By Geila Rajaee
When the first major school shooting took place in Columbine, Colorado I remember this sense that part of the world had fractured. It wasn’t necessarily the first shooting to occur on a high school campus (or a school campus, at that) but my memory keenly recalls a fundamental shift in our attitude towards threats of violence (from unknown enemies) and the need for guns for protection (against people with guns.)
Let me be clear here: I do not own any guns. I never have and probably never will. I have only shot one gun in my life and that was a historic civil war musket during a history class and someone else loaded it with gun powder and bb’s, kind of like you see them do in the movies. Seriously. It was like in the movies and felt just as surreal.
Since the shooting at Columbine High school public shootings have become nearly common place. Two weeks ago, a reporter and camera man were both shot – on-air – by a former disgruntled employee who held a grudge and a gun. Gabby Gifford was shot in a grocery store talking to some community members. Moviegoers in Colorado were shot at theater in Colorado, or even more recently in Louisiana. Children were shot while attending elementary school at Sandy Hook.
I do not want to continue writing this list. Honestly, it pains me and I just cannot….
The truth of the matter is we have a huge problem and it centers around the word “shot” and its source: guns. For a developed nation, we sure have a lot of people getting killed by individuals with access to guns – including semi-automatic weapons – and we really don’t see this type (or rate of) violence in countries that are similar to our own.
Life isn’t always safe and it certainty isn’t safer when people have greater access to guns. (This we already know from a study out of the University of California, San Francisco (Annals of Internal Medicine): people with access to weapons are more likely to employ them against their selves (3 times) or be a victim of a homicide (2 times) versus someone who does not have access. Or from the American Journal of Epidemiology back in 2004, nearly one-third of all homicides at home occurred during an argument.)
Over the past year, I have been to more than five trainings to teach me how to prepare for and respond to a first person shooter. This is how we have chosen to respond as a nation – not to consider greater regulation or stricter laws – but to have every day folk learn how to prepare for and respond to the threat. Children used to have fire drills…. Now they practice and prepare for first person shooters.
What kind of world are we living in that this is acceptable?
As I write these words I realize that the world we live in is utterly impossible to hold with one’s heart. There are displaced people all over the Middle East and Europe (and, let’s be honest, more than there) who are fleeing violence and war. The struggle for survival for those caught within the conflict is more harrowing than I could possibly imagine; they simply have no choice but to fight or flee.
But we do not live in a war zone. This, my friends, is a huge difference. You can fear it but I am fairly certain that our fear of “it” will only stoke it into being. This obsession with guns as our salvation from fear may be more akin to sin than we would care to admit…
Let me be clear for the sake of future complaints or concerns: I have profound respect for our Military and service men and women. I also respect diplomacy so those boots never have to touch the ground and those weapons never need to be fired in active combat. I respect those who hunt to provide for their families. And, I’m not a vegetarian, so, well, there is that… Not to mention, I am human and still working this all out and these thoughts are ever evolving and growing just as I grow and the world changes.