We Need Gun Reform
The culture I grew up in is so pro-gun, kids get a day off from school for the opening day of hunting season and not Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t own, at the very least, a hunting rifle. Gun safety classes are taught to kids on the weekends and kids participate in youth hunts. For my family, venison, the meat from deer, was a cheap source of protein. Hunting season has started in Northern Michigan, my home and the home of the much sought after white-tailed deer, on November 15th. Everyone has stocked up on beer, snacks, and bullets to take out to camp to try and bag the biggest buck.
Even with this inundation of guns and hunting, I couldn’t get comfortable around guns. Being near them gives me a nauseated feeling. I’ve tried to get comfortable with them. I can properly load and shoot a gun. I’ve shot skeet (terribly) when my husband was trying to find something fun for us to do together. Usually, I want to cry after the first explosive pop of the rifle. I can feel the gun’s power to harm, and to kill. I’m not comfortable with that kind of power.
I also came of age during Columbine, when overnight, going to school became scary. The image of two boys in long black trench coats and carrying guns is etched into my brain. Then I was in my first year of college when the Virginia Tech shooting occurred. I wondered if it could happen on my campus. It could have. As one teacher observed, “ we have an armed campus,” on the opening day of hunting season when students went to security to check their guns out of storage. I don’t remember thinking there might be a problem with this, but I never participated in hunting. Maybe these instances of violence fueled my revulsion for guns even as everyone around me was pro-gun.
Every hunting season, we wait. Not only for our family members to come back from camp either jubilant over the spilling of blood or resigned to get that buck next year, but we also wait for the news that someone has been hurt or killed. It’s usually an out-of-towner who never handles a gun except for this one time of year and usually, it’s an accident. A bullet was left in the chamber. The safety wasn’t on. Someone wasn’t wearing the appropriate hunting blaze orange and was mistaken for a deer. One year, a stray bullet got way too close to my grandmother after a neighbor rented out his land to out-of-town hunters. Scared, she stayed inside for the rest of hunting season, but never questioned who should have a gun.
We, my family, friends, literally anyone I know in my small rural town, live with this uncertainty, never questioning it and then getting angry over any proposed gun control. I think it’s a sign of how immune we are to gun violence. America has the 28th highest rate of deaths by guns, much higher than most developed countries. Even after Sandy Hook, when children ages 6 to 7 were killed by a 20-year-old (I would argue another child), in 2012, we did nothing. Obama recently spoke out about how it was the saddest and angriest day of his presidency when the gun control legislation that resulted from Sandy Hook didn’t pass. It should have been a sad and angry day for everyone in America.
Years have passed since Sandy Hook and gun sales are increasing. The New York Times recently published an article on the trend. And it isn’t just Republicans purchasing guns. It’s everyone. Gun sellers have reported selling more guns to women, Black people, and first-time gun owners this year.
“American’s bought 15.1 million guns in the seven months this year from March through September, a 91% leap from the same period in 2019.”
People are scared and trying to find some sort of control in a year where our worlds were turned upside down by COVID-19, social upheaval, and climate change. Another fearful statistic: some cities within the country have recorded increases in domestic violence up to 35% higher since the COVID-19 pandemic began. So what happens when more angry men have guns in their hands?
Gun control is an angry tangled mess of social issues, police brutality, inequality, and mental health, to name a few. Trying to enact gun control means trying to tackle some of these other issues. I want real change where we untangle the knot of gun control, actually look at our underlying issues of racism, police brutality, sexism, severe inequality, and lack of mental health, that make us fearful of each other and our own government. We should be protecting each other, not scared of each other. This is a lot of work that, unfortunately, can take years, but there are some changes we could enact now to help reduce gun violence by looking at how other countries can keep their gun violence low to nonexistent.
Here are some countries I think we should look to for how they have handled gun control:
Switzerland — I think is the most interesting example because gun ownership is high and gun violence is low. They do have mandatory military service where everyone is trained in firearm use and retain their weapon until they are out of the reserves. And because of this military service, everyone must demonstrate the mental, physical, and intellectual ability to carry a gun. I’m not advocating for mandatory military service, but for the stringent rules on gun ownership. In many places in the U.S., you can go right in and purchase a gun with nothing but an ID and a basic background check. I think Switzerland shows just how much this process of demonstrating your capabilities is important to own a gun. A gun is a deadly weapon, why aren’t we more opposed to the lack of control around buying guns?
Norway — Per Gummi Oddsson, a cross-cultural sociologist, there is social cohesion between the government and its citizens that leads to a more peaceful society. They engage in community policing that promotes partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address public safety concerns. This sounds just envious to me. Collaboration between government and citizens instead of distrust and broken promises? Sign me up.
Japan — There are strict laws on purchasing guns in Japan. As the Business Insider reports, citizens have to pass a mental health evaluation, background check, interviews with family and friends, attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve 95% accuracy during a shooting-range test.
These are only a few examples of the things the United States could implement to have better gun control. Even with Joe Biden the incumbent President, I don’t feel more comfortable on gun reform in the near future. Look at what happened with Obama and the Republican-led Congress after Sandy Hook. The U.S. is a ticking bomb, with even more government distrust sown by Trump and fed by police brutality and COVID-19. The countdown is unknown to our next Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or Parkland or Pulse Nightclub…should I go on? Or it’s already happened and our nonstop news cycle has overlooked the incident because of location or type of victim. There have been 395 mass shootings in the U.S. as of September 2020, many happening in predominantly Black neighborhoods. That is more days than the year has and yet…I’ve heard very little about this in the news.
Hunting season is a big part of the culture in my part of the country. I don’t want to take that away. It’s something my husband looks forward to every year. And it isn’t even necessarily about bagging that monster buck. It’s the camaraderie between the people out at camp. It’s a break from life, to slow down, sit out in the woods and connect to something larger. My husband would probably scoff at this description, but that’s what he’s doing when he sits in his blind and quietly watches and listens and unwinds from our busy life. It’s also about herd management, protecting farmland, and having the ability to feed your family.
However, when it comes to the life of my child, anyone’s child, and gun rights, I will choose the life of my child. All-day, every day. Let's truly pursue gun reform. Let's get people feeling safe in their country, so if they do purchase a gun it isn’t to make them feel safe but for economical reasons like feeding your family or protecting your crops or even just recreation. But there need to be better and stricter laws around gun ownership. Prove to me that you can properly use the gun, that you have a safe place to keep it away from children, that you are emotionally stable enough to own it and when do we ever ever ever need an assault rifle for the regular population? Let's keep this in mind as we keep fighting for change.