Gun violence: Is it time to rethink our bloodiest constitutional right?
HBO's newest documentary, Requiem for the Dead: American Spring 2014, is stark and startling. And may make you seriously consider your stance on guns.
This is what you should know about me: I am a Christian, but the kind who believes in loving everyone. I believe gays should get married. As a writer, I believe it's not the government's place to muffle my opinions. I want to make my own decisions about my body. I love a venison steak. I have voted Republican... and Democrat. And I have no idea how I feel about guns.
Most people will sit down to watch Requiem for the Dead with their minds made up. They spend the next chunk of their lives listening to stories of eight people who lose their lives to guns in the spring of 2014. They hear only 1/1000th of the stories that ended that fateful spring. From the murder-suicide of a veteran and his wife, to the accidental shooting of someone's child and another person's grandmother, each story is different. They aren't all black or white, young or old, poor and wealthy. At some point during the eight stories told, one person or another had to seem relatable to each person who watched. But, did opinions on gun control change? Mine didn't.
Then, again, I don't have one
Growing up on a farm, guns are commonplace. There was the rifle above my grandfather's desk, which he'd used to secure deer on several occasions. Not for show, but for genuine sustenance. In my grandmother's bedside table was the family's pearl-handled pistol which she clutched tightly to her chest the night we thought someone broke into our home. I never felt unsafe in the presence of those guns. But, I also knew they weren't to be touched.
Eventually, I became a suburban kid and then a city dweller. Guns have gotten more unnerving. Upon considering spending the summer in a remote cabin to hammer out a novel, a gun seemed like an absolute must. Just in case. In the city, surrounded by people I don't know and often deafened by sirens on cop cars headed down the hill to an even more unsteady social environment, guns seem like a terrible idea.
I cannot make up the fact that in the last week my city has had a handful of shootings. Just last week, an Asian cop was killed after responding to a call of a gunman in the street of one neighborhood. The call came from the very man who killed him. Today, another man was accidentally shot near the farmers market that sits between my neighborhood and the "rougher" section of town, a dozen blocks away. But, I don't crave a gun. I don't feel like owning a gun in the city will solve anything. When I walk from my car to the bar to hear my boyfriend play, I want there to be fewer guns on the street. Not more.
Why do we need guns?
"It's our right," is a great excuse. But, so what? Times change. The Constitution was written when the entire United States population wasn't as big as the current population of Florida. Is it maybe time to reevaluate? We've had no problem calling for a reevaluation of things like presidential term limits, women and black rights and the Electoral College. Should gun control also be put to a vote?
"They're for protection," I hear daily. Protection from whom? What sort of messed up karma do you have that you think you need two dozen guns in a cabinet in your home? What's to keep you from pulling your concealed handgun out on a drunk homeless dude who bumps into you instead of someone trying to rob you? What would a gun do when you're accidentally shot in a drive-by while picking up some groceries? More importantly: How did a gun save the police officer's life last week?
They certainly don't protect anyone in the city. Even equipping our protectors, the police, doesn't seem like the best idea. In the first five months of 2015, there were nearly 400 fatal police shootings. That means the police are killing an average of two people a day. Were they criminals? Were they innocent? The waters have become too murky lately to know for sure.
By myself in a cabin in the woods, a gun seems like the only answer to safety and the only way to secure a peaceful night's sleep. As I considered that, my best friend asked the obvious. "Could you kill an intruder? You shouldn't get a gun to use as a warning. Only get a gun if you believe you could shoot someone without a second guess." I could. And that was terrifying.
And, while I'll never want a twelve-point buck hanging above my fireplace, I'm not afraid to tear into a venison steak. Some peanut oil in the skillet and a little Creole seasoning to finish it off? Shoooooot. Kobe beef has nothing on Bambi. Sorry, vegetarians.
This is where I leave you, though
So, I don't have the answers. I know that I don't think strictly banning guns in the answer. There are already too many out there to possibly believe we could collect them all. That would only make us feel more unsafe. And I also don't like the idea of an armed police force but not an armed society. But, what constraints should we put in order? Where's the line for too much control in regards to the current line of not enough control? I wish I had answers for you. That I could fix this crazy, messed up world before our children have to experience the fear and uncertainty all Americans come face-to-face with at some point in their lives.
I do know that where we stand now is not OK. I know that Requiem for the Dead is a tragic and heartbreaking reminder that our freedoms come at a cost. And that 32,000 people killed by guns in a year is far, far too many. Beyond that, I'm at a loss.