In the 21st century, when do you suppose we will decide that enough is enough?
For Caitlin Hammaren
By Jenna Bostock
He loves me more on Tuesdays, when I’ve just stepped out of the shower and his beard has grown stubble. I love him more on Saturdays, when his skin is salty from a 5 mile run and my face is still lazy with sleep. We were at the diner last week. I ordered a Thanksgiving sandwich with a side of cheese fries. There was too much gravy and it turned into a mozzarella milkshake. He had a gryo. I kept stealing his fries. He didn’t mind. Just gave me extra ketchup. I’m the condiment type. Sometimes before I close my eyes I hold his hand to make sure he’ll still be there when I open them. I wonder why I’m so afraid.
She lets her hair clog up the drain. Sometimes I mind. Not usually. I like it long and brown. It was short and blonde when we met. The stove is broken, so we buy a waffle maker—but we both still miss pancakes. I kiss her before my teeth are brushed and run my hands through her mane. She isn’t ready to wake up so I let her drool on mea minute more before disentangling myself and smoking a cigarette. My mind wanders. She stirs.
Sleep crumbles in my eyes and I turn to touch his skin. I need to be touched, touch him. It’s an obsession. I’m left with open arms, and I remember he already kissed me goodbye and went to work. I groan and roll over. We celebrated with cocktails last night.
We met on campus. Nothing too crazy. No grand romantic gesture. But sometimes I think slow and subtle seems to work better than a big bang and flash. Works when fucking, anyway. Sometimes we make love. At night. In the morning, it’s fucking. I asked her out to dinner. Before we made a date she had called me to the ponds at 3am in the dead of winter. I thought it was a booty call. She really did want to sit and look at the ducks. So we did. But then we kissed and slept with our clothes half on. She told me we weren’t going to have sex that night. I told her how beautiful the light looked on her face.
We’re supposed to have a class together today. We’re both graduating college in a month anyway, don’t know why I’m bothering to show up. He’s late, it’s making me anxious. No texts. That’s not good. He’s the one who always brings me my chocolate covered rice crispy treat. It’s the best hangover cure. Besides more vodka. Something is happening around me. Sounds. Echos. Muffled. Shots? Gun shots? Screams ensue. Chaos erupts. Pandemonium in excess. Confusion. I feel dizzy and am pushed to the ground-I see him appear before me, and let a darkness wash over me like a familiar blanket.
Days later, at the funeral, I come to. Supposedly I’ve been awake for days but you could have fooled me. My eyes open and he is in a bed that has no room for me lined with satin and filled with roses–lying next to 9 others. An even 10 victims. Even numbers were his favorite. He’s there and I’m here and a field somewhere far away is the sad little boy who didn’t have any friends and wanted to leave a legacy. I try to cry but I think the shooter got me too. I think he mangled my heart and left me alive for sadistic trial. I think its working. I stop thinking. It hurts. I close my eyes and wait for the familiar darkness. Familiar hands. Fingers. Toes. The darkness never comes.
October 1, 2015. December 14, 2012. March 11, 2009. February 14 2008. April 16 2007. October 2 2006. April 20 1999. August 1 1966. Albertville, Stuttgart, Germany. Northern Illinois University shooting DeKalb, Illinois, United States. Virginia Tech massacre. Amish Country, Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States. Columbine. University of Texas. Sandy Hook Elementary School. Newtown, Ct. Umpqua Community College Roseburg, Oregon.
These are just a handful of the most devastating school shootings to date. In Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, she delves into the psyche of a young boy who has been left behind in this fast paced adolescent race to grow up. He raids his father’s hunting gun and spends a day at his high school on a killing spree. A particularly painful read as it coincided within a week of the Virginia tech Massacre, I applaud Picoult for attempting to understand the emotion behind such brutal acts. I went to meet her at a signing the day the book came out in London, overlapping with a voicemail left on my cell phone from my mother telling me that a former High School peer had been murdered in that bloodbath.
How old should you be when you first hold a gun? When should you learn of the power and weight that such metal carries in its mortal possession? How easy should it be to pick the lock and grab the rifle your granddad uses to shoot a duck? What happens when the contents of your bedside drawer are supposed to protect you, and instead end in tragedy.
Our forefathers gave us the right to bear arms. We were a fresh country, fighting for the right to live, to survive. It was a modern society in savage times. Not necessarily cavemen, but people did what they had to in order to protect and preserve this new land. Fast forward a few centuries, and we do not wear corsets to confine our bodies. Sex before marriage is socially accepted and shamelessly promoted. Alcohol is, and hopefully will stay, legal. We have elected an African American president. Hilary’s on track to become the first female leader of our country. Times have changed. Progress is happening. Change is for the better. We are modernizing and liberating ourselves with every stiletto put through the door. Abortion has been updated. So has segregation. Prostitution is next. Even marijuana, I believe, is on its way to being legal (or at least it’s just oh so commonplace.)
Across the pond in England possession of a handgun has been illegal since 1997. The Gun Control Network states that the gun homicide rate in England and Wales is 40 times smaller than the rate in the USA. If the USA truly enforced and educated the importance and safety involved in firearms, maybe it wouldn’t be so easy for a 15 year old to own and use such a lethal weapon.
Seung-Hui Cho was the 23 year old boy responsible for the Virgina Tech mass murder. Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, according to federal officials. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony. Seung-Hui Cho walked into a gun store 5 weeks before going on a killing spree that resulted in 32 deaths, countless injuries, and invisible scars of thousands others. Why was it so easy for him to get a gun? The question resounds in me and the thousands affected by the shooting on a daily basis.
Guns kill people or people kill people? This isn’t a dissertation on the emotional and mental state required to take another human beings life. It’s about the fact that, ubiquitously, guns are dangerous weapons. When in the wrong hands, they allow preventable deaths, whatever the reason. I am in no way opposed to the usage of firearms
for the proper reasons throughout our country. But how many more need to die? Children, innocents, unsuspecting victims-even the not so innocent. We have eleven year olds shooting their father’s pregnant girlfriends in fatal temper tantrums, kindergarteners killing other kindergarteners over a stolen milk box.
Without delving into the parental issues stemming from such incidents, isn’t it just common sense that we need more control in this democratic society when it comes to such dangerous weapons. Cocaine and crack are illegal, why can’t guns at least be more controlled? In this anarchical society where a man can kill his mother, grandmother, grandfather, niece, and innocent bystanders in one mass murdering spree-a day before 15 children are murdered in their seats in Germany- who are we to keep putting these weapons in murderers possessions. I am referring to Michael McLendon , a 28 year old man in Alabama who killed eleven people, half of which were his family. The next day a school shooting in Stuttgart, Germany, left 15 dead-a morbid scene of school children with pen poised mid air.
Not to say every gun owner is a murderer. In fact there is a great majority of men and women in this country who simply see it as part of the freedom we have indeed fought so hard for. There are millions of reasons to want to own a gun, but ask yourself if the ends justify the means. Should you be allowed a handgun to feel safe at night so that the woman down the street doesn’t? Better control means more safety for you and your fellow citizens. It (should) even alleviate some of the fear that causes the paranoia of needing a weapon to begin with. With proper control and enforcement citizens of the United States can still pursue their own personal or professional interests. But who needs a handgun to get a good plate of venison? If you have honest intentions then there’s no harm in extra enforcement. It actually protects you more. Security is a delicate and beautiful thing. Fragility can be underrated.
I’m 22 years old. I have grown up in deer country, I couldn’t kill a bird if I there was (pardon the expression) a gun to my head. I hope to raise a family in this crazy out of control society we seem to be spiraling into. Security. Safety. Prevention. Precaution. Honest intentions. Let’s agree on one thing- no one wants to see any more unnecessary deaths. No one wants to sit in a courtroom while their son faces murder charges because he was bullied, and confided in a Barretta. You don’t want to watch the pain in your daughter’s eyes as she recalls a rapist who held her at gun point. Gun control is a necessity, not a luxury, that we desperately need to enforce. If not for your sake, then for the future of generations to come. For a future that isn’t blood stained. A clean white slate of surrender.