THE ONLY THING I WANT TO SHOOT OFF IS MY MOUTH

STEPHEN COLBERT
STEPHEN COLBERT

When I got into my car on Thursday, I heard these words on CNN, “school shooting,” and “10 dead.” I thought, my God, not again. Not again. I drove home with tears in my eyes. It’s so difficult for me to believe that in the 14 years since the Columbine shootings shocked the nation that we are still dealing with school shootings at all.

In 2006, the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting shocked the nation because an unstable man decided to take out his insanity on a group of pacifist children in a one-room schoolhouse. The Amish community stunned the nation with their outpouring of forgiveness and support of the shooter’s widow.

Newtown brought me to my knees.  Victims were so little.  I was horrified.  The US was horrified.  The world was horrified.

This list of school shootings in America is mind blowing. School shootings are are old as the United States.

That is just the list of school shootings. Gun violence in America is as old as our right to bear arms. We are the only modernized, civilized, advanced country in the world who has a problem with gun violence.

I don’t pretend to have any answers for this issue. I know there will never be a ban on weapons in this country, and I’m not sure I’d ever want one. Still, gun control is essential.  I truly believe that.

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I posted this to Twitter and Facebook when I got home Thursday. Some people were supportive, others not so much. I see both sides.  At this point, however, I would give up my right to bear arms if it meant gun violence would decrease.  Sure, criminals will always be able to gain access to things we as the general population are prohibited to have. Still, maybe if law enforcement had only to go after criminals and not worry about the general population’s armaments, maybe the amount of guns in the hands of criminals would also decrease.

The argument that the criminals would have guns and you and I wouldn’t does not apply in the case of these school shootings.  These mentally ill people are not criminals until they carry out their plans. If a school shooter walks in with a knife instead of a gun, would the carnage be as bad?  Perhaps not.  It’s something to think about anyway.

I grew up shooting all sorts of guns, shotguns, even a musket gun. I have shot targets, birds, and bats. I know how to use a gun safely.  My dad always kept the bullets in a separate place from the guns, but we always knew where they were.  I never thought about using a gun to defend myself from someone else with a gun, or anyone else for that matter. Guns were for hunting. Shooting targets.  Shooting bats. Not people.

I remember a neighbor of ours had a teenage son who killed his cousin when he accidentally discharged a gun. I remember the grief he went through, that his family went through, because of this accident. I see news stories all the time of toddlers shooting a parent or sibling by accidentally discharging a gun they could readily access. Guns are too plentiful and handled carelessly.

About 8 years ago, I was hosting a Bible study in my apartment and a guy walked in with a gun tucked in the back of his pants. When I confronted him about it, he said it was his right to defend himself and carry a gun.  I told him to put it in the car, or leave my apartment – which was a loaded gun free zone.  Yes, recently, people have been shot during a Bible study in a church in Charleston. Still, the odds of someone knocking on my door and taking us all out with a gun are so remote I decided I’d take my chances. He did not understand why I asked him to put the gun away, but he honored my request.

As for defending myself against a person with a gun – if I had a gun, I doubt I could shoot another human being, even to save my own life. I have a knife, a taser, and a pepper-spray gun. I also have something that most people don’t think of when it comes to self defense – I have my wits and my mouth. I know I can shoot off my mouth when I need to do so. I know I can convince people to do just about anything.  Maybe, just maybe, I can convince a person not to shoot me.  If I can’t, then it’s my time to go.

I find it ironic that many of the people who want open carry laws and the right to own and use as many guns as possible are offended and outraged that I would even hint that I’d give up my right to bear arms to decrease gun violence, because the right to bear arms is their right, their choice.  They are outraged the government may take away their rights or choices, but many of these people believe it is their right to tell a woman what to do with her body and reproductive system. They believe the LGBT community has no rights.  Just don’t try to take any of their rights away.

Somewhere in that big, tangled mess of rights, privileges, and choices is the answer.  I just don’t know what it is.  I always try to honor other people’s opinions, I stay civil in discourse, yet people jump all over me and very enthusiastically tell me I’m going to hell or worse, misinformed, but we all have opinions.

What we don’t have right now in the middle of this hot mess are answers, solutions.

I encourage everyone to put down their “rights” and “choices” and take a step back to become part of the solution.  Who knows, maybe there will be a solution where everyone gets what they want.  We won’t know until we try.

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