We Need to Talk About Guns

[Note: Edited 3:39pm]

I consider myself part of the Columbine Generation. I’ve never lived in Colorado. I didn’t know anyone who went to Columbine High. I wasn’t a jock, emo, a put-upon nerd, or goth. I wasn’t even in high school yet. I was, however, a 14-year-old who was part of a new wave of Americans that thinks about guns at least once a day, if not by the hour. 15 dead, 21 injured.

Since 1999, I’ve never existed in a room for more than three minutes without forming an exit strategy. When I moved into my current office, I noted that the office door had a lock but a vertical window next to it, so I’d need to hide under my desk to be truly safe. I can jump down three steps in a typical stairwell. I know where the four fire alarms are on my floor. When I started dating, I would consider a person’s personality, potential for a long-term relationship, and how quickly they could escape a crowded screaming mall. Whenever I was newly single, a tiny part of me felt better that I wouldn’t have to shield a partner from bullets. I can probably escape the window of my second-floor apartment without only minor injuries. These are all things that pop into my head five minutes before I realize they exist and try to bat them back down. They’ll be back.

In a strange way, 9/11 helped. I was too busy worried about explosions and orphan packages that I didn’t have time to worry about guns. Eleven years later, Aurora brought me back. 12 dead, 58 injured.

Two weeks later, a white supremacist walked into a religious temple with a gun. 7 dead, 6 injured.

On Monday, a man facing eviction near Texas A&M University fired at law enforcement officials and bystanders. 3 dead, 4 injured.

On Tuesday night in Detroit, a three-year-old girl received a shotgun wound. 1 injured, expected to survive.

To list every act of gun violence in the U.S. in the last few weeks would probably take me the rest of the month. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says around 268 people are shot in the U.S. each day. But the most disgusting story I’ve read is this: D.C. Resident Orders TV on Amazon, Receives Gun Instead

The man got an assault rifle in the mail.

I’ve never touched a real gun. I’ve never lived in a house with a gun, or in a place where I felt safer if I had a gun. I don’t know how guns work. I know they can be kept and used safely. But above all, I know they can kill people, and they’re too easy to get, especially because it is a device that can easily kill people.

The truth is, I have nothing to contribute to this conversation that hasn’t already been said, other than that I’m willing to have the conversation. Guns are revered in this country, but they aren’t respected. They are sacrosanct, but not treated with wisdom. I don’t totally understand how the Constitution relates to private gun ownership. It’s a reasonable assumption to me that most legally-owned guns in the U.S. probably will never be used other than for maintenance and never for violence. But too many guns are used for theft or greed or murder, and too many of those guns were bought within the standards we’ve set. Simply put, we’re messing around with killing utensils that we don’t fully understand.

It’s a problem we’re not discussing enough. I know we’re not discussing it enough because over 12,000 people will die this year from gun violence, and a three-year-old was almost one of them.

Edit:
A reader made an excellent point: While an estimated 12,000 people will die from gun violence, another 18,000 will die from suicide-by-gun. Other methods of suicide may be easier, but guns are more lethal. Suicide might be another topic, but 18,000 gun-related suicides per year says we have a problem with control.

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