Each Time It Happens

IMG_2591Each Time It Happens
by Carol-Ane Woodard 6/26/16

Each time it happens, I read all the articles. After all, I believe in statistics, I believe in studies. I believe that knowledge is power, that education is freedom, and that we can study our way out of this.

Then I go on Facebook.

Each time it happens, I write article after article in my head. Sometimes they are strident. “Repeal the Second Amendment.” Sometimes they strive to be understanding…”Why We Still Need to Shoot Bambi…”

Then I go on Facebook.

It’s obvious that there’s no convincing some people. They don’t believe in statistics. They don’t even believe that any of the quoted statistics are true. We’re not in the same universe. And all those Facebook gun owners say ‘You have no right to talk about guns if you have no experience with them.’

So this isn’t a article filled with statistics, instead it stories of my own experience with guns. I’m going to write about my grandfather, my brother’s best friend, and my cousin, because those are my early gun memories. This is the world I come from. So here goes.

When I was a child, my grandparents had the head of a deer mounted in a stairway to their attic. I could reach up and touch it’s fur. It was pretty. At least once a year, my grandfather came back from Maine with a freshly killed animal, and filled my mother’s freezer with venison. When my grandfather was younger, he probably hunted behind his house, and used his gun to scare pests away from his gardens and his chickens.

He had three daughters and never took them hunting. I don’t know if my grandmother opposed it, or if he just wanted a weekend where he could cuss. He never took his grandsons hunting either, perhaps for the same reasons. So the generational pattern was broken. No one in my generation hunted.

Rob was my brothers’ best friend. He was a troubled, larger than life figure, with intelligence, good looks and charm, along with recklessness, and considerable anger. His own father had drunk heavily and died young. My relationship with Rob was…well…conflicted is the kind word, but as I got older it was steadily improving. I hoped that one day Rob would become one of my more colorful acquaintances.

But one night, despondent over a breakup with a girl, he drank heavily and shot himself with his dead father’s gun. I don’t know why his mother still had it in the house, She probably asked herself that same question, over and over again, until the day she died.

When my aunt and uncle couldn’t have children of their own, they made a generous decision. They would adopt an ‘hard to adopt’ child; an older boy who would otherwise spend his life in foster care. It was the worst decision of their life. They never bonded and the child became a criminal.

I remember a time during college, when my cousin visited an apartment where I was living. He was high; he had a BB gun; and wandered nearby streets happily shooting at windows. I tried to sneak out to a phone booth and call the local police, hoping my cousin did not notice. I don’t remember if I succeeded, but I clearly remember suddenly realizing that if the police showed up at our apartment with their guns, and Ryan shot back with his gun, things could go badly. We then convinced him to let us drive him back to Rehoboth to visit his parents. He passed out in the car; his parents called the local police; and we drove back to New Bedford.

At another time, my cousin broke into his parents house and stole my uncles guns.

I haven’t thought about any of these stories in years. And to be honest, those memories are not really the fuel behind my opposition to guns. It’s Columbine. It’s the fear I felt every day after that when I sent my children off to school. It’s imagining myself as the parent of one of the dead children at Sandy Hook, or in Orlando.

Statistically, mass shootings aren’t something we should fear. They’re rare, and amount to less than 2 percent of the total gun deaths. My personal stories, the Rob’s and the Ryan’s, suicides and criminals, are the face of typical gun violence.

On examination, I know my stance on guns is as rooted in raw emotion as anyone else’s. And when I look at the gun statistics boiled down, they clearly say to me that fewer guns mean fewer gun deaths. So maybe the hunters aren’t wrong to believe we are coming for their guns. They aren’t ignoring the statistic’s, they just don’t agree with their inevitable conclusion.

But I’ll bet, if I just sat down with those Facebook friends, we would all agree that we had no real problem with my grandfather owning guns. Or them owning guns, and going with their fathers and sons on an annual hunting trip. There are good reasons for some people to own guns. I bet we would also agree that neither Rob nor my cousin should have ever been able to get their hands on a firearm.

These are my stories; they have shown me both sides of the story. I hope that this time, if we just start simple, sharing stories and emotions and being honest, maybe we could hammer out some areas of agreement. Because, after all, we live in the universe.

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