A little while ago I returned from the grocery store, and my wife had tears in her eyes. She showed me a message from her sister about a murder-suicide in a city about fifty miles away, and said the one involved was the son of a good friend of mine, one I’ve known for over thirty years, whose sons played with my own sons. The story goes that he shot his wife’s lover, and then turned the gun on himself. Yes, if that is what happened and he was the shooter, the blame is on him, but I also blame our national fetish with firearms.
Tonight when my oldest son comes over to visit, I get to give him the bad news. He’s young and tends to feel emotions more strongly than most, and he’s going to be heartbroken. It’s going to be no fun. But even more, my heart goes out to all three households who just had their hearts ripped out: the family whose son was murdered, my friend and his wife who lost a son and will be forced to live with the shame of what he did, and for the wife of the murderer, who lost both her lover and her husband. There are no words to comfort any of them.
About fifteen years ago, another very good friend of ours suddenly got word that her son who lived close to her had been having marital problems, and that he decided to shoot himself in the head with a shotgun. The mother was so strong, stronger than I could ever be. We went as soon as we heard, of course, and stayed with her for a couple hours. She never went into hysterics, but was so very calm. We could see the heartbreak and anguish, but she never let herself give in to it, not that we saw. Perhaps she was numb, or she was determined to not allow anyone to watch her break down and crumble and cry out in agony.
Sure, the suicide was her son’s fault — he pulled the trigger, right? But in both cases, the gun was there, and it made it so much easier to do the worst thing possible. That’s why even though they both were responsible for what they did, I blame the gun manufacturers, the oh-so-self-righteous “Second Amendment Defenders” in media (and their viewers and listeners) who go ballistic the moment any regulation of firearms is proposed. Most of all, I blame those in Congress who have allowed their honor and integrity to be purchased so gun manufacturers could keep their stock prices up.
Having easy access to firearms does NOT make our nation safer. Here’s a fact of life: the easier something is to do, the more people will do it, even if it’s wrong. Having easy access to firearms makes it FAR easier to kill one’s wife, or her lover, or some random person on the street, or oneself. Sure, one can claim one has a firearm for self-defense, but the problem with that claim is that most attacks by someone wielding a gun don’t start with the other guy saying, “I’m gonna shoot you!” If someone with a gun has the drop on you, it doesn’t matter how big or powerful or rapid-firing your personal compensation tool may be. If the other person has the drop on you, you’re probably done for. That’s why the self-defense argument utterly fails.
That’s also why our nation has a higher homicide rate than any other first-world nation, and higher than that of many third-world nations. I’ve walked the streets of Manila, Bangkok, and Nairobi (in addition to several other large cities around the planet) and I always felt safer than I ever have walking in any of our larger cities here in America. Why? Because in each of those places, even in the slums, it’s a lot harder to acquire a firearm. Sure, they could whip out a knife and attack me, but I can run. Sorta-kinda. But if one pulled a gun, even if I was openly-carrying a firearm, he’d have the drop on me, and I’d be dead. So why the hell should I carry a gun? It makes no real sense. If one’s living out in the boonies where one has to worry about wild animals like bears or wolves, or where one’s an hour or more away from any polices, then sure, it’s understandable to keep firearms around. But in the city? No. Yes, there will always be somebody who’ll play the “whatabout this-or-that” game, but in the big picture, the hard numbers show a firearm in the household presents a significantly greater likelihood to be used against someone inside that household than against robbers or home invaders.
So when my son walks in the door in a couple hours, I’ll inform him of what happened, and when he’s got control of himself once more, I’ll tell him something I’ve never told him before: that what happened with his friend was precisely why I didn’t want to have a firearm in our own home. What I won’t tell him — but what he will later remember — is that his own natural father (I’m the stepdad, remember) watched his dad shot before his eyes, and it adversely affected his mindset from that day forward. He’ll also remember that during an argument between his natural father and his mom (my wife), his natural father had walked around the bedroom yelling while cocking and uncocking a pistol. He’d been that close to killing her.
Yes, the ones who pull the trigger are at fault. But the gun lobby and their supporters made it easy for everyone in America — including those with hatred or anguish in their hearts — to acquire firearms. To me, I compare them to drugs. Yeah, the junkies shoot the crap in their veins, but like the gun manufacturers making guns easy to acquire to satisfy our national gun fetish, the drug lords make it easy for addicts to get their next fix.
Addendum: I refrained from mentioning any names or the location of the crime in order to preserve the privacy of those involved.