I Once Owned a Gun…

I once owned a gun. A real fancy, brand spankin’ new .357 Magnum. It was gifted to me on my 20th birthday by a boyfriend who happened to love guns. A lot.

I say this because he regularly reveled in his arsenal. Took them out, showed them off, handled them with the glow of true reverence. His pride was a .44 Magnum with a 9-inch barrel (“just like Dirty Harry!”). He loved that gun. He also loved his shotguns and rifles and who knows what else; I wasn’t clear on the inventory because I didn’t love guns. Including the one he gave me on my 20th birthday. I would’ve preferred a sweater.

Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash

Though I spent my nascent years in the urban environs of the big city of Chicago, my early childhood was relocated to a small farm town out in the sticks where lots people probably had guns. I say that not because I know — I never heard or saw anything having to do with guns, ever, during my childhood — but because it was the Midwest, it was rural; there were likely hunters, farmers, and recreational shooters immersed in the culture. It just wasn’t a theme of social conversation.

My own family, however, did not own guns. We were neither farmers nor hunters, target shooting wasn’t on the agenda, so I’m pretty sure I never saw one in real life until I met my .357 bestowing boyfriend. And the only time I actually put my finger on a trigger and pulled was the one occasion he took me shooting, him with his trusty “Dirty Harry”; me, my shiny new revolver. He was excited to share this favorite activity; I was not. There were cans and bottles and fruit of various sizes and colors balanced on a fence across the way—you’ve seen the scene in countless movies—and shooting commenced. I’m quite certain I was a lousy shot… how could I not be? But frankly I don’t remember much about that day other than I hated the exercise. The violence of it; the recoil, the BOOM, the impact… the power. The clear understanding that this hunk of metal could impart incalculable damage, and my absolute confusion about why I would want to do that.

He was not happy with me and we never went shooting again. When we broke up several months later, I did not take the gift with me, leaving it, instead, for his closet arsenal. Though I do remember him threatening me and my new boyfriend with one of his guns when it became clear I was not coming back. I heard he became a police officer.

I never touched a gun again. Just not my thing. And though I’ve lived the bulk of my adult life in the much maligned and largely misunderstood city of Los Angeles, occasionally in dubious neighborhoods where crime was high and gunshots were audible, I never felt the need to own a gun. Maybe I’ve been lucky; maybe I’ve been smart. Maybe it’s circumstance, happenstance; the roll of the dice. Certainly I’ve been in dicey situations from time to time, but I always managed to extricate myself without the use of, or desire for, a firearm.

I do, however, understand that there are circumstances when having a gun for protection is logical, and I also get that some people enjoy the sport of shooting… to each his own. But the prevailing message of, “I need a gun for protection” is not true for many (most?) people. But it’s a meme at this point, driven by 2A zealots, gun manufacturers, right wing groups, the NRA, and those whose identity, sense of power, and need to present as well-armed (we’ve seen the pictures on social media) have aggrandized guns to the point of fetishization. Given the repetitive and relentless experience of mass shootings, given the Republican Party’s general gun recalcitrance (they have, after all, claimed AR-15s are excellent for shooting feral pigs, prairie dogs, and raccoons); given the cultish attachment of so many to their possession and protection of guns, what do we suppose will ever be done about this uniquely American problem of gun violence?

I don’t know. I’ve already written reams on the topic. My thoughts have been published in articles going back to 2013, even before the slaughter of Sandy Hook’s children, which should have sparked tangible change but didn’t. Click on any one; I don’t need to be redundant here.

• Let’s Stop Just Talking About Gun Control, 2013

What I do want to put on the table is this: Outside of discussions of mental health, background checks, age of possession, NRA influence, etc., is the fact that, in reality, the horrors and tragedies of mass shootings, as horrible and tragic as they are, do not comprise the bulk of American gun deaths. The incidences of gun owners using their weapons in protection of families and properties don’t either. In fact, the three biggest categories of gun mayhem and death, by a long shot (no pun intended) are suicide, and injuries and deaths that are “willful, malicious, or accidental.”

From www.gunviolencearchive.org

Which means, which proves, that the obscene proliferation of guns in America, exceedingly, excessively, greater than any other country on earth, is built on the lie that, “we need guns for protection.”

We don’t, actually, given how infrequently they’re used for that purpose, at least per the above chart. It seems that myriad other ways have been utilized to protect oneself, one’s property, one’s family. Statistics—pesky, undeniable, and oft-times humbling—make that clear.

Defensive use rates only sixth in the above chart of nine categories.

Which illustrates the confirmation bias and rejection of facts held by the more than 84 million Americans who own guns. At least the ones who rail and rally behind the disproven “need” to own them for defensive purposes. That disconnect has caused our country to horde and accumulate an obscene number of guns for the sake of a myth.

Right now Congress is debating various new legislation: raising the age of ownership of AR-15s, enforcing background checks more universally, various other band aids (and band aids are better than nothing). But the bigger issue is the delusion within the greater “American think,” the meme that tricks people into believing they must own a gun to protect who and what they love most. It’s a clever ruse, because who wouldn’t put their life on the line to protect their child, their spouse, their parent? Who wouldn’t defend their business, their workers, their colleagues?

What do we do with that? I don’t know. All I know is, I held that .357 Magnum and could feel its weight, its heft, its power, and as I pulled the trigger, absorbed the kickback, and watched it blow apart whatever I managed to hit, I could only imagine what it would do a body. I put it down and never picked it up again.

I will defend myself, my home, and my loved ones to the death. I just won’t do it with a gun. Statistics tell me that’s a sensible philosophy.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Teachers Are Not Snipers. They Are Not SWAT. Arming Them Is a Bad Idea

“I am a teacher. Arm me. Arm me with funding for a full-time school psychologist. Arm me with funding for mandatory school counselors. Arm me by funding smaller class sizes so I can best get to know every one of my 160 students and their families. Arm us with what we NEED.” Mrs. Heidi Bowman, California teacher

Picture this scene on any day, in any-school America:

  • The rush of backpacked bodies surging from carpools and parking lots through doors to their lockers and homerooms.
  • The pandemonium of kids of bursting into hallways intent on getting to their next period.
  • The volume and pitch of cafeterias at lunchtime, with music, mayhem, and the crowded tables of exuberant children.
  • Classrooms filled with desks and bookshelves, long tables hosting projects and homework assignments… and kids. Kids everywhere.

Now picture into those hallowed, crowded, complex spaces a gunman enters with military grade weaponry and the intent to kill. And placed between that horror and our children, charged with protecting their precious lives, are who?

Their math teacher, their soccer coach; their school counselor, who, we’re told, will be poised to gun down that advancing killer BEFORE havoc is wreaked, without mistakenly shooting any of the fleeing students, and while avoiding being shot themselves by Kevlar-wrapped police with no idea who the bad guy is.

There is NO scenario in which that picture makes sense, and anyone suggesting otherwise has clearly spent little time in classrooms, in schools, with teachers and students.

Teachers are not snipers. They are not SWAT teams. They are not police. They are people whose skill sets lie in the arena of implementing education amidst overcrowded classrooms and tight budgets. Who devote unpaid extracurricular hours to counseling needy students, rehearsing school plays, and running governance council committees. Who work tirelessly on salaries often well below those of other more vaunted professions.

Their required aptitudes include excellent communication skills, compassion, and intellectual curiosity. Leadership is in strong demand, as well as patience, empathy, and solid rapport with kids.

NOT listed in the job description? Combat training, marksmanship, and knowledge of firearms that shoot .223 bullets with projectile velocity of 3,200 feet per second.

It’s a cliché to say it takes a village to raise happy, healthy, honorable children, but teachers are often a necessary, essential bridge between parents and the outside world. Is turning that “village” into a militarized zone, with teachers armed and ready to wage war, really the answer to school shootings?

“Our main goal as educators is to create a safe space for our students, where they can trust the adults to care for them, know them, and pay attention to their needs, leaving them open to learn and grow,” a middle school dean asserted. “Any scenario in which a teacher has a gun would only work against that goal by creating a space that anticipates threat and violence. That’s the wrong way to protect children, and the antithesis of what schools should be for them.”

Her view was echoed by another teacher/coach:

“The thought of arming teachers is crazy to me, not only because innocents could be killed in the line of fire, but because that responsibility would distract them from teaching. Students would be negatively impacted by knowing firearms are in the room, in the hands of their instructors. Is that the kind of school we want?”

EVERY parent of every political stripe wants their children kept safe and protected, but intelligent people know that aptitudes and skills are not automatically interchangeable. It takes training, expertise, and specific temperament to become an effective law enforcement officer, and when even police too often shoot innocent bystanders (an 18% hit rate?), and trained soldiers can react with “friendly fire” in the fog of war, why would we expect a teacher to morph into John Rambo during a moment of deadly chaos?

It’s delusional. It’s also a dereliction of duty by politicians, police, and the current president to deflect responsibility for sloppy gun law enforcement, rescission of essential regulations, and fealty to the NRA and a base of gun aficionados, to abdicate the solution of school shootings to overworked teachers.

It’s doubtful Donald Trump, Wayne LaPierre, most congress people, police, or 2nd Amendment activists have spent enough time in schools—teaching, learning the demands of the job, or studying the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the environment—to know just how ludicrous their proposal is. A good educator would suggest they go back to the drawing board to rethink proper enforcement of existing laws, write new ones that take into account current trends and weapons; even, perhaps, debate contemporary, applicable rewording of the 2nd Amendment.

Teachers? They should be left alone to teach.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

For the Love of a Gun

gun-loveWe Americans love our guns. Love ‘em. We don’t just feel they’re a Right, a necessity, a possibly delusional buffer from harm; we’re freakin’ PASSIONATE about the things. We kick and scream in protest for them, demand the freedom to buy as many as we can, resist all attempts to regulate them; hell, we’d marry them if we could but that would trigger (no pun intended) the anti-gun-marrying lobby and that’s a whole other argument.

Why the love affair? Odd, when it seems to me that Gun Love has proven to be as high-maintenance, wildly erratic and inevitably dangerous as that hysterical, possibly bipolar chick who’s hot and feels absolutely essential to life but ends up trashing the living room and leaving hateful messages on your boss’s voice mail. But still we’re in love. Why? Why is a cold hunk of metal with the kick of a cannon and the ability to blow out a target, scare the shit out of a home invader, or rip through the brain of an unsuspecting congresswoman so firmly and irrevocably ensconced as the object of our affection?

I don’t know.

But I suspect it’s history. Guns are part of the American DNA. They won us the Revolution, propelled Manifest Destiny, got us through a whole bunch of wars, Indian uprisings, the Gold Rush, Prohibition and kept us in meat products. We needed guns, they were essential to our very survival for the bulk of this country’s history and in certain quarters (law enforcement, hunters, collectors, Olympians) they remain relevant even now. But beyond those select groups, what have they done for us lately?

Gun Lovers would holler, “Gun ownership is up and crime is down!” OK. That statistic has merit at first glance, but get out a magnifying glass and look at this chart posted by the US Department of Justice :


Yes, the trend for 2007 improved from the previous year. But look at the earlier years…lots of trending down then up again. And even if we do consider a temporary decrease in gun-related crime, analysis suggests that one must consider much more than gun ownership as the cause. More effective community policing, aging of the population, better gang intervention, more active neighborhood watch programs, metal detectors in schools and public buildings; all of these factors contribute to those shifting numbers. But whatever the trend, in the last year of reporting some 16,929 people were murdered, 68% by guns, and that’s daunting however you slant it.

The National Safety Council “investigated the likelihood of dying from firearms and determined that over the course of a lifetime, death by assault from firearms is 1 in 309.” And just recently it was reported on national news that shooting deaths of law enforcement officers are already up from this same time last year. If law enforcement officers, certainly better armed than the average citizen, can be so frequently victimized by guns, really, who can argue that possession is an effective deterrent?

Gun Lovers can. Lulled by the placebo effect of their trusty loaded companions, they’ll argue it till the day is done. But it’s interesting, the Tucson shooter wasn’t deterred by a Gun Lover packing protective heat. In fact, he was taken down by heroic, unarmed bystanders. In a concealed carry state. Which piques its own debate. But putting that aside, all of this leaves the rest of us to ponder: if gun possession offers such assurance of safety and protection, why are so many people being killed by them?

Though nobody knows exactly how many guns there are in the United States (as GunsandCrime.orgput it, “The only way to know with accuracy would be for the government to perform a surprise raid on every household simultaneously and to also search all buildings and likely hiding places at the same time.”), the American Firearms Institute (a pro-gun organization) estimates that “there are between 250 – 280 million firearms in the US; 40 – 50% of US homes own a firearm, that’s 120 – 150 million people.” According to the latest figures from the US Census Bureau, there are 311,947,145 people in the United States. Take the number of firearms and spread them out amongst that population and about 90% of people would own a gun. The 50% figure indicates that some households own multiple guns and others own none, but either way, those figures speak volumes. And, of course, this isn’t factoring in the criminal element…God knows what that accounting would do to those numbers!



In the spirit of full disclosure – and to prove my general firearm possession cred – my husband has a small collection of rifles and shotguns; all but one are family heirlooms, my son has .22 caliber rifle he used years ago to shoot soup cans in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, and I once owned a hearty .357 Magnum, a rather startling gift bestowed on my 20th birthday by a boyfriend who was obsessed with guns in general. He wanted me to have it as a companion piece to his .44 Magnum with the 8 3/8” barrel (yes, just like Dirty Harry) and insisted that we celebrate my big day by going to a makeshift shooting range to decimate a boatload of coffee cans (Red Lobster and cake would have been preferred). When I inevitably left him sometime after I discovered he was crazy and well-armed, he took the gun back, chased me down the street with his truck and a loaded rifle, and later became an Illinois policeman. My personal relationship with guns ended with him and I remain to this day unenthralled.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that people not be allowed to have guns. Frankly, I don’t care. Have as many as you can lay your hands on; stash them in your bunkers, your kitchens; your cool, hip-hugging, open carry gun belts. Talk about them a lot on the Internet, sleep better at night convinced that you’re safer, rally vociferously at gun shows dressed in camouflage while spouting bromides about the 2nd Amendment and what pussies Brady Bill proponents are. Take your kids to shooting ranges for jolly good family fun and teach them to love the power of guns while listening to “Cat Scratch Fever.” Get pissed off whenever anyone attempts to reason with you about regulation or limitation. Be in love. We get it: YOU NEED YOUR GUNS. YOU NEED YOUR AK47, YOUR 9MM PISTOL, YOUR THOMPSON CENTER ARMS ENCORE MUZZLELOADING RIFLE AND YOU DON’T WANT ANYONE – NOT BLOODY ANYONE – TELLING YOU TO WAIT FOR A PERMIT, LIMIT THE NUMBER OF BULLETS OR GET A BACKGROUND CHECK BEFORE YOU PICK UP THAT OBJECT OF YOUR OBSESSION.

Relax. We get it.

What you need to get? That there are a whole lot of us out here far less concerned about your love affair than the hideous numbers of murders, assaults, rapes, spousal abuse events and other violent gun crimes perpetrated by crazy, pissed off people who love guns as much as you do. Go ahead, say it: guns don’t kill; people do…blah, blah, blah. But tell me, how many people do you think the Tucson shooter would have killed or injured with just a knife? How many kids and teachers would the Columbine killers have mowed down if they’d been relegated to machetes or baseball bats? Any guess how much less effective a murderer on top of tower, aiming into a crowd or focused on someone in the distance would be were he not deftly assisted by the mechanics and firepower of a gun? Logic, my friends, logic is required.

But, you opine, it isn’t fair to oppress and restrict the Good Gun Lovers because of what the bad ones have done. I know, grow up, that’s the Way of the World. Bad Guys always ruin it for Good Guys in every walk of life. Ever get involved with someone previously shattered by a cheating cad? That’s right, you’re going to pay for the sins of that last errant Lothario. Dog owners? I can’t take my dog to the beach because the ill-trained ones of Bad Dog Owners bit people, tumbled kids and pooped on the dunes and because of them, my Good Dog must worship the surf from afar. Bad Guys hijacked and blew up planes so now all we Good Guys have to suffer through every manner of delay, humiliation and loss of our shampoo bottles just to get to our seats. Way of the World.

But here’s the cold, hard truth, whether you Gun Lovers want to hear it or not: there are too many guns in this country and too many crazy people using them. Regardless of what the framers had in mind when they penned the 2nd Amendment, they could not possibly have envisioned the world in which we now live or the obsessive, compulsive, testosterone-driven madness that has been perpetrated by the rabid misinterpretation of their intent. The ass-kissing that is politically de rigueur with the NRA and the pro-gun lobby is appalling and shameful because no one – NO ONE – should be unwilling to honestly and clinically look at the destruction caused by guns and readily come to the table to discuss effective solutions towards solving gun violence. If I were a Gun Lover I’d demand those solutions so that my right to own a gun would not be any more impacted by the actions of crazy people than it already is. Fear, ego, machismo, xenophobia, fundamentalism, paranoia, conspiracy theorism and downright ignorance have ruled the day when it comes to gun control. Like a toddler who most passionately possesses a toy when he fears someone’s going to take it away, I suspect a similar thread of selfishness and paranoia propels much of this lunacy. GET OVER IT! Your need to own and possess is as petty as a nit compared to the human, decent urge to prevent tragedy and truly attempt to make the world a safer place, not just in your gun-protected home but in the schools, businesses, airports, post offices and streets of this country. No one wants to pry the gun from your hands – cold, dead or otherwise; we simply want rational, sensible, and effective regulations to be uniformly enforced so that fewer children die in the parking lots of our neighborhood grocery stores.

For any of us, Gun Lovers and Others, that should not be too much to ask.

Resource some of you might be interested in:  http://supgv.org/ (States United To Prevent Gun Violence).
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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.