Gun Control Legislation. There exists a force of people who stand firmly against any such semblance. Then there is the emerging voice of those who support it.
At this point in my life, I am not particularly interested in debating the issue with anyone. Debate rarely results in changed views. Few, if any, enter into debate with the intent to be persuaded otherwise. This is not to say I reject debate out of hand. On the contrary, I believe it to be the lifeblood of democracy and a fine method for thought exploration, assertion, defense, and recruitment.
My intention herewith is to add mine to the uprising of voices in support of the gun control legislation currently stalled on the Senate floor. If my experience was unique, I might have chosen to remain silent. I readily admit my opinion is steeped in emotion, brewed by personal experience. Sobeit. Emotion ≠ irrationality.
Having grown up in a home dictated by the abuse of a mentally ill man, I can attest to the importance of background checks in protecting the lives of the innocent.
When I was 10-years-old, my mother attempted to escape my stepfather’s abuse. I was there the morning he busted down the double deadbolted door of our apartment, threw me the length of the hallway, and proceeded to strangle my mother in an attempt to kill her. We had a gun in the house. The idea that it would somehow make us safer or protect us from “bad guys” was naivety in its purest form. The deadbolts on the door did far more to protect us that morning than the gun. A dog would have been better. There was a man in my mother’s room who could have wielded my mother's gun to protect her but he was too paralyzed by fear to make even the smallest attempt at saving her life. Talk is oft braver than action. The police arrived in time to save her.
To oppose gun control regulation based upon an imaginal self-defense ideology is foolishness. People - even those expecting a threat - would be startled to discover the way they would truly react in a life threatening situation. We tend to imagine heroism but imagination is not the fodder of heroes, nor are guns. In the meantime, precious innocent lives are lost, not because we are unarmed but because the mentally ill still have the unchecked ability to unload 152 bullets in 5 flat minutes.
I was there when police led my stepfather out of our apartment in handcuffs.He was laughing.
I was not there when my stepfather attempted to attack the judge during his courtroom hearing. While security hurried to restrain him, my stepfather’s lawyer, seeing the obvious legal obstacle before him, convinced my mother to settle upon a court-ordered commission to the state hospital rather than going through the messiness of a trial. There was no question in the court’s mind regarding my stepfather’s mental instability. He was sentenced to six months in the Concord State Hospital.
Shortly before my stepfather’s release, a psychiatrist, plagued by his conscience, privately approached my mother to apprise her of my stepfather’s condition. After six months, my stepfather was no better. The psychiatrist earnestly detailed the obsessional desire my stepfather had to kill us and pleaded for my mother to move as far away as possible for the safety of our lives.
Perhaps, if there had been a law banning the mentally ill from legally purchasing a gun, I wouldn't be writing this now. Perhaps I wouldn't have been coerced into silence after my stepfather showed me the gun he kept in his top dresser drawer, raped me, and threatened to kill my mother if I uttered a word. Perhaps, four years later, the bullet that took his life might not have been fired at all.
It is impossible to prove counterfactuals.
To be sure, the law protected my stepfather's right to own a gun equally as well as my mother’s but it did not protect our safety equally. I remember kissing my mother goodnight as she slept on the couch, clutching a gun, in hopes of protecting us from an attack in the night. Seeing her with the gun did not make me feel safer, it made me more fearful.
My stepfather didn't shoot me but his gun surely silenced me. Politicians who use death toll statistics as evidence to uphold their position, fail to understand that a gun does not have to fire to kill. In the hands of the mentally ill, it can wink and silently rob a life. Off the record.
Everett Koop once said, "In science, you can't hide from the data." I believe this to be true but sometimes the data can hide from you, locked away in the lives of the silent suffering who are too afraid to speak.
I was never a statistic appearing in national surveys depicting gun violence. I was a child without a voice. Are you counting into your calculations children like me when you determine there are not enough good reasons to pass gun control legislation?
How many children does it take?
There was nothing we could do about my stepfather's behavior. My mother pled with police for protection. They offered her as much as they possibly could under the law but, in the end, she was told there was nothing they could do until my stepfather actually attempted to kill her. She was compelled to escape with her children in the night to Alaska.
The Law - is it not the means whereby we protect innocence? If my mother could have told police officers that my mentally ill stepfather possessed a gun and, if the law had been set against such, would there not then have existed the power to circumvent catastrophe?
To those who declare gun control legislation an infringement upon their Constitutional freedoms, of which freedoms do you speak? There is a stark difference between inconvenience and the actual loss of freedom. A life taken at gunpoint is not an inconvenience, it is in every possible expression a true violation.
I ask those opposed, is a background check going to kill you? Is it going to rape you or silence you? Is a background check going to threaten the life you live each day? Or could a background check be the means of empowering a victim to speak, possibly saving her life? I suggest there are women and children currently living in conditions where laws such as those now being proposed, could free them. They do not hope someone shows up to blast a bullet through the heart of their abuser. They simply want effective protection under the law. Is that not their Constitutional right?
The innocence of children.
The virtue of women.
Are they not yet worthy of protection under the law?
Perhaps you believe the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And suppose for a moment I actually believed in such things - I do not but we can pretend for the sake of this conversation. Most likely you would categorize yourself as one of the good guys. Fair enough. You are a good guy with a gun so we are not talking about you. Can you now differentiate for me which are the good and bad at a gun show? No? How about as we are walking through the park together? No again? Is it something we can see by outward appearances? Or perhaps we make these judgments based upon social status, income, or hair color? Or must we wait for tragedy alone to make the final determination?
I attended high school with a young man who claimed to be the good guy. He and his family owned enough guns to arm a small militia. He was clean cut, well respected by those in his community, a fine athlete, handsome, a loyal friend, good student, and an exceptional marksman. One day he decided that the only way to stop a bad guy was with a gun and he shot a bullet directly through my stepfather's heart.
Who then is the so-called bad guy and who the good guy?
The flippancy of such statements is beyond my capacity to comprehend. Is this the message we want to pass to our children - that the law holds no power to protect? That the only effective means of protection is with a gun? Is this the language with which we are to comfort our children? Do we further wish to inculcate in our youth the belief that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a gun? That the answer to violence is more violence?
Might I suggest that there is no such thing as a bad guy with a gun? There are only guys with guns.
As a child, I suffered profound abuse at the hand of a mentally ill man holding a gun. I suffered a greater tragedy when a “good guy” decided that the only thing capable of stopping a "bad guy" was a gun. Now I plead for reason, justice, and true patriotism to prevail.
I am no longer a child but I was a child once, a long time ago. I did not say anything then and nothing changed. Then I spoke and everything changed. It is my hope that this time my speaking will not end with a bullet point but with an exclamation point.
Some ask me if I believe the law can put an end to gun violence. My honest answer is no. I do not believe the law will put an end to gun violence but I believe the absence of law never has the power to protect. When innocent women and children plead to the law for protection, should they not then find it? Have we not suffered enough? If I am being asked to take a side, then I tilt to the protection of innocence by the law.