I stand with Grey's Anatomy's powerful position against firearms in the home
I've said it before and I'll say it again — I'm a huge fan of Grey's Anatomy this season. Not only because there is such a beautiful vein of empowerment and support among the women, but because the show isn't afraid to tackle the tough topics.
Shonda Rhimes doesn't shy away from the kind of social commentary that could lose her viewers, and I love her for it. As a writer, sometimes you use your words as a vehicle to move dialogue along. She does that while still delivering a top-notch medi-drama.
But before we get into the sensitive subject of the night, this is your official spoiler alert. If you haven't yet watched "Trigger Happy," this article will reveal major plot points.
The episode started off intense, as two frantic women showed up at the hospital saying one of their sons had been shot. They didn't know how or which one, but they were both clearly distraught. Moments later, Owen and Alex get the call about an 8-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Naturally, everyone is on high alert and wants to help. As they stand in the bay waiting for the ambulance, the mothers rush out. When one child is wheeled out, the blanket slips off his bloodied foot. The mother of a little boy named Brandon dissolves into tears as the other mother thanks God — and then hugs her (physically) unharmed son, Peter, who arrived in a police cruiser.
When the babysitter shows up, the mothers ask if they caught whoever did this... and the tragic details emerge. The babysitter left the room for mere moments and the boys had found Brandon's mom's gun. As they were playing with it, it went off.
In the blink of an eye, Peter had shot his best friend. One little boy was clinging to life and the other will undoubtedly be scarred for life.
While in the operating room working on Brandon, talk turns to having guns in the home. Not even Owen, the military veteran, has one — "I repair bullet holes; I don't make them," he says. Alex is similarly disgusted by this all-too-familiar scenario.
Then Jo chimes in that she has a gun. A gun that Alex didn't know about. "It makes me feel safer," she tells the room of more seasoned OR surgeons, all of whom have clearly patched up far too many bullet holes in small children or, worse, lost kids to them while still on the table.
Ultimately, Brandon survives. But he coded on the table during a delicate procedure to save his spine and the complications from resuscitating him left him paralyzed for life.
As Owen delivers the news to Peter's parents, Amelia kneels beside Peter and has him make her a promise: "Whenever you feel bad about this, I want you to say, 'This was an accident. I didn't mean to.'" As the little boy walks away with his parents, he turns to look back at Amelia one more time, tearfully mouthing the words.
It's a gutting moment. And, in my mind, just reinforces my own personal feelings about having guns in the home if you have children — it's not worth the risk.
I realize that isn't necessarily going to be a popular opinion. Trust me, I do. I live in the South, where having guns in the house is nearly as natural as having a raincoat. It's something people keep around in case they'll need it. A cursory scan of Twitter tonight reveals a lot of people feel that way.
And here's the kicker: There are guns in my house and I do have small children. It's not something I'm comfortable with, and it's a conversation my husband and I circle back around to often. He keeps his guns in a locked gun cabinet in our closet and he stores the bullets in another room. He feels confident our kids can't and won't ever get into either.
Of course, that's what all parents think, right? You always think a tragedy like this will never happen to you. You read about it. You see it on the news. You may even know someone it happened to. Yet it still seems far-fetched to you. Or me. Or anyone.
The horrible reality, though, is that it does happen to "anyone." To lots of "anyones," to be exact. According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, over 18,000 American children are injured or killed every year due to gun violence. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens.
Here's the grim reality, regardless of how much we wish it weren't true: 80 percent of those unintentional firearm deaths of kids under 15 occur in a home. Even proper firearm storage can't entirely mitigate the risk of accidental death or even suicide by children and adolescents, but it is a crucial step if you do choose to have firearms in your home.
In light of all of the evidence, though, I agree with Grey's — the safest policy is not having a gun in the house at all. This is a conversation my husband and I will revisit very soon.
The conversation with Maggie and Meredith near the episode's end captures my feelings well. Maggie, who was especially shaken by the tragedy, tells Meredith she loves Mer's kids so fiercely it scares her. "My heart is so wide open. I love them so much. Like, if something happened to them, I feel like I would die. I don't know how you do it. I don't know how you live like this."
To which Meredith hugs her and responds, "It's awful. Sometimes you just have to push the awful aside and get through the day."
Of course, anyone who has children knows the kind of beautiful-awful Meredith is talking about. To have kids is to love them to a degree that is terrifying. Every single day my children walk around and laugh and play and look at me is a day I worry about them. I love them so much it physically hurts.
So, yes, I would do anything to keep them safe, and that includes having a gun-free home.
I understand that for as many people that tonight's episode resonated with (like myself), there are likely just as many who don't agree with the sentiment. In which case, perhaps the episode can simply serve as a reminder. Maybe you'll double-check your gun safe before you go to bed. Maybe you'll move it to a more secure location.
Regardless, a little reminder that could potentially save a child's life isn't hurting anyone. It's doing quite the opposite.