Some time in fourth grade, we were tasked with writing a letter to a politician on one of the sample subjects from which we were to pick. I chose gun control and wrote a letter to Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (a Republican, which says how long ago this was) asking that guns be banned because they kill people. This was soon after President Reagan was shot, and our teacher brought us in from recess and had us huddle around while he got chocked up as he shared the news. I had no real exposure to guns before that, other then a case on display at a friend’s house, holding her dad’s hunting weapons. It went without saying that we were not to touch that case, and never did we try. I knew then guns were dangerous and their presence could escalate things quickly.
Life moved on, but while I still disliked guns, it was no longer black and white. I understood that the world was not like Marin County, where I grew up. The rise of mass shootings really scared me. This was no longer a shooting during a hold up or an angry person exacting revenge on one person, this was unpredictable and massive in destruction.
The story of Kip Kinkle stuck with me. Kip Kinkle’s name may have been long forgotten, as others have taken his place in school shooting memory. Kip Kinkle had issues at school in Oregon and in an effort to strengthen their relationship and do something together, his father enrolled him in gun safety classes and bought his 15-year-old son two weapons, which were soon used against him as Kip killed his parents, drove to school and shot classmates before being restrained by fellow students. He said he thought about killing himself after he killed his parents, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Kip Kinkle was who I thought of when we learned the Sandy Hook killer had access and gun training from his mother. One day, I heard my husband tell my son, that when he was old enough, he’d take him to a shooting range. I said no.
Obviously not everyone taught to shoot a gun kills people. I no longer worry about an armed robbery, I worry about an upset teen running into my kids’ school, I worry about a crazy person going into a movie theater, or a grocery store, or wherever significant numbers of people can be hunted down. Hunted because assault riffles are for mass killing. This isn’t a rifle to kill a deer or for target practice.
Like many places recently, San Mateo county held a gun buy-back program this weekend. During a similar local event following Sandy Hooks, owners turning in their weapons said they did it because they were afraid of the gun getting into the wrong hands, either the hands of a curious child, or a criminal following a robbery. But today, I read the comments on sfgate.com about the San Mateo program, questioning the motivation of the participants (they want money to buy newer guns!), mildly threatening (I hope no one followed you home after you turned in your gun!), and flat out calling it a waste of money, especially because it did not stop the killing of a 21-year old in East Palo Alto the same day (the city’s second homicide of the year). Because gun violence continues, the program is a failure, according to many commenters. Much like any political issue, there is no single answer to gun violence, so then are we not to take any action because it will not solve an entire complex problem in one swoop? Not one piece of legislation will solve this, nor will one gun buy back, but that’s not to say they won’t help some.
Sen. Hayakawa sent back a form reply, thanking me for my interest in a public matter. I presented it to my class, and moved on. The renewed emphasis on gun control will end the same way now, with a symbolic pat on the head and polite thank you, if we let this drop. The only way to make something happen – even something small – is to keep up pressure. In California, this now seems like preaching to the choir, with both Sens. Feinstein and Boxer supporting gun control, but that doesn’t mean all of our Congressional representatives share their position.
What you can do from your laptop:
Tweet! Tweet @SpeakerBoehner and @Senator Reid.
Email or call your local school board and tell them: “I do not support training or authorizing teachers to be armed with guns.”
Support President Obama’s sensible gun violence prevention proposals. http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Share your thoughts on Twitter with #LouderThanGuns or right here.