When I was in school, I remember hearing this particular phrase on a number of occasions: “You’ll ruin it for all of us.” Whatever it was I was doing, I was being policed by a group of peers with whom I shared a privilege. This in-group of peers understood that abuse of power would lead to consequences, namely, the loss of that power.
To my gun-owning friends, all you good, responsible people who have provided me the deer that is in my freezer and the sense of protection I felt that one day in the Styx when you informed me you were loaded, people, stop whining. Newtown happened.
Somebody ruined it for everybody.
Gun owners, you should have acknowledged this long ago and you should have all, by now, come up with a way of demonstrating your commitment to preserving a right to bear arms that involves holding one another more accountable. By now, you should have come up with a way to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.
Just one of you should have walked into the street and broken your assault rifle over your knee. It’s not in anger that I’m writing this. Truly, it’s born from confusion. It’s as if owners of fast-shooting guns are in a fraternity. In fact, it’s beyond that – it’s evangelical. Nothing should be sacrosanct, ever.
I wonder – if someone were to hold a dozen kids hostage at gunpoint and demand that you turn over some of your guns, would you? I shudder to think you wouldn’t.
You have not given an inch. Your attitude toward those of us who don’t own guns and think the system needs reform is childish and reactionary. How many people have to die before you give your first inch? Twenty-seven more dead in Connecticut equals at least 60-something lives destroyed. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate. I’d say those 60-something people would be on the side of some kind of reforms.
When will you ask how you can help us with ideas? Quit being as rebellious as pubescent teenagers, saying that it’s not your problem. It’s all of our problem. You, gun owner, just happen to be in a place where you’re more able to help. I'm not sure what we can do better – I've never gone through the process of buying a gun before.
The rapidity and rabidity of your reaction is disappointing. You say this has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with mental health, but that’s a stupid dichotomy to draw. It’s obviously both.
Your reluctance to actively participate in making the gun culture in this country safer has to end. It’s time to hold yourself more accountable. When it comes right down to it, hearing gun owners defend themselves before there was even a chance to take a deep breath gives the impression of shiftiness. Do you feel guilty? Would it be the end of the world if you did?
Elliot Reed is fiction writer now living in Portland, Ore. He is a graduate of Rock Bridge High School and MU and is the son of Missourian editor Katherine Reed.