The evening of the day it happened we went to Selland’s for takeout. It was filled with families and a heady Christmas vibe. A boy, his hands behind his back, bent over a desserts display, nodding at the ones he liked, making a face at the ones he didn’t. He was beautiful. I watched him tilt his head with its mop of shining dark curls and poke his tongue into his cheek as he contemplated the feast of sweets. I became aware of the woman watching me. She stood behind the boy, her wallet in her hand. When our eyes met hers filled instantly. I glanced away for a second and when I glanced back we exchanged that nod of helpless knowing. She put her arms around her beautiful child.
We should ban assault weapons nationally. We should ban high capacity magazines and eradicate background check loopholes. Here in California we should pass Senator Leland Lee’s bill that “prohibits gun owners from fitting semi-automatic weapons with ‘bullet buttons’ or ‘mag magnets’ that allow them to be easily reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition.”
Some suggest we should ‘begin a conversation’ about this. But there was conversation after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Arizona, after Aurora–dozens of national conversations in lowered voices and dozens of memorials with weeping mourners. We need more than that, more than prayers and candle-lit processions and tears from the president and letters from the pope.
And we’ve listened to more than enough inane prattle about the Second Amendment. (By the way, ask the people who fiercely proclaim their Second Amendment rights to name the Fourth Amendment, or the Ninth or the Third. Constitutional scholars they are not). After every mass gun slaughter we weep and sigh and ‘begin a conversation’ with gun advocates who are impervious to reason and appeals to humanity. Enough. I am truly and deeply sickened by our incessant, meaningless dialogue with people who say things like, Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ That’s like saying, Cigarettes don’t smoke, people smoke. It’s that idiotic.
Ten thousand Americans are shot to death each year. Jihadist terrorists have managed to kill only seventeen of us since 911. But automatic weapons, created entirely and exclusively for killing large numbers of humans, (many sold with special bullets designed to pierce police armor) kill us by the thousands year after year after year. We don’t need to hear how hard it will be to eliminate them, or how impossible, or how scary the NRA is, or how cowardly and supine our legislators are. When David Lubin, Phoebe Hearst, Theodore Judah Kit Carson, and Sutter Middle—our neighborhood public schools– have to institute Armed Intruder lockdown procedures it’s plain we face a public health emergency and a homeland security crisis.
It’s possibly not polite to suggest that those who sell military weapons of mass murder to anyone who can pay are terrorists, but what else can we call them? And no matter what we say they react with a bombardment of passionate illogic and vituperation. The ferocity of the gun lobby is hard to stomach, let alone combat. But it’s been done. Citizens in other developed democracies outlaw automatic weapons and still enjoy as many personal liberties and constitutional protections as we. We are, in fact, less free because we live in dread of our own insane gun culture.
The NRA (which ought to call itself the National Mass Murder Weapons Association) wants us to change the subject to mental illness. This is to divert us from the real problem–our horrific and growing body count. Other developed nations have as many disturbed persons per population as we, but only here do sick, delusional people have easy access to weapons of mass murder. We need to disarm them. As for the non-violent majority of people who struggle with mental afflictions, they, like everyone else, need protection from gun massacre. And when we as a society take a hard look at mental illness we might want to consider the psyche of the gun fanatic. We might want to ask the NRA, what makes gun profits holier than life itself?
I was walking in McKinley Park when someone told me of the NRA’s lunatic response to the killings. It wants to arm teachers, and by extension, shoppers, church and theatergoers. How mentally sound is that? Haven’t Glocks and Bushmasters already made enough of a hell on earth? I remembered that when Joe Zamudio, an armed shopper in Casa Adobes, Arizona, rushed to the parking lot where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others were shot, he aimed his gun and nearly shot one of the men who was subduing the real killer.
That’s what arming civilians would precipitate: a frenzy of panicked, split-second fatal mistakes. It’s a childish, wild-west fantasy that would be laughable were it not so obscenely stupid.
On New Year’s Eve I went to Selland’s to buy desserts for a dinner party. The young guy behind the counter said he might go to Old Sacramento to watch the fireworks. I thought of him when I heard they canceled the celebration because of shooting deaths in a bar.
I don’t want to hear that it’s “inappropriate” to talk of gun control while mourning the current slaughter of children and teachers. I don’t want to be told to say my prayers and hush my voice and listen to empty pieties uttered by people who make and sell war weapons to anyone who will pay. I know four East Sacrametans who have been terrorized by gun-wielding criminals. Everybody knows somebody.
Finally, this. I don’t want to hear any more about gun ‘rights.’ Nobody’s imagined Second Amendment right to bear arms should obliterate any other person’s First Amendment right to “peaceably assemble”…in the first grade.