Colors Change How I Respond

The experience of waiting to see if that fellow showed up to shoot us could have pushed me in several different ways. I could have gone to a gun shop and purchased a gun. I could have quit my job and stayed home for the rest of my life. I could have gone out with my friends and had a beer and complained about my boss.

Okay, I came close to doing that last one. Instead of going out with my work friends, I spent the evening at a rehearsal and then had a beer when I got home.

Everyone has events, experiences, and teachings that color in the lines of their experience and help to shape their response. My colors came from my parents. They are pretty darn liberal, and in the midst of Arkansas where we got a couple of days off of school for deer hunting season, they always supported gun control.

Growing up, I heard them discuss and saw them put into practice the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. I watched how peaceful disobedience could make a big change. I marched on Washington, DC as a sixteen-year-old girl, connected with other marchers, learned about lobbying, and lobbied my congressman and senator.

Later in my life (much, much, much later) after moving to Steamboat, I decided that after all of these years of supporting gun control, I needed to shoot a gun. The idea of even touching a gun had always terrified me, and I needed to overcome that fear. Also, having the actual experience of shooting a gun could change my mind. I needed to know.

Also, the local gun range was holding a “Ladies Night” where we could get a little class and then shoot for the first time at no charge.

Yep. Free was the thing that pushed me over the edge.

A friend (who was a regular at the gun range) went with me and we zipped off to the range.

At the class, the woman who taught gave us a book and a quick rundown on basic gun safety. She told us about how safe she felt with her gun in her purse when she went out. She talked about how semi-automatic is a better choice than automatic for a purse gun since the semiautomatic weapon wouldn’t jam when the inevitable detritus floating in your purse got tangled up with your gun. Then, we were off to the range.

A nice fellow put a pistol into my hand and showed me how to hold it (not with your finger on the trigger!). Then, I pointed the gun at the target, put my finger on the trigger, and shot.

Oh.

Oh my.

That was easy.

I hardly felt it.

I turned to my instructor and said, “That was so easy,” thinking I could so easily hurt someone with this action that I hardly even felt.

He pushed the gun so that it wasn’t pointed at him anymore and said, “Always make sure that, when you are not pointing the gun at your target, you are pointing it down.”

Did I mention I talk with my hands?

Suddenly, the moment where the bullet exited the muzzle became incredibly real. I could have accidentally shot this guy. And I wouldn’t have hardly even felt it.

My imagination unfolded a scenario where I went to the grocery store and, as I fumbled through my purse for change, I hit the trigger and my gun went off, scaring the cashier and the unfortunate customers behind me.

Nope. There’s no way I can be trusted with a gun.

The next day, I found one of the bullet casings in my cardigan pocket. I held it in my hand and felt proud of myself for overcoming my fear of shooting a gun.

Of course, now that I know it’s so easy, whenever I am watching tv and they show a gun pointed directly at the screen, I get a little shiver.

Three years ago, I knew a couple with a child. They were friends, not close friends, but close enough that I crocheted an afghan for the baby when he was born.

The woman killed her child, the one for whom I crocheted that afghan, with a gun.

A gun she got without a waiting period, obviously needing gun education, and a quick pass of a background check run by an hourly employee at a pawn shop.

This tragedy still resonates throughout the community. Last spring, on that child’s birthday, I discovered that his classmates will still wear a certain color in remembrance of him. They carry his memory and will for the rest of their lives.

This remembrance reminds me of my own loss of a classmate through a suicide enabled by a gun stored in an easily accessible place in the household. However, even though I was still young, I was sixteen. They were only nine. And the stigma of my friend’s suicide meant that no one chose to remember.

Because of all of these experiences and teachings which color my life, I find that I am more and more convinced that education needs to be an intrinsic part of gun ownership. I am more and more convinced that I want someone to pass a test – just like I passed my driver’s test – in order to own a gun. I believe that waiting periods are necessary.

Those are my colors. What are yours? What events and teachings and experiences form your political stance on this issue?

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