Monitor Board of Contributors: Time to stand my ground
Guns. They are in the news again with 12 new innocent victims down in Washington.
They are such a complicated business, such a complicated issue.
Facts and figures and statistics abound, ready to influence or justify in any way how one wants to have an opinion solidified. You can take them all in for consideration or dismissal. You can hold tight to your belief, whatever it is, loudly or quietly and never search or re-examine opinion again. Lock it in and rest, that is the best approach.
I’ve done that, and it does make life easier. Thinking, being open to new options or outlooks can be such a bother. Still, I want to be respectful, understanding, open, because somewhere I have faith that consensus is out there waiting. And finding that consensus is, for us all, more important than locking in a position that only serves me.
It is a troubling issue. A squeeze of the finger and lives are changed forever. So easy, a child can do it. So easy and quick that spontaneity can rule, leaving only afterthoughts to pick up pieces. A wayward impulse at the wrong moment with the right weapon in hand can create lifetimes of heartbreak.
It is easy to become immune to the potential for destruction unless you are directly affected. For people like me, maybe people like you, fortunate to be living a life free of violence, our perspective can become skewed toward the perfect. What . . . something is wrong, there is a problem, you say? You might call it immunity through life experience. Or maybe, more appropriately, it should be called ignorance.
In truth, there is no immunity. Locked doors, locked gates, locked schools, locked minds are no protection. When the moment is ready to explode, it will explode. Bolt the door, build the walls higher and thicker and longer, and mix a lot of hope into the mortar. Believe for a moment that you are protected. Believe your shield is impenetrable, you are safe – your family is safe. Stand your ground.
Then consider reality. The only true protection against gun violence is luck. Luck, that the bad guy won’t point his gun in your direction. Luck, that a hunter’s bullet doesn’t go astray. Luck that the good guy with his concealed weapon in the State House doesn’t have a change of heart. Luck that your little boy doesn’t wear a hoodie or that you don’t work at the Washington Naval Yard.
Luck is the only true armor against gun violence. To be blessed with a life that is free of bullets heading your way is like winning the lottery, or coming face to face with Superman at exactly the right moment. You can’t plan it, it is not in your control, it either finds you or it doesn’t.
True, there are things that can be done to increase the luck factor. Living in Concord, N.H., might be one. Staying away from certain sections of Detroit or not having Whitey Bulger as a friend might be others.
Then there is the notion that having your own gun is the best avenue to safety. Maybe it could be. But even if it is, a second gun doesn’t change the basic equation. Luck still reigns supreme. You still better have it on your side.
Guns are not easy. Opinions on their role in American society are as diverse and set as any issue I know. Though I believe consensus is possible, at the moment it seems so elusive as to not even exist.
Guns yes, guns no, guns for everyone, guns for no one. It’s in the Constitution, in a hunter’s sacred rights, in freedom, in oppression, in outlaws, in my private property, my closed door, my right to be secure from you and your right to be secure from me. It’s in blood, and tears, and heartbreaks, and jail cells and lives cut short in the most horrendous of ways.
It is in my silence about to be broken.
I have never owned a gun. I don’t want one in my house, my car, or holstered on my belt. And you know what, I don’t really want one in your house or your car or holstered to your belt either. Your gun doesn’t make me feel safe or protected. And your gun won’t change my luck.
In a civil society do we really need a gun in every home? Do we need, do we want, vigilantes filling in while we call 911? Do we want to trade in the police department for a neighbor who is on ready with his gun loaded? Do we want laws that punish after the bullets have taken their toll? Or would it make more sense to have laws that truly minimize a trigger being pulled at all?
Luck, it is all about luck. And I figure the best way to improve and continue my luck is to minimize the number of weapons that can intrude upon it.
Do I go too far? I suppose it is all in how many guns you might have or want to have. Or how thoroughly saddened you are
when. . . .
I’ve listened to the fears of apocalypse, and outlaws with guns, and collapse of freedom and everything sacred. I have even heard Charlton Heston down in Manchester one night many years ago challenge me to pry his gun from his cold dead fingers. But I am not moved.
The measure of a free society is not in the gun count. It is in the strength and character of its population.
I heard at a lecture this summer past that in ancient Greece it was against the law to not have an opinion. In fact, you could have your neighbor prosecuted for apathy. True or not, it was for me a call to action.
Guns are not easy. Yes, my opinions on the topic might for some be extreme. And in the interest of balance, I will continue to listen and be open. Silence, however, is no longer acceptable. I believe that on the road to finding consensus, we all need to speak and be listened too. Waiting for the memorial service of a loved one to speak out is too late.
We might think about Athens. Let us arm every home with an opinion instead of a gun. Let’s work harder to eliminate gun violence.
Luck is not a viable approach.
(John Gfroerer of Concord is the owner of a video production company based at the Capitol Center for the Arts.)