Places Like This

Warning: politics ahead.

vigil 0819If we are not collectively going to say “unacceptable” and mean it, which doesn’t seem likely, what we need to stop saying is, “Things like this don’t happen in places like this.” Because if we’ve learned anything from mass shootings — and so far we don’t seem to have learned much — it’s that they do, indeed, happen in places like this.

They happen in schools. They happen in churches. They happen while people are shopping, partying, going to movies, civically engaged. In the last week alone they happen at garlic festivals, bars and two different Walmarts. (The six people shot in one incident in Chicago didn’t seem to rate a mention of where they were or what was happening.)

Forty percent of the world’s guns. 255 mass shooting incidents — this year. So far. If a mass shooting episode is defined as four or more people killed, that’s well over 1,000 people dead of random gun violence. This year. So far.

It only took about 400 deaths to ground all Boeing 737 Air Maxes. Two incidents, and all those planes stopped flying.

Over 1,000 people dead. This year. So far. Superseded by the number two.

The Second Amendment was written in 1789, 230 years ago. This young nation fought its way to victory through the use of volunteer militas, with guns that could be shot once, generally not terribly accurately, before reloading was required. (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  A body of case law leans toward the latter part of that sentence rather than the beginning.)

This amendment doesn’t need to be dismissed, but some historical context ought to factor into discussions. We no longer worry so much about the Third Amendment. You know, the one that prohibits the quartering of soldiers in private homes during peacetime.

The “good guys with guns” were already on scene when a young white man, as a large percentage of them are, started shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Thirty seconds after he started shooting, he was dead. Thirty seconds. Nine people killed in 30 seconds. 27 more wounded. More than one bullet per second striking human flesh.

What do you imagine it takes for this to be unacceptable?

Dear Senator Cory Gardner and Representative Scott Tipton: I hope you can live with your stance on guns, because others can’t. Do you suppose it’s worth the electrons to send that?

I would guess there are more guns than people in Gunnison County. I’ve used some of them. As a reporter, I gave shooting a try with the Pee Wee Gun Club, which taught firearm instruction and safety to kids. I fired a handgun, at bottles, once. It scared me, the notion that this small bit of lead could take someone’s life. I went trap shooting several times — I was terrible at it. All my clay pigeons died ignominious deaths crash-landing in the dirt rather than exploding mid-air from my borrowed shotgun. I did better with the 30.06 (aimed at paper targets) a friend bought as a mountain lion deterrent. She didn’t like the gun — too much kickback.

I stopped these shooting sports due to a lack of time. Now, I think I would stop out of personal philosophy.

At work once, one of my many friends named Bob used the restroom. He took the loaded handgun he always packs out of his waistband (tucked in Thomas Magnum style) and promptly forgot it on the toilet. I found it there sometime later, and thought it was a realistic-looking squirt gun — until I picked it up and it was heavy.

Bob has been asked multiple times not to bring guns into Pat’s Screen Printing, by both owners, and he seems to find it funny. It does not stop him from fully exercising his Second Amendment Rights, which apparently supersede any other rights, including the rights to pursuit of happiness, liberty. Life. That’s the first American right, in the opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence.

No one deserves to die while paying for groceries at Walmart as his wife waits outside. No one should ever have to thrust her baby under her, breaking his fingers, so that he can be raised by his aunt and uncle since both his parents are dead. No one should have to recount that on his 21st birthday, while at his first bar, bullets whizzed within three feet of his head. No six-year-old should have his life cut short because his relatives took him to a garlic festival.

But until we collectively decide this is unacceptable, we cannot pretend any place is a place where this doesn’t happen. They are all places where this can, and does, happen. Wrap yourself in the cold comfort of everyone’s thoughts and prayers, and hope that your place is not today’s place.


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