At some point we have to look at the fact that, while the mass shootings like parkland are terrible, and are the most prominent and headline garnering for both good and understandable reasons, there is gun violence happening every day in homes and neighborhoods that we need to do something about. And that we can do something about. Women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in any other developed nation. Just the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation puts women at five times the risk of being shot and killed. From a study on Nonfatal Gun Use in Intimate Partner Violence there are over 1 million women living today who have been shot, or shot at by a partner. From the same study there are some 4.5 million who have been threatened with a gun. In a 7 year period from 2009 to 2016, 54% of the mass shootings were perpetrated by partners against a spouse and related family.
So we got on here and we argue about needing tougher laws, and then someone gets mad and says “no it’s the culture!” and excuse my language or don’t but it seems pretty obvious it’s fucking both. Requiring background checks at unlicensed dealers to keep guns out of the hands of abusers shouldn’t have to be framed as an assault on the Constitution. Getting laws that keep guns out of the hands of serial stalkers or people with restraining orders shouldn’t have to be like pulling teeth. While being careful not to stigmatize mental illness or people living with them as being inherently violent or dangerous, being diagnosed as a threat to yourself or others by certified medical professionals should probably have some bearing on whether or not you walk around with loaded weapons. We’re not reinventing the wheel here folks.
As far as culture changes, while it’s by no means a perfect parallel, I think we could find some comparison in a thing like drunk driving. Ya know, 30, 40 years ago, if you went to party at a friend’s no one really asked for your keys. No one made a big deal about lining up designated drivers for nights out. And because nobody did these things we saw a huge spike in both death and accidents. So what did people do? Well we started with much harsher laws, but just as important, Nationwide campaigns greatly affected how we dealt with it ourselves amongst peers. If you’re faded now, friends step in. We take keys, we call Ubers, we prearrange DD’s. Imagine now, a cultural shift in guns where if you saw a friend mishandling weapons, or improperly storing them you said “hey, let’s fix that. You should really have that in a safe.” Imagine a shift where if you saw a friend struggling, or going through a hard time, or any number of other warning signs, people stepped in and just said “hey, this is what I see, this is what’s going on, why I don’t hang on to your guns for a while? They’ll be here when things clear up and until then get yourself right.” Imagine what that would take but imagine the lives it could save. imagine people who felt empowered to say or admit something was wrong and willingly give that gun up. I understand that’s not always possible. There are lots of people who don’t have friends to say anything. (Another crazy idea, what if we had like, mental health centers that were well enough funded they could do community outreach and be a place where people who felt they were a danger could turn to.)
And look, it’s both impossible and irresponsible to sit here and talk about cultural shifts without talking about the toxicity of men. I mean, we know it’s not women that are walking into these schools. Its not women that are breaking out hotel windows and taking aim. It’s not women who are carrying the vast amount of inner city violence. And it’s not women who are generally terrorizing their spouses and families with weapons and abuse. It’s men. It’s men who hold toxic views of masculinity that prevent them from seeking help if they need it. That prevent them from expressing themselves and their emotions in ways outside of anger and violence. Views that make them feel entitled to power and control over others. Views that just generally put not just the lives but the emotional we’ll being of others at risk every single day. And I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly where to start on how to help, but acknowledging it as a real problem, in a real way, is going to be a big part of it.
In America we like to say that anything is possible rarely have we felt more of a disconnect than we do with gun violence and our either helplessness or unwillingness to fight it. We seem to of resigned ourselves to the fact that not only is a change impossible, but that these tragedies are just a new way of life. I’m not a parent. But I came to my coffeeshop today and there was this little girl with her dad. She had a white shirt with green stripes and these flower print pants that were tucked in to a bright pink pair of glossy rubber rain boots and all I can think…is what do all those Parkland parents do with their kids’ clothes. How do you lock them away. Or sell them. Or leave them folded in a drawer. Hanging in a closet. How do you hold their shirt and smell their smell without breaking down. And I think about how many hangers, how many shoes, how many drawers hold new ghosts every year. Every week. Every day. How many empty memories are walking through shattered dreams in pink rain boots because a gun wasn’t locked away. Because help and therapy wasn’t available. Because a lax loophole let someone sit through. Because we’ve fostered a society that just says “there’s nothing we can do.”. Well I don’t believe that and I think there are a whole lot of other people who feel like me and I think that if, for a second, if we can find a way above the shouting, and out from the depths of the wonderfully user interfaced digital void we’re constantly shouting into, we can come up with some real strategies to just. Be. Better. It’s not gonna all be fixed tomorrow but damnit, can we just be…better. I say yes. And I hope you do too.