Guns, Newtown, and Personal Responsibility

Barrel of a GunI got a call at home one Saturday from the nursing home where I worked. It was our receptionist. She told me that a guy had been sitting in one of the chairs in the lobby and when he got up and went back to visit his mom he left a clip of ammunition in his chair. It had fallen out of his pocket.

I was shocked. “Are you serious? Bullets? What the hell is he doing with bullets at a nursing home? Is he still there?”

No he had left, she said. Without incident. “They are 45 caliber hollow points,” she added.

“Thank the goddess that he’s gone.” And then I wondered aloud how my gentle, kind, sixty five year old female receptionist knew what a 45 caliber hollow point bullet looked like.

“I was a sharpshooter in the army when I was younger.”

“Oh, okay,” I said as my entire understanding of her shifted inside out. “Well, lock the bullets up and call the director at home. If the guy comes back, don’t give them to him, he can call and deal with management on Monday.”

I found out later that this gentleman had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. All legal. His clip of ammunition was returned to him. Nothing anyone could do. This guy could bring a gun into the nursing home any time he wanted to.

A concealed weapon. Into a nursing home.

What’s the scenario here? A crazed resident attacks a bunch of sick old people with a shotgun his old guy friends have smuggled in to him? And this young guy, who just happens to be there visiting his mom at the time this goes down, luckily has a gun on him to shoot the crazed old guy before someone is hurt? Seriously, what’s the scenario that makes this reasonable?

Guns and Gun Violence in the United States

Every day more than 30 people die from gunshot wounds in the United States.1 Because someone gets angry, they have a gun, and they use it.

Yesterday the score was worse than usual. On the tally sheet we’ll add one really messed up guy, 6 teachers, and 20 little children.2

There are some 270,000,000 guns in the hands of people in the United States. More guns per-capita than any other country. 3

We entertain our children, mostly our male children, with video games. These interactive stories are convincing and immersive. We turn on the TV, give them a controller, turn up the adrenalin producing musical background, and then we go prepare dinner or watch TV in the other room while they virtually kill virtual human beings with every weapon imaginable.

Go to a movie theater any day, any week, any time. I guarantee you there will be a movie playing that involves gunshots. Probably more than one, and probably there will be many, many shots fired. And many people “killed.” Movies are our myths. Movies are our fairy tales. Movies are our stories. Our contemporary mythology and storytelling glorifies people using guns to kill other people. Story after story after story.

We send our sons and daughters off to other countries with real guns, real bombs, real missiles, real killing machines in the name of preserving freedom or encouraging democracy. Frankly, I don’t care what the purpose is supposed to be, because what ends up happening in war, every time now, is that thousands upon thousands of innocent women, men, and yes, children are killed.4 By our sons and daughters. I know we don’t like to hear it. I know we don’t like to talk about it. I know many of us will not even admit it. But it’s true. Now, I’m not naïve enough to think we can stop war in our lifetimes, but I do think we are quite capable of recognizing it involves the murder of innocent people. When we finally allow ourselves to do so, we might for the first time, after thousands of years, get serious about figuring out alternative methods for resolving conflict and protecting people in the world.

Personal Responsibility

And so yesterday, in Newtown, some guy goes into an elementary school and shoots six year olds.

And we can’t believe it. We don’t know how something like that could happen. We say, “He must have been insane.” And I’ll tell you why we say that. Because that lets us, individually and collectively OFF THE HOOK. He was insane. So there’s nothing we could have done about it.

Which is bullshit.

I’m fifty years old. I’ve never owned a gun, nor will I.  No one will ever be able to steal my gun and use it to kill someone else.

I will never need a gun. Because I believe something this guy named Jesus is reported to have said, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39 NIV) If someone is going to shoot me, I will be shot. I will never need a gun.

When people talk about killing people in a video game I don’t act like it’s cool. I say that it seems pretty messed up when killing people, even virtually, is entertaining to someone.

And after yesterday, I realize that even spending my dollars supporting movies or TV shows that involve lots of gun violence is a tacit endorsement. And I can live a better life than that.

Today I can’t keep my mouth shut about war any longer either.  It’s all related.  We need to address gun violence on an individual, family and societal level.

Today is the Day, Now is the Time

Hollow point bullets. Assault rifles. Magazines that hold dozens of rounds. Buy them all legally. In a store, on the internet, at gun shows, from a friend, on the street.

You don’t have to tell me, I’ve already heard it. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “If we make it harder to buy and own guns then only the criminals will have them.” On and on, the assumption being that most everyone in the United States needs a gun, or hollow point bullets, or an assault rifle, or a clip that holds dozens of rounds. We need them for something, I guess.  Maybe so we can be just like the guy who is ready to prevent the crazed attack by the crippled old guy in the nursing home.

Today, I pray that we finally admit our permissive gun laws, our virtual glorification of gun violence, and our active denial of what is really happening in war led us to where we are today, weeping for 26 dead first graders and their teachers. I pray that we realize our denial, our failure to even try to create change, our unwillingness to take a public stand, implicates us personally when things like this happen. And I pray that we stop being too lazy, or too afraid, or too damn comfortable with the status quo, to do something about it.


Links to statistical information provided:

1 Gun statistics article on the Daily Mail.

2 Huffington Post article on the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting

3 Reuters article on gun ownership in the US

4 Iraq Body Count website and NY Times article discussing the validity of their conclusions


4 thoughts on “Guns, Newtown, and Personal Responsibility”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article. You covered it all with clear sighted logic and a call for a better way to live in this country.. I agree with all you wrote…we glorify violence, that is almost all that is on TV that people watch…and the movies..well what can I say about the movies…the new 007 was deplorable…

  2. thanks Marg. I appreciate the very articulate way you have described what I think and feel.
    I am just not terribly encouraged or optimistic that anything constructive will happen. I hope that my cynicism is shown to be wrong and that our country will rally and do the right thing. In the meantime, I will remain vocal in my opposition to the appalling availability of guns (all kinds) and ammunition (also all kinds), and to call out those bullshit phrases that people so glibly regurgitate in defense of widespread access to weapons.

  3. When a UU minister was killed on the way to Selma Martin Luther King said we should ask not who killed him but what killed him.

    What are the flaws in the system that result in the massacre of children? I think this is a good start, Marg.

    And I still believe we can be the small difference that makes all the difference in the world. Robin

  4. Thank you, Marg, for your willingness to write the truth about guns, war, and personal responsibility. I was saying “Amen” to every sentence. I’m so glad you also called out violent video games, movies, and TV shows. This article should be read by everyone!


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