"We really dodged a bullet," I said as we got to the airport this morning and saw on the big board that our flight into Newark was ON TIME.
As soon as I realized what I'd said, my heart hit the pit of my plummeting stomach with headline after headline screaming the insanity of the tragedy in which Representative Gabriel Gifford, Judge John Roll, third-grader Christina Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddard and Gabriel Zimmerman did not dodge bullets.
It hit me right between the eyes how much gun violence has crept into our everyday vernacular. From Sarah Palin's crosshairs aimed right at Ms. Gifford's district to a "kill shot" in beach volleyball, to "pulling the trigger" on a business deal. A hit song is "Number one with a bullet." An associate will be lauded for "taking a bullet" for the team. How many times have you "shot yourself in the foot", taken a "shot in the dark," been "shot in the back" or had your idea "shot down"? When you made easy money, was it like "shooting fish in a barrel"? When things were tough, did you "look down the barrel of a gun"? When you are trying to be especially persuasive, did you come out with "both barrels blazing, after being "locked and loaded"?
We are a nation that was in many ways built on guns. Firearms are woven through the mythology and fabric of American history and culture. I grew up idolizing and emulating heroes from the Wild West, where men didn't leave their house before slapping on their cowboy hats and strapping on their six-shooters. But the Wild West died with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Arguments over card games at saloons don't end with the two fellers throwing down on each other, the loser keeling over in a blaze of fire and smoke.
I've heard over and over again after the Arizona tragedy that what we need is more guns in more hands. In fact, Republican Representative Louis Gohmert has reacted to this unspeakable horror by proposing that lawmakers arm themselves in Washington, D.C. and Americans have flocked in record numbers to buy guns in the wake of this latest maniac's shooting spree.
The answer isn't more violence. To evolve as a nation, as a species, we need to change the basic way we think about guns and violence. I don't want my daughter growing up in a country where she has to go to school with an Uzi next to her "Dora the Explorer" lunchbox. Yes, Americans should be able to hunt. Personally I would prefer it be done with a bow and arrow, to level the playing field, but I understand that some people want to hunt with guns. If this is done humanely and sensibly, it seems reasonable. And everyone should have the right to defend themselves. Absolutely. But are we really expected to believe that a deer should be murdered with a semiautomatic weapon? That the only way a person can stop an intruder is to blow them away with a gun that shoots dozens of bullets a minute? Recently I watched some horrifying video of a young boy, 10 or 11, firing an assault weapon at a gun show while being supervised by a 15-year-old "instructor." Meanwhile, his dad videotaped the whole thing. That boy is now dead.
It's just too easy to get an assault weapon. They need to be banned. Let's make it harder to get a gun by, for example, administering a much more comprehensive test, just like with a driver's license. Make sure the test is evaluated by professionals during a longer waiting period. Let's crank up the efforts to track down criminals who traffic stolen guns. Let's be more vigilant for signs of violence and not stigmatize and provoke, but provide necessary help. I don't want guns to be concealed. I wanna know when somebody's carrying a gun. Let's tell the National Rifle Association that they should be ashamed of themselves. And let's rethink how we casually use language of violence every day.
Today, as we mourn and grieve, I want to see Americans use this tragedy to take stock of ourselves as a country. And please, let's do everything humanly possible to literally, instead of figuratively, dodge the next bullet.