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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Couldn't Sleep

I couldn't sleep last night; probably a combination of coffee, stray dog in the yard, big puppy on the bed, and hubby gone on business... but I did a lot of thinking about the tragedy at Virginia Tech while I lay there in the dark.

Pissed Off Housewife says to not have the knee-jerk reaction of 'we need stricter gun laws.' I agree in the respect that gun laws will never, could never, would never prevent this type of tragedy. The shootings that happened in the classrooms at Virginia Tech were premeditated; no one has that much firepower on their person without planning to do a lot of shooting.

For me, though, lying awake in bed last night, yesterday brings up a much, much bigger issue than gun laws. Where are we as a society when someone has such a huge void inside them that they must kill others and themselves in an attempt to fill it? Where does such despair and rage come from? If this were a completely isolated incident I could attribute it to one very messed up individual, but this has happened regularly enough that I have to look to our society. I think perhaps we all have a hole somewhere inside that needs to be filled; that each of us fills that hole with something different--religion or food or drugs or sex or work or mindless activity...but that for some people the emptiness inside is simply too big to be filled.

In one of his books, Daniel Quinn makes the analogy of the frog and the pot of boiling water: if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water he will jump right out, but if you drop the frog into cool water and gradually raise the temperature to boiling the frog will simply float blissfully until the last moment, when of course if is too late.

Is the water finally boiling? Is that why we seem to see tragedies like yesterday's more and more often?

I don't believe legislation could ever solve the problem that causes this type of massacre, because I believe that this is bigger than any law could ever be.

What happened yesterday really doesn't have to do with guns...


As far as guns go, I'll be honest and say I don't like them. I know how to shoot a gun. I've been hunting. I eat meat. I have seen exactly what a gun does to a living thing--and I still eat meat. This is not a protest against hunting. My dad was a hunter and owned guns all while I was growing up. He still owns guns, as do most of the people in the community where I now live. My children have participated in shooting sports through the local 4H. I believe absolutely in the right to own a gun, though I don't believe I will ever have one in my home because I don't like guns.

But--while I don't for a moment think that stricter gun laws could have prevented this tragedy, I do believe in strict gun laws, and here's why.

The first reason has to do with impulsive behavior and human emotion. An angry person should not be able to run out and purchase a gun. Yes, yes, I understand that regardless of gun laws, someone who REALLY wants a gun will find one--my point is that it shouldn't necessarily be easy.

The second reason has to do with education. No one should own a gun unless they know EXACTLY what the gun is capable of when it is used on a living thing. Two hundred years ago when our constitution gave us the right to bear arms, everyone in this country knew what happened when a bullet was fired into living flesh because people killed their own food. I remember the first time I saw my dad shoot a partridge: it was standing in a clearing in the forest. In my memory the sun was shining, the gun fired, and my world changed. I believe that many people who have a gun in their home don't truly understand what it will do. When I see a news article about one child accidentally shooting another, I think 'there are parents who do not understand what a gun does.' Again, I hear some of you saying that not everyone would follow a law requiring gun education classes. That's true, but many would follow the law.

Let me reiterate: I believe in the right to own a gun, but I also believe in gun laws, even though they would not have prevented yesterday's tragedy.


Olivia said...


I hate to say it, but I don't think this has anything to do with guns. I think it has to do with what lies beneath the motive to get a gun and shoot a gun, let alone shoot a gun at so many people, and kill them. The pain, the anger, the fear. We need to deal with these on an individual basis and as a society, but I have no idea how. It is too much to process or to understand.

We may need stricter gun laws, it's true, but that's another issue. What is horrifying is the act itself. I WISH that gun laws could prevent this sort of thing from happening, but I'm really afraid that it wouldn't.

Thanks for opening a discussion here,


Pissed OFF Housewife said...

I see both sides.

This has all happened before in many cultures in many societies. Every so often there's a broken brain and access to weaponry.

I would disagree that killings as such are more rampant.

30 years ago there was no cable news, there was no news after 6 pm and I certainly wouldn't have known what happened in Indiana.

The world is simply more bound with information and the news is a manipulative playground.

googiebaba said...

Karen, I just wanted to tell you I really liked this post. I think its very thoughtful.

Rosie said...

I agree with Oliva. It has so much more to do with our society, how our society views violence and mental health. I have guns. I even like guns. They are useful tools. I belong to a marginalized minority that needs to seem more dangerous than we actually are. But I also am pretty damn sane. I have no problem with stricter laws governing gun usage and ownership. Some people shouldn't drive cars or heavy machinery or operate chain saws. Some people shouldn't have access to firearms. me about the goat problem if you need to. It doesn't sound good. Head injuries of that sort on goats are rare. Mother still has horns, yes? If you have access to a caprine vet, this would be a good time to use that resource.

Pissed OFF Housewife said...

Last night I had a nightmare that I'd killed someone with a spoon and I was running from the police.

Even though it's random and unlikely in my backyard the whole world is our backyard and it clearly broke through my filter.

tammy vitale said...

one cannot legislate morality. That said, I think guns are like drugs - too many people have them to use to keep away the pain (of whatever). And you see how well we've done with drugs.

Karen - you are so right that it is deeper. I definitely believe that too. But unlike you, I don't believe in everyone's right to bear arms, educated or not.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. We all need this kind of dialogue - among ourselves, not screamed in a political arena.