the day with two of her best friends, my fifth grader walked into the kitchen and stood there, looking sad.
7 & 11 said their dads are cool because they have guns. They said daddy wouldn’t be able to protect us if someone broke into our house. I told them we would just call the police. They said there wouldn’t be enough time. I told them we’re an anti-gun family. 7 showed me the locked black box where her dad keeps the guns.
Did 7 mention what kind of guns? A rifle and pistol and BB guns.
Do you feel scared? No.
Do you feel kind of left out because 7 & 11 have that in common? I guess so. Yeah.
What followed was a conversation about differences and how we love our friends and family no less. I kept talking, possibly too long. “Okay, mom. I get it,” she said, backing away from the 16 oz. can of mom talk she’d opened. I told her I was proud of her principles and reminded her what awesome humans her friends are (and they truly are) and that they love her no less for being anti-gun. Just like I love daddy even though he watches golf.
I’ve known about the guns in 7’s house. The parents told me long ago and offered to show me where the guns were locked, with bullets stored separately. I certainly appreciate the responsibility. If only all gun owners were like 7’s dad. Though… such highly secured guns won’t help much when it comes to murderers in the dead of night. Watch this three-minute clip of comedian Jim Jeffries. It’s hilarious and profound. (If anyone has a sound rebuttal to Mr. Jeffries, I’d love to hear it.) After viewing this clip, one wonders why keep a gun at all, especially since doing so increases the chance of death for everyone inside your home, visitors included.
If you bring a puppy into your house, the chance of it peeing on your rug is infinitely higher than if you had not brought a puppy into your house. Puppies pee. Guns shoot. Except puppies do plenty of other things, too. There is no other thing a gun does. You don’t slice an apricot with a Glock. It’s an accident when a gun doesn’t kill you.
Maybe some folks keep guns for sentimental reasons? It was my daddy’s gun. My father once had a large kidney stone removed. He kept it in the top drawer of his bureau, wrapped in cotton inside a small box. I suppose I could have saved it, taken it out, looked at it every so often. Grief does funny things. But I didn’t. I’ve got pictures of my dad and I’ve got memories. Maybe folks should keep the memory of their father using his gun, rather than the gun itself? Just a suggestion.
Look. I get it. We don’t ban bathtubs to prevent drowning. Proper use of a bathtub results in good hygiene, not death. Same goes for guns. Proper use of a gun results in killing bad guys, not children and their mothers. Nineteen children will be shot in America today. And again tomorrow. If 19 kids got measles and seven of those kids died today, America would lose its collective mind. Death by measles? Unacceptable. Death by gun? Just a sad fact of life. Kind of like Tuberculosis in 1902. What can you do? Nothing. You can hold their hand and mop their brow and maybe record their dying words: “Open the window and let the angels in…”
This isn’t about mass shootings. Most children who die of unintentional gun injuries are shot by another child roughly their same age, usually while playing with it or showing it to other kids.
The 4-year-old son of a sheriff found his dad’s gun and shot himself dead. You’d think a child finding a loaded weapon in a sheriff’s home would be rare, but this poor tyke was just one of many. If kids are shooting themselves with guns owned by trained professionals, what about guns owned by dummies? The numbers are staggering. Not just the number of gun deaths but the number of dummies. Think about all the dummies you see on the road who are texting, or driving drunk. Think about the dummies you encounter in parking lots, at work, and all the dummies you hear about on the news, like the man who thought someone was stealing his truck on Christmas Eve. He shot at the thief. Except there was no thief, it was his son borrowing the truck. He killed his son. The news reported the story as a tragic accident. This was no accident. He aimed a gun and fired. How is that an accident? Even if it had been a legit thief, since when is stealing a car a capital offense punishable by the death penalty?
We’re surrounded by a bunch of vigilante idiots. And they all have guns.
Which explains why more Americans have died from guns since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. This is unique to America. This isn’t happening in other high-income, developed countries. America is special because we give a gun to anyone who wants one. Not just one gun; you can collect them by the bucketful, like seashells. In America, you can be into guns the way some people are into sushi or tattoos or country music.
Google these two words: child shoots. Then Google: year-old shoots self. (Leave out the specific age, that way you’ll get a range.) The results are disheartening. If you, in turn, challenge me to Google child drowns in bathtub, I say, what’s your point? I need a tub to bathe my stinky dog and stinky toddler and stinky feet. I can’t bathe them with a gun. When a child drowns in a bathtub, it’s an accident. When a 4-year-old shoots himself in the face, it is not an accident. Here’s why: Bathtubs are not designed for the sole purpose of ending a life, guns are. We need hand guns the same way we need personal vials of the Ebola virus. What are these murder weapons doing in our pockets and in our houses?
Guns are not foundational to human flourishing. We don’t need them to thrive as individuals. To honor the Second Amendment simply because it is part of our Constitution is to imply that we dishonored it in the first place by amending it 27 times. By this logic, women voters are an affront to our Founding Fathers, a punch in their old throats, a banana in their musket.
Do you expect me to protect my family with a wooden spoon?
If you’re genuinely concerned about violent intruders, build a safe room. You can buy one ready to install, or you can retrofit a closet. You’ll have murderers slapping their faces in frustration when, try as they might, they cannot breach your safe room. Let’s start an organization! The National Safe Room Association. The N.S.R.A. Sign me up! Stock the room with a phone, some salty chips, a bottle of wine for me, and juice boxes for the kids. We’ll happily wait for the police to arrive.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday meant to remind us of those who died in the armed forces. The least we can do is include the 7 children who are killed every day by the armed forces of the Second Amendment. Jeffrey Swanson is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University and a leading researcher on firearms laws. He told NBC news that mass shootings get all the attention, but they are a small part of the overall problem. “On the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting, about 90 other people died as the result of a shooting.”
We tell folks to lock up their guns but dang it, folks aren’t listening. Folks are stupid. Since there’s no vaccine against stupid, what can we do? Walk into Glocky McGlockerson’s house and lock up his gun like we’re Liam Neeson in a PSA: instead of killing people, we run around securing their guns?
More firearm education? Nope. That doesn’t work either. If you have a few minutes watch this 20/20 video. By the time you’re done, flies will have made their home in your disbelieving, jaw-dropped mouth.
The United States owns more guns than any other country in the world. American children are nine times more likely to die from gun violence than children in other advanced, wealthy countries. It’s logical to conclude, dispassionately, soberly, that we are a nation of idiots with guns. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
Locking up your gun is a personal act, like buckling your seat belt. Good for you. I’m talking about a national movement. Like Civil Rights. We fought hard to take away beloved American norms like segregated water fountains, schools, and buses. Americans were once “responsible slave owners.” There are lots of deplorable principles that once defined America. Change is possible.
It begins with an interrogation of America’s soul: If we’re freaking out when someone takes a knee during the anthem and shrugging our shoulders when a 6-year-old takes a bullet, our scale of revulsion is off. When the cries for Second Amendment rights muffle the cries of grieving parents, America needs to reconsider its status as exceptional.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a madman or a child who pulls the trigger, guns do the one and only thing guns are designed to do: shoot bullets that kill. Responsible gun owners, your country needs you to take the lead on this. Find a gun buyback program in your area. Or take your gun apart so it can’t be used. Render it useless and dispose each of its pieces separately. Make it a family project. Explain to your kids that sometimes we must do things for the good of the team.
Any closet can be turned into an impenetrable safe room. The time it takes you to get up, unlock the safe where you store your unloaded gun, get your bullets (which are supposed to be stored separately), load your gun, and get into Matt Damon mode is more time than it takes to rush everyone inside a safe room and call 911.
Strong closets and snacks. That’s the America I want my kids to grow up in. Our dad is cool, he built a safe room.