gun violence

Sun shone brightly on the cobbled Church Street marketplace. Street performers called out, the smell of kettle corn wafted by from a food cart, the tinkling of silverware on the plates of outdoor diners at curbside restaurant.

Two young people, one young woman, and one dude, both wearing the T-shirt of their organization and super enthusiastic about their cause approached me.

“Everytown for gun safety?” they asked, almost in unison, smiling ear to ear.

What I heard was “Newtown… gun…” I couldn’t reconcile the instant gut-wrenching feeling of hearing “Newtown… gun” with their bright, twinkling smiles. It didn’t compute.

I asked them to repeat themselves.

“Would you sign our petition to congress to pass expanded background checks?”

I did. Their smiles grew even bigger and brighter, if that was even possible. I guess they weren’t getting many takers that day.

“Would you mind if you answered a few survey questions too?”

I agreed. Reluctantly. They were ecstatic.

“Have you, or anyone you know, been affected by gun violence?”

I paused, thinking. I could just say no. It would be so much easier. Paralyzed on how to answer, I finally blurted out. “Yes.”

Their smiles vanished instantly. Well, actually not quite instantly. First there was a look of confusion, then realization, then a pained expression washed over each of them, as though it was actually causing them pain them to continue on. I’m sure the look on my own face was worse.

There was a long pause, that grew even longer. Obviously the next question was a doozy and neither one of them wanted to ask it.

Finally I broke the silence. “I was an elementary teacher in Newtown. Newtown, Connecticut. It was many years ago, but I did know one person who died. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Condolences flowed. Before I knew what was really happening the young people had apparently decided not to ask the next few questions. I walked away, a bit dazed, a bit relieved not to have to answer any more questions, but also annoyed — now their data wouldn’t be complete. Now that they were gone, I wanted them to come back – I wanted my information to get counted, or tallied, or whatever they were going to do with it.

After Newtown, the nation promised, collectively,”Never Again.”  We cried and cried, and wrote to senators, and tweeted out statistics, and held memorials, and vigils, and did all the things that good citizens are supposed to do. And nothing happened.

In fact, worse than nothing has happened. Terrible things have happened.

There have been hundreds of  mass shootings in the U.S. in the short time since Newtown.

Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to expand background checks, something that 90% of Americans supported, but ultimately did not pass that legislation due to political maneuvering.

Following the mass shooting in San Bernadino, CA congress failed to pass another series of bipartisan bills that would have strengthened treatment for mental illness and drug abuse, as well as stopping people on the terror watch list from purchasing guns.

My heart is with the families and friends of the victims in Orlando. Despite what gun advocates may say, I believe the mass killing of innocent people could have been prevented. They say “Guns don’t kill people-people, people kill people.”  I disagree. Guns do kill people. A lot of people.

Meanwhile the CDC is BANNED from studying gun-violence as a public health issue, it’s easier to buy a gun than a frappuccino, my daughter’s kindergarten class and every classroom I work in has to hide in a closet for lockdown drills to rehearse for massacres, and to top it all off, there are people out there that actually think that it is a good idea to do straight-up creepy things like this.

I live in Vermont, which, I daresay is a very politically progressive place. Extremely liberal, depending on your perspective. We’re all about loving your neighbor, and taking care of the environment, and alternative lifestyles. We’re home to Bernie Sanders, after all.

Despite our decidedly lefty liberal politics, Vermont is a gun-friendly place. (Side-note, by the way, I did not support Bernie for president, largely because of his lack of support for gun control, and because of my sense that he is making a lot of far-fetched promises–and he knows it.)

I want to see expanded background checks, expanded investigation into domestic terrorists, investigating potential “lone wolves,” better criminal justice processes for domestic abuse, gun-education requirements for would-be gun-owners. 

None of my positions are popular at all around here.  Just look at this map. This is where I live – the pink are gun shops. The green are Starbucks. It’s much easier to get a gun than a frappuccino up here in VT.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 7.26.33 PM

What do we do? Where do we begin? Research? Schools? My own neighbors? Do we keep on signing petitions and posting to social media? Do I write to local gun shops? Gun manufacturers? The state? All of the above? 

Seriously. What to do? Where to begin?

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7 thoughts on “gun violence

  1. Wow. Great piece today, Elizabeth, with no easy answers. I think a great place to start is with what Obama said on Friday: We have to decide what kind of country we want to be. We have to decide what kind of people we want to be. This has nothing to do with the right to bear arms, as so many people believe. And I believe that is a misinterpretation of what the founding fathers intended anyway. But to continue to go on, to do nothing, speaks volumes…

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  2. Elizabeth, I wrote about Orlando today also. You have already done something by not voting for a candidate who doesn’t support gun control. On Friday I am going to write about an organization founded by Gabriel Giffords called Americans for Responsible Solutions. Perhaps you might want to take a look at the organization’s web page. Oh, and keeping writing about your call to action.

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss, and feel just as helpless. I’ve signed petitions, written to my representatives, voted against them because they did not support gun control. We talk openly in our family about our stance on responsible gun ownership and use, so that our children are aware that there’s a problem (they are young adults, so the talk is appropriate). I, too, don’t know what else to do.

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  4. Amazing piece Elizabeth. You live in a community that is unique, yet I wonder, is it? The groups that rally around gun ownership cross political lines making it a slippery issue. Not to mention the well-funded gun lobby. Keep writing, speaking out and voting.

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  5. I’m always shocked by the gun culture I hear about in Vermont. That map brings it home. Wow.

    I don’t understand how our politicians (some, not all) can be so brazen about this. If Newtown didn’t change our gun laws, then I’m not sure what will unless a Democrat gets elected to the White House AND the Democrats win an overwhelming majority of the House and Senate.

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  6. I think your map was very effective – we could actually see it is easier to get a gun than a coffee. Should that be? Is that necessary? I grew up in Brookfield and my brother lives in Newtown . One of my high school friends lost a daughter. It is inconceivable we are still here, asking the same questions. I say– try it all!!! Thank you for sharing.
    Clare

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