March for Change

I remember writing in my high school journal about activism and how amazing it must have been to live in the 1960s where there were peace ins, and rallies, and marches, and sit ins to change our society.  My teacher that year, Mr. Vance, was a proud child of that era and had done plenty of those types of things when he had been the age I was back then.

I remember the envy I wrote about.  “How amazing it must have been to be a part of that change, to have some ownership of it, to be witness to it as it happened, to be one of those who helped make it happen.”

I glossed over the angry part of that era.  The divisiveness, the real anger and hatred that came from those who love their way of life so much, they’ll do anything to make sure it never changes.  The 1960s were a time of riots, shootings, assassinations in addition to a time of social change.  And as I idealized all of the wonder that made the 1960s such an amazing time, I never really gave much credence to the danger and fear that surrounded that era as well.

It feels a lot like that these days, here in Connecticut.

Last week I attended a rally in our state capital.  It was billed as The March For Change, and the premise of it was that we would be demanding safer gun laws.  It was a powerful thing to be a part of.  Over 5000 people came, with placards and signs with varying messages.  Some just wanted to show support for those who have lost family and friends to gun violence.  Others were much more clear:  they wanted stricter gun laws and more accountability to the ones we currently have.

I’ve always considered myself “pro gun control” although to be honest, I’ve never really had very strong emotions about it.  I’ve never really understood the need for guns.  I get that people like to hunt for sport, for food, and that’s fine with me.  I get that people feel the need to defend themselves.  But that second part of the equation always leads me to the same question:  if there weren’t so many damn guns around all over and everywhere, would you really need a gun for self defense?

There were lots of questions posed that day at the rally.  For one, how many people truly need an assault weapon to go hunting or for self defense?  The answer seems obvious to me:   a high speed gun will obliterate any meat you could get from any animal you’d kill with it.  And for self defense?  If you’re threatened, any old gun will probably do the trick.  Why do you need a military grade one?  I truly don’t get it.

Another question that just seemed like common sense to me was, why do we have loopholes in our background check system for gun purchases?  Why would it be a bad thing to have every single gun sale, whether private or at a gun show, subject to a background check?  Why is that bad?  Don’t we want to keep the guns out of the hands of the bad guys?  If you’re a good guy who wants to be a responsible gun owner, what’s the problem?  Wouldn’t you want it to be not incredibly easy to get access to a gun?  Especially for someone who might not be the most stable?

And these high capacity magazines?  So that people can fire up to thirty rounds without reloading?  Is that really necessary for hunting?  Or self defense?  The answer seems pretty clear to me.  There’s only one reason to have such capacity and it isn’t for either of those reasons.  Why do we need people to be able to shoot so many bullets in so little time?  Isn’t that just a recipe for disaster?

There was more, much more.  We train people to be safe while driving cars, a potentially deadly weapon when not used properly.  We give them months, sometimes years of training.  We license them.  We make them register and insure those very dangerous vehicles so we know that they are properly maintained, that a licensed, trained driver is using them and that if somehow an accident happens, there is the ability to pay for the damage that could ensue.  Heck, we make people register their boats, their snowmobiles.  You have to get a license and pass a test just to catch a fish.  I truly cannot see the logic as to why we take such a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to guns.  These aren’t just a potentially deadly weapon like a car or a snowmobile.  These are things that have one purpose only and that is to kill (or injure).  Wouldn’t we want people trained carefully with such a dangerous device so they can respect the power they have in their hands?

These are things that I feel, and feel strongly since attending the rally last week.  But honestly, I have hesitated to express them because I have seen the anger and divisiveness around this issue.  But I kept remembering the last speaker that day, Veronique Pozner, whose son died at Sandy Hook Elementary.  She said, “Was my son’s life so disposable that the answer to this tragedy is to do nothing?”

The answer is no.  We have to start the kind of societal, cultural shift that ended legal segregation in this country.  It may take decades.  But just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean they can’t change.  Because we can’t keep burying our children.  We just can’t take life and the ability to end it so lightly.

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