The United States has a gun-obsessed culture. The bad guys have guns. Many of the good guys have guns. Our movies have guns. Our TV shows have guns. And our Constitution says we can go ahead and get some more. So millions of people have them, in their homes, in their cars, their purses, or even carried openly. For many, the idea is self defense -- protection from some theoretical harm that may come their way. For others, the gun is theoretically for sport. Some collect them like baseball cards, amassing an arsenal that would make mob bosses blush.
Meanwhile, our kids know they can be killed at any time, simply for going to class. While there have been mass shootings at movie theaters, businesses and churches, young children armed with little more than backpacks and pens make for an easy mark for homicidal gun nuts looking to rack up high numbers of casualties, regardless of their motives. For years, the near-weekly calamities of on campus shootings have blurred from one to another, where we simply have to say the names of the schools to dredge up memories of horror. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Stoneman Douglas. Virginia Tech. Santa Fe High.
As a father of three school-age kids, I've had to accept my kids go through Code Red drills with the kind of nonchalance and regularity I once underwent through fire drills. My oldest son has said matter of factly that if a shooter came to his school, he would probably be killed, because his classroom is nearest the school entrance. "Have a good morning kids, and make sure not to get shot," I could say as I whisk them out the door.
Amidst all this came the news to our family last month that my father, a right leaning one-time moderate seemingly drifting into the mental madness that emboldens the Fox News crowd of late, had purchased a handgun. He had semi bragged at his last visit to our home that had he known our city had a guns and ammo shop, that he'd have stopped in for target practice...
His reasoning for buying a firearm? He came to the conclusion that had a "good guy with a gun" been around when Adam Lanza stormed Sandy Hook, they could have stopped the massacre. He said he had some kind of vision in a dream that he had been called to get a gun and prepare to shoot the next shooter - ordered by God, if you will. Given his lifelong adherence to religion, there's some higher level aspiration going on here, mirroring Biblical stories of the Lord speaking directly to prophets, and it's likely he hopes to be pure enough to listen should the voice come down from the heavens...
I, of course, think this is ridiculous. More guns means more chance he gets shot, or my mother gets shot, or my kids find the gun, wherever he has it, and get shot. The most likely people to be shot by firearms are your relatives, so lucky us... that's who we are. So since he won't tell me where the gun is, whether it's in his home, or in his car, or in his office, I don't think I can bring my kids home to my parents any more. For the ease of how they find my candy stashes and pilfer money from my wife's purse, I don't think it's that far a stretch to learn they've found his handgun after we've heard the boom that could take their life.
Thanks to the Constitution, and centuries of rebellious behavior by Americans who love their independence and their own interpretations of freedoms, we're hundreds of years and millions of firearms into stockpiling enough weapons to shoot everyone dozens of times. That munitions pile has long since been crossed. But I don't think I need to accept my father buying a firearm as some new personality quirk, hobby or the latest signal of his descending into a slippery slope of senility.
If he wants to see his grandkids face to face, the gun has to go, or I need perfect assurance it's not anywhere we end up. When he purchased the gun and registered himself as a gun owner, the safety had been removed.