Musings About the Murders in Newtown from a Former Gun Junkie

The Monday morning following the Sandy Hook massacre, which took place less than 30 minutes away in a town much like our own rural community of Bethany, Connecticut, my sister-in-law, Laurie, dropped her son off at Bethany Community School where three state troopers greeted them at the school entrance. My nephew, Jeremiah, had tears in his eyes as he entered the building.

Laurie posted his reaction on Facebook, and I had already started to cry (yet again) when I scrolled down and saw that damned (YES! DAMNED!) post that reads, “Which of these signs will prevent another tragedy? ‘All weapons are prohibited on this premises,’ or, ‘Staff heavily armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force.’”

Riiiiight. OK, so how many people elected to go into teaching because they want to shoot up bad guys? Let me see a show of hands . . . hmmm . . . nobody? You mean you went into this demanding, exhausting, often thankless job that hardly pays enough to support the lowest end of the American dream because you want to mold young minds and impart them with knowledge, wisdom, the ability to think rationally and creatively . . . because you want to inspire in them a life-long love of learning that will help change the world for the better? Seriously?

Well, you had better get over it fast, because if some lunatics have their way, your next job interview will include questions like, “How quickly can you disassemble, clean and reassemble a Glock 9mm handgun or a Bushmaster .223 caliber assault rifle?” Instead of inquiring about your teaching proficiency, your potential boss might ask you about your accuracy with a handgun. “How quickly can you draw, by the way? And we’re not talking about using Crayola products.”

I admit, I am a vegetarian pacifist who rescues farm animals from slaughter and teaches autistic people to ride horses. I am anti-violence to the point of, if anyone on my farm hits or assaults any of my animals in any way, for any reason, they are no longer welcome here. Period. Yet I am uniquely qualified to broach the subject of guns as I’ve acquired my antiviolence philosophy by way of a childhood riddled with more kinds of violence than I care to list here. But I will tell you, if we were raised today instead of during the 1960s, the police would have been called to our house more than a few times.

We grew up in a quiet suburb with a father who had serious “red-neck” tendencies. At age 12 I got my first .22 rifle, on my 16th birthday my father took me shopping for my first handgun and before I left for college I was gifted with my own shotgun. Yes, I knew how to make squirrel stew. Our house was filled with guns, several of them loaded at all times, and the ammunition was never locked up. Considering how much time we spent dodging a violence-prone, knife-wielding, leather-strap-slinging sibling, and how often we had to jump out a window to escape him, it’s a miracle we all made it to adulthood.

The truth is that violence doesn’t end violence. In fact, the more of it people are exposed to, the easier it is to buy into, and I know this from personal experience. For me, this means a zero-tolerance policy. Others, however, feel that more guns will make the world a safer place, and arming teachers is a good place to start.

But let me digress just a moment before I go on my planned tirade. A few years ago my husband David and I went to Colorado for a business meeting. We stayed at a resort that had a shooting club which included a facility specially designed for target practice with a handgun; you walked through it and targets popped out at you and you made snap decisions as to whether each was a threat and had to be “killed.” While David knew my history with guns, he had never seen me in action. So one morning we went over to the shooting club and we took the mandatory handgun lesson. My husband did OK, but I annihilated the center of the bulls eye. I think I made David nervous . . . 

Then we were coached on how to shoot our way through the training facility. Not only did we have to hit our target, we first had to make a split-second decision as to whether or not what popped up in front of us was a threat. The first time I walked through I hit every target but the last one (I choked on the long-distance shot) with no more than two bullets.  I didn’t “kill” anyone who didn’t have a weapon aimed at me. The second time through, however, a cardboard woman that had originally been wielding a gun was now waving a hairdryer. Alas, that hairdryer cost her dearly – I took her out with one shot. My husband, it seems, lacked aim and judgment as on his tour through he wiped out a half dozen innocent “people” using nearly an entire clip for each one. The instructor shook his head and sighed as he exited with David, then asked me if I was interested in furthering my shooting career. I declined, but as we exited I had twinges of regret that I had left my childhood passion so far behind . . . wow, guns are addictive . . .

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