I am seeing a lot of social media posts about gun violence and how it won’t be stopped by a student walkout and how they should not “waste their time”. Our boss openly supported us standing with our students. It makes me eye roll hard to see adults blaming students for bullying which leads to shootings, dontchaknow and saying “well you aren’t fixing the problem” and then getting angry when thousands and millions of kids band together to overcome a collective action problem to say “lawmakers, you are failing us, we need to feel safe”. I’m home sick today, so walkout or no, point is moot but students can’t win.
I have two bonus kids in school and I worry about them being in a classroom with guns (mostly because I worry that suddenly we are arming teachers who have insufficient firearms training, can’t store guns, and really don’t feel confident in their ability to do anything but need the “bonus” a gun would bring them). I worry about our youngest, too, because while the oldest two don’t live in a state that allows ANYONE to carry a gun, we live in a place where anyone can carry one- even without a permit. This is thanks to some really bad legislation that was passed while I was working in government research. That was “my” bill to write comments on. I am still enraged about it.
I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days. I think people think “gun violence” is just the following:
1. Kid is bullied, brings gun to school, violence ensues.
2. Poor people living in Chicago kill each other because drugs.
The first is not the cause of most SCHOOL shootings. The second is just offensive. And I’m sick of people saying “did you get shot at a lot?” when I tell people where I grew up (a suburb FFS but still).
The majority of “gun violence” isn’t happening in this way. We aren’t talking about the following:
3. Domestic violence and how dangerous it is that anyone can just have a gun and potentially harm their partner, family, children, etc.
Maybe this is where we need to shout. I don’t know many people who have not been touched by three or four. I know only a few people touched by the first two. My dear cousin took his own life last year at 26. He was one of the rare people touched by a workplace shooting. On the floor where he worked to build engines, a coworker came in and shot his boss and then himself. My cousin was evacuated by a SWAT team and held in a secure location. I talked to him after and he claimed it didn’t rattle him. I think it did.
I also think he, like myself, was suffering from mental illness. I noticed he started to drink a lot - something he hadn’t really done at all before. And then he told people he was planning to buy a hand gun. His dad was an ardent hunter, my cousin had gone out plenty of times to hunt with his dad and my dad and had gone to the range with my dad, but he had just never really cared that much about guns. My gut said something was off but I felt like I couldn’t say anything. And now, of course, I feel awful about that. He took his own life with a gun he had bought just hours before for that express purpose. My cousin knew how to safely handle and keep a gun. It wasn’t an accident. His dad was a police officer. We all had guns in our houses -in secure locations separate from ammo. He was still a victim of gun violence. And now we are victims because of it.
I can’t help but think that a waiting period may have saved him. He bought the gun hours after breaking up with his girlfriend on the phone. They had been having issues but he suddenly decided he wasn’t “good for her” and broke it off. A few hours later, he purchased a gun. I can’t help but think that if he had been required to wait over the weekend to get a gun, he would have had to call my aunt who was desperately trying to reach him, feeling something was wrong after the last time they talked. That he could have told her he needed help. That he could have gotten help and not a gun. It may have saved his coworker or boss, too, from that previous violent attack. But there’s no telling.
I do believe it’s worth a shot, though. And as a survivor of domestic abuse, I think I would have felt safer knowing I would have at least a few days to get out of dodge before a purchase cleared. My husband got to see his ex wife threaten his brother with a gun over Christmas one year when they were married. Their abusive relationship has left real scars on him, similar to mine. But he always says his fear was that she would run out, buy a gun, ad then come shoot his family. She slashed his tires instead, thankfully. But I do not see why a waiting period could not save lives and how a registry of people with pending restraining orders against them (like with my husband’s ex) couldn’t help.
We need to reframe what the bulk of this violence really is to make people “get it”. We need to personalize it a bit more as much as it hurts, if we can. The media does a poor job of explaining this. Anyone read Columbine? I am just not sure how to talk about this in a way that is more effective.
And if I try to explain to people that this is a problem beyond “mental illness”, they just steamroll me. I’m not used to being steamrolled but this is such a deeply upsetting issue for me right now. Every single one of my cousins on my mom’s side has dealt with mental illness. I have a mood disorder and have been severely depressed following the birth of my child. Two of my cousins have attempted suicide. One suffers from PTSD and issues he just feels he cannot resolve. We can’t stop that. We can try to get help as best we can. But if we limited guns in this country, maybe, even just a small percentage of the time, we’d be able to stop them from accessing a gun. Which,for men, is the preferred way to end their lives. It won’t stop mental illness. It won’t stop suicide. It won’t stop school shootings. But it might help even a few people. And what I wouldn’t give to have my cousin back.
How do we fix this shit? How do we talk to the people who are ignoring that school shootings are bad but don’t really explain the problem at all or address how to solve “gun violence” as we should see it?!