I don’t want to hear it anymore.
I’ve seen post after post about gun rights. Who should own a gun and who shouldn’t. Here’s the thing: I will never, ever, ever own a gun.
Yeah, I know – you’ve owned guns because you’ve used them hunting in the state where you’re from. And that’s an acceptable reason to own and use a gun and yes, it’s your 2nd Amendment right and I support that. Not a fan of automatic assault rifles that can shoot several bullets in a few seconds is all I’m sayin’
But as we sit on the eve of having anyone in the world able to create an unregistered weapon from a 3D printer recipe on the internet – whelp, that’s where I’m stepping off of this train of the second amendment debate.
I grew up with guns (several of them) in our home. Every single day, I only had to look up at the wall in our family room to see my father’s very extensive collection of guns. From the early 1800’s on forward, he had several guns, pistols and rifles and swords. He hunted as a young boy, joined the Navy and knew (was taught by his dad and trained by the Navy) how to use his guns. The ammunition was kept separately and far away from the guns he had (Mom – an ER Nurse – made sure of this).
The picture above is a photo of my grandmother – she didn’t hunt. She was a fisherman who used a drop line to catch fish. See a fishing pole in this picture? – It’s because there isn’t one. The Northeast is known for fishing. Watch any fisherman head miles out into the North Atlantic during the late summer / early Fall months when hurricanes and strong Nor’easters are prevalent and you will know how tough fishing can be. In our family, our freezer was filled with frozen fish that helped keep food on our table through the winter months. Ask me to join you for a dinner consisting of bluefish or mackerel and I will politely turn you down because I have had far too much… okay, maybe Cod.
My grandmother’s mom died shortly after giving birth to her. A few years later, her father was struck and killed by a cable car when he was crossing the street, leaving my grandmother in the care of her older sister and her sister’s boyfriend. They didn’t have an easy life. But my grandmother made it through to marry my grandfather and give birth to my mom and her brother (my uncle).
To this day, I have never met a woman as firmly grounded in her values as my grandmother. How do I know this? – Because I tried to buy a gun.
It didn’t go over well and it wasn’t even real.
Once when I was visiting my grandmother, she gave me some money and said to go to the little store down the street to get whatever I wanted. So off I went and walked down the street trying to decide what I was going to purchase.
Upon reviewing all of the toys available to me, I selected a very small, bright orange squirt gun. (Nope, not kidding, it was a squirt gun). It was about two inches long and seemed to hold a lot of water in it. It wasn’t even one of those semi-automatic super soaker squirt guns that you see today; it was an “old” one (yeah, you probably weren’t even born yet so just keep reading..). Happily, I walked home, ready to fill it and squirt people – aka my grandmother (who was taking care of me while my parents were away).
When she saw the gun I had purchased she became apoplectic. “Take it back!” she demanded. I couldn’t understand why. “Take it back!” she said again. “Little girls do not use guns!” (I was six or seven years old at the time).
I walked back to the store, sad and dejected because she did not approve of my hunter / gatherer & squirt decision. I traded it in and returned with a super ball which I played with outside until it was time for dinner.
Over dinner, my grandmother explained to me that yes, some people owned guns that they used for hunting but that I did not need one. She also explained that police officers carried guns to protect those of us in our community and again affirmed that I would never need a gun. If there was a conflict that needed to be resolved, she explained, then this was what our brains were for. That we used our ability to communicate with each other tactfully and in a way that reduced any potential for violence.
“Use your head”, she said “that’s what it’s for; to communicate with each other and resolve arguments and misunderstandings. And if you ever need help, ask us!”
To this day, I have never forgotten the conviction she had during that conversation. 3 degrees and 2 graduate certificates later, I know for sure that I have enough knowledge, conviction, empathy, tact and compassion to know that I have a keen ability to resolve a lot of different conflicts. Guns will not be playing a part in my life (at least not of my choosing anyway).
As much as I often miss my grandmother, I’m glad that she is not around to see what the internet and 3D printing have produced as it relates to guns.
And while I will never know if guns in the possession of someone else will ever affect my life or the lives of my family and friends, I have learned that there are just some things in life that you can’t predict or control.
After 9/11 and United 93 (the flight that crashed in Shanksville, PA), I also learned that you can’t predict what will happen if terrorists take over your flight and try to fly it into a building or something else. And that you certainly can’t predict who will stand up and try to overpower them, even if there is the potential that they will also die.
But this is where my head goes whenever there are increasing discussions about guns and gun violence:
Sometimes when I’m sitting by myself at a gate in an airport waiting for a plane, I look around for “that guy” or “that girl”. The one I think looks like they have the ability to stand up, fight back and overpower the terrorists and try to save those who are on the plane. I look at their posture, stance and non-verbals – trying to find the heroes among us – the ones you don’t notice and don’t know who walk among us every day. To me, these are people who don’t need guns. They have a keen, MacGyver like sense to figure out what to do and how to do it, quietly and collaboratively in a tribal, patriotic “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers” sort of way – no matter who they are, no matter where they’re from, no matter what their gender, religion, education, nationality, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation is.
They’re just caring, compassionate people looking to help those who need help even though they don’t know them and even though they may die themselves.
They may use guns for hunting or drop lines to fish and / or their brain to communicate. But what’s equally as important is what Martin Luther King once described as the “content of their character”.