My fourteen-year-old daughter and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie. Sitting in the dark theater of our quiet town, she turned to me and said, "I have a feeling we're going to be shot." The eerie part is she didn't say it with fear. She wasn't scooting down in her seat or darting her eyes around. Her statement expressed her understanding that being near gun violence is a part of what you risk when you go see a movie.
A few days ago, former contestant on The Voice, Christina Grimmie, was shot at a fan Meet and Greet in Orlando. The young woman was a YouTube star--something we middle-aged don't fully understand. Young singers and comedians gather millions of viewers by posting their talent online. They get hits and shares, comments of "ILYSM" (I love you so much). It's the new equivalent of when our generation's singers were discovered at coffee shops, and our slang included "wicked" and "bad."
But my daughter's generation isn't just enmeshed with the Internet, social media, and their own language. Gun violence is now part of their lives. No matter how hard I try to relate, this kind of violence is still viewed as separate from my daily life--a feeling of "they" are out there. "I" am in here. I didn't grow up with school shootings, nor did I grow up with access to media showing live images of shootings and their aftermath 24 hours a day.
As I write, the news of the nightclub shooting in Orlando has just taken place. There's no news on if the gunman had an official affiliation with ISIS. We're waiting. Of course, the Internet is already stirring. Terrorism. Gays. Hate crimes. Mentally unstable people. We try and grasp it. Try to make sense of it. We call it "terrorism" when this many are killed. We call it "fatally shot" when Christina Grimmie was killed. Let's move to what they really are: Murder. Genocide.
We are killing ourselves, and we all know that the problem isn't as simple as blaming an angry man. It's an assault rifle. It isn't an obsessed fan (still waiting on the motive for the Grimmie shooting), it's the fact that a person can walk into a public place with a gun in each hand. How far would these people get if they only had a knife? Would they even contemplate these events if obtaining weapons were made more difficult?
A friend from high school has had upwards of forty surgeries since she tried to kill herself with a gun. She's thrilled to be alive, but what if she didn't have access to one during that low point? And the boy at my daughter's school who accidentally killed himself with a gun? How easily these incidents would not have happened, nor all the incidents of being shot cleaning a gun or at the hands of curious toddlers.
My daughter is a musician. She sings. She plays instruments. Her world is the world of Christina Grimmie. Putting her music out on YouTube, singing in front of people, signing CDs for fans--she'd love that. How did we get to a point where the idea of being an artist can be just as dangerous as dreaming of being a cop or a firefighter?
"Bad people will get ahold of guns no matter what," is the argument. "Guns don't kill people, people do." That is a typical response, but it is not a logical one. If these claims were true, gun killings would increase with population growth not gun ownership.
Making guns harder to get WILL keep people alive. Will it take five years to decrease the circulation of multi-round guns? Ten? Will it cause a national outrage? Will lawmakers lose NRA support? That's fine. I mean--it's fine if you care that sixty-three people were murdered with guns in Chicago over this past Memorial Day weekend.
Look at what our youth are saying on Twitter. Get into their minds. Their world is a minefield, and they're scared. And powerless. They aren't old enough to vote. Letters to Senators mean little because they are not constituents. We've got to do it for them. Just like we had them vaccinated so they wouldn't get polio or we save money for their future education, we have to ACT so in the future--when they go out on a Saturday night--they return home.
It doesn't matter how difficult it is, or how upset people will be, or how long it will take. Our kids will be here waiting. At least, we pray they will be.