Tag Archives: gun violence

Monday Musings: Insanity

I spent this past weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, attending ConCarolinas, a convention I attended every year from 2008-2019, and then missed for two years, once due to Covid concerns cancelling the event, and once due to diverticulitis knocking me on my butt.

ConCarolinas has long been a favorite of mine, a convention I have come to consider one of my “local” conventions even though I live six and a half hours away. It is attended by many of my closest friends in the writing world, and each convention feels like a family reunion. This year was no different. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in too long, and, as always, met some new people as well.

I want to tell you about the weekend, about the panels I was on and conversations I had. But instead, my Monday Musings are once again focused on avoidable tragedy. For the second weekend in a row, nearby Chattanooga has been the scene of a mass shooting. Last week six teens, all of them minors, were wounded in the downtown area right near the aquarium and the city’s wonderful Hunter Museum. As far as investigators can tell, the shooters were underage as well. Children shooting children with weapons that should never have been available to them.

Last night, three people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded by gunfire and then by cars fleeing the scene at speed (two died from gunshot wounds and twelve others were shot).

This after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. And Tulsa. And Philadelphia. There have been twelve mass shootings in the U.S. since Friday. Since Friday. There have been thirty-six in the last three weeks, more than two hundred and thirty since the beginning of the year.

This is insanity.

I honestly don’t know what else to say. Ted Cruz and others of his ilk have been running from one talk show to the next, telling us that gun restrictions won’t work, by which they seem to mean that passing red flag laws, or age limitations for ownership of the deadliest weapons, or requirements for universal background checks, or bans on high-capacity, military-grade weapons won’t prevent all future shootings. And of course they’re right. We can’t prevent all gun-related violence or self-harm. But that doesn’t mean those laws shouldn’t be enacted. We have laws against murder in this country and still people kill other people every single day. Does that mean we SHOULDN’T have laws outlawing murder?

Of course not.

But I would challenge gun-rights advocates who oppose all limitations on firearms ownership to answer honestly a few simple questions. Isn’t it likely that passage of the measures listed above will prevent some killings? Isn’t it undeniable that passage of the measures would prevent at least one death? And are you willing to go to the parent or spouse or child of that next victim and say, “Yes, I know you have lost a person you love, but it was more important to me that we keep gun ownership in this country completely unfettered than it was that we save the life of your loved one”?

Of course they’re not.

We shouldn’t politicize gun violence and gun deaths. That’s what we’re told again and again by those who don’t want conversations about firearms control to go anywhere. Guess what. It’s already politicized, and it wasn’t those of us on the side of commonsense measures who made it so. But here in the hard truth: Republicans lack the courage and integrity necessary to stand up to the NRA and say, “Enough!” And Democrats lack the courage and integrity necessary to do what it would take to overcome Republican resistance to firearms restrictions. The cowardice and incompetence of our leaders on both sides dooms us to ever more bloodshed and fear.

But, hey, at least we all got to watch Johnny Depp and Amanda Heard air their dirty laundry in a public courtroom.

I should be energized today. I had a great weekend. I spent time with fellow professionals, engaged in fun, informative conversations about craft, about the business of writing, about my own projects. And instead, I feel weary, fed up, ashamed of and embarrassed for my country.

That’s really all I’ve got.

Have a good week. Stay safe.

Monday Musings: Being a Dad in the NRA’s America

This past week, I moved my younger daughter and her boyfriend out to Colorado — the Denver area — where they will be beginning a new chapter in their lives. They have jobs lined up, a very nice apartment with a gorgeous view of the Rockies, and big plans for what their future together might hold. (People ask me how I feel about them living together. Nancy and I lived together for nearly two years before we married, so even if I minded, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on . . .)

It was a very Dad week for me. My younger kid and her beau wanted to drive in the moving truck together, with him doing most of the driving and her navigating, keeping him focused and awake, etc., etc. One of their cars was on the truck trailer. The other . . . well, the other I drove. 1250 miles in two and half days. And then we moved all their stuff into their third floor apartment (no elevator).

That’s what dads do. It’s the sort of thing my dad might have done for me. I thought of him a lot this week, as I dispensed the sort of advice he would have given my siblings and me, and did my best to be the calming, reasonable voice when things grew fraught, as they often do with moves of this magnitude. As I say, very Dad.

I am kind of exhausted from all the driving and from carrying stuff up all those freaking stairs, but I am so glad I did it. I loved being there to help, to see their new place and the wonderful neighborhood around it, to give all that advice, and to buy them a nice dinner when the difficult work was finished. I wouldn’t trade this past week for anything, even though while in the middle of it I wouldn’t have said it was fun. Because dads are supposed to help our grown kids begin their adult lives. We’re supposed to do that sort of hard work. I was lucky to have the opportunity.

As we all know — painfully, tragically, sickeningly — too many dads in Uvalde, Texas (this time), had a very different week.

Dads are not supposed to worry about their kids being shot dead in their schools. Dads are not supposed to mourn in elementary school parking lots. They shouldn’t have to wonder why police didn’t do their jobs, why so many “good guys with guns” let a bad guy with a gun run amok in that building for so long. Dads shouldn’t have to ask why an eighteen-year-old kid had access to a weapon of war and all the ammunition needed to take so many lives, or why the leaders of their state are so concerned with “promoting a culture of life” that they turn a blind eye to the dangers and sins of an industry of death. Dads shouldn’t have to worry that their child (or their partner, or they themselves) might be shot in a grocery store or a movie theater or a mall, or any of the dozens of places that have been the scenes of horrific shootings over the past couple of decades.

And, the fact is, in most of the world, certainly in most of the wealthier nations to which we in the United States like to compare ourselves, dads don’t have to worry about such things. Mass shootings of the sort we’ve seen this month in Uvalde and Buffalo are far, far, far more common in the U.S. than they are in any of the countries we consider our international peer-group.

Why? Republican politicians, who fear the electoral retribution of the National Rifle Association more than they do news of another mass killing, tell us this is a problem of mental illness, not guns. So is it their position that Americans are more prone to mental illness than are people in other countries? Are they saying we are more likely to be murderous psychopaths? Is that what they mean by American exceptionalism? There’s a winning platform. I can’t wait to see them put that on a bumper sticker.

Or is it possible, just maybe, that we have way, way, way more murders and suicides by firearm — per capita as well as in absolute numbers — than, say, Italy, or France, or Spain, of the United Kingdom, or Australia, or New Zealand, or Japan, or Ireland, or Finland, or Sweden, or Denmark, or Canada, or Belgium, or Greece, or Germany, or Poland, or Portugal, etc., etc., etc., because we have way, way, way more guns than they do? And because our guns are so readily available. And because our state legislatures are constantly passing laws to make them easier to conceal and carry.

Yes, the right to bear arms is in our Constitution. Everyone knows that. Far fewer people give consideration to the meaning of the exact wording of the amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

If we’re going to keep the damn amendment (and there is zero chance we’ll ever get rid of it — the Founders saddled us with a culture of guns and death that will forever haunt our nation) can’t we at least honor its complete wording? Is it so fucking hard for people to admit that we have a gun problem in the United States? If tightening laws surrounding background checks, mental health checks, gun-show sales, and the availability of ammunition can save even one life, can spare even one dad the gut-wrenching horror of going through what those parents in Uvalde have endured this week, wouldn’t it be worth a little inconvenience?

Or are we too much in the thrall of the gun lobby even for that?

Have a great week. Stay safe.