Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Just Checking, Are You Ok?

We had recently moved into our first apartment in Colorado. Eric was out of town for work, and I hosted friends in our one-bedroom, so I was sleeping on the floor in the kitchen area of the tiny space when early that morning, my phone began to buzz with texts.

"Tell me you didn't go see Batman last night."

"Just checking you are ok."

Sleepy, not having listened to the news, I started checking to see what was going on, to learn that a man opened fire in a theatre in Aurora, Colorado.

A couple years later, while Eric and I were checking out the Petrified Forest, similar texts came in.

"Where are you? Are you ok?"

"Is that clinic near you?"

A man had opened fire on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, which in fact, was near my primary grocery store. The police had used my bank lobby as a safe location from which to respond. 

Two weeks ago, it happened again.

"How far is Boulder from you?"

"I just want to make sure you are ok."

A man opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder.

In the intervening years, there have been more mass shootings than I can count, and if you scroll through my blog, you'll see the multiple times I've talked about these things, the times I've called out government leaders, advocated for change, proposed solutions from my little corner of the world. 

I am tired and I am angry. I feel grateful that I have not been a part of any of these events, but do vaguely understand what its like. 

When we first moved to Fort Wayne, and Eric had just started coaching football, we were at a game on a Friday night. It was after the game had ended and we were on the field with the other coaches. As we were standing there, from the other side of a row of hedges that divided one end zone from the street, shots were fired. They weren't aimed at us - it was two rival gangs shooting (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) at each other, but as we ran for the locker rooms, bullets started pinging off the bleachers - directly above the locker rooms to which we were headed.

I don't remember being scared, but I do remember picking up one if not both of the head coach's small children that were with us and running as fast as I could. I remember having a sense of disbelief- is this really happening, and are we really in danger? And I remember the look of terror on their mother's face when she couldn't find them immediately - she having turned left to the home team lockers I having turned right into the entrance of the opposing team's. I remember when we were finally let out of our shelter by the police, passing by cars riddled with bullets parked just yards away from where my car, unscratched, was located. 

I am not a victim of gun violence. But I am an ally to survivors, and I believe something can, and should be done legislatively, to quell the ongoing epidemic. I don't believe we should remove every gun, everywhere. But I also think that we have allowed the NRA, who is nothing more than a shill for gun manufacturers and NOT a good representative of people, to exert enormous influence for the sake of increasing profit margins for Remington, Smith and Wesson, Colt, etc. They have convinced spineless legislators that weapons designed for war and never conceptualized by the Founders should be in the hands of the public, with minimal checks and boundless access to ammunition. We have allowed loopholes to circumvent background checks, we have allowed manufacturers to sell weapons modifications to increase lethality on massive scales to the general public. And we have done so with impunity, caring little for the general public placed directly in danger by the results of these actions.

We as a nation care about profits, not people. We make decisions to prop up capitalism, not compassion. We values sales, not safety. 

Gun legislation will not, and cannot solve all of our problems with violence. There are systemic issues in this country that need serious reckoning with. However, we can put the pin back in the grenade through common sense gun reform. Removing weapons that are designed to inflict mass damage in seconds reduces lethality. Yes, anything can be used as a weapon, but there is nothing like a gun that can inflict the amount of damage in moments and at a distance that removes the human connection between shooter and victim. 

I have recommendations I've written about here and here, at minimum. I'll be writing my legislators again. I expect exactly nothing from Doug Lamborn, but I refuse to give up and I insist on making my voice heard. I'll let you know if there are any miraculous moments.

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