Hi. I think you're a good person. You have people in your life you care about deeply, and who care dearly about you. No doubt you care about the well-being of the people in your community and humanity as a whole. If you're like me, you just want to keep your head down and navigate the days safely so you can continue to pursue life, liberty, and happiness with the people you love. We're a lot alike.
I'm writing to you today, as you're someone who cares about the well-being of yourself and those around you, to get you to support putting a stop to the gun-owners who make you and other safe and responsible gun-owners look hateful, murderous, and foolish by association. You're probably just as sickened as the rest of us when you hear about mass shootings and the children killed every day in cities by stray bullets or intentional violence. If you're not, my assumption about you being caring and compassionate is wrong, but I don't think that's the case.
The thing is, people who don't own guns often come across as preachy to gun-owners when they talk about gun-control. I'm not a gun-owner. I'm merely someone who has had loved ones die due to gun violence, and I want it to stop. I'm asking your help in convincing your friends who do own guns to support gun control, because I'll probably just come across as annoying to them if I talk to them about it. Change has to come from within, they say. You're in the club, so you can help make a change. But first I have to convince you that gun-control is a good and necessary thing. I'm going to appeal to your humanity, common-sense, and individual freedom and liberty. (Again, all things that you and I have in common).
First, your sense of liberty and freedom…
Gun-control doesn't mean that the government wants to come take your guns away - that's a myth perpetuated by the NRA. The NRA is using fear-mongering to keep you in check, because they want you to continue to be part of the club, because they make money off you and your friends when you're part of the NRA. So, they want to keep their power. Power that you give them. They're controlling you by fear. If you value your individual freedom, why are you letting some rich, old white guys control you?
But OK. Let's say for the sake of argument that they're right: gun-control means the government wants to take away your guns. How long would that take? Well, there are 300,000,000 guns in the country. If there were a task force of 10,000 agents confiscating guns from 10 people/day, every day, that would take them 3,000 days to do so. That's a few years shy of a decade. And that's just plain ridiculous. That won't happen.
Gun control means the government wants to make background checks necessary in order to purchase a tool that is only designed to kill, and maybe someday make it so a gun can only be fired from the hand of the responsible owner. It has nothing to do with taking away your guns. I don't want to take away your guns. I have friends and family I respect dearly who are gun owners, who use their guns responsibly for hunting or safely locked away. Safety is the most important aspect of gun ownership to them, and we went over gun safety for a long time before they showed me how to shoot a gun. Their reverence for safety is and was a beautiful thing.
Second, your common sense.
It used to be that anyone with two feet and hands could drive a car. But then there were a lot of incompetent drivers on the road that killed a lot of responsible, innocent people and drivers. So, over the course of a few decades (yes, change takes a LONG time), the government made it so someone had to pass different tests in order to get this thing called a "driver's license", and continue to show they can responsibly operate a motor vehicle to keep that license, to prevent them from getting themselves or others killed. In doing so, millions of lives have been saved.
We also made things like speed limits and seat belts and air bags to make driving more safe in case drunk or incompetent drivers managed to get behind the wheel of a car, because, you know, you can't stop every idiot who wants to get behind the wheel drunk or text a novel to their friend.
At this point you might be thinking, "WHAT!? Cars aren't designed to kill people. That's apples and oranges!" You're right - I'm comparing two dissimilar things. It's an analogy. But apples and oranges are similar in that they're both fruit. In this case, the "fruit" or the thing they have in common is that driving without any restrictions or safety measures, and using guns in the same way, are both lethal. When we put safety measures in place to make driving less dangerous, countless lives were saved. The same would occur if gun control were enacted. That's just a logical fact.
Lastly, your humanity.
Maybe you haven't had someone you care about die at the hands of a gun. If that's the case, count your blessings. It's brutal and tragic and sad beyond description. It's infuriating because it doesn't need to happen as often as it does. When it happens, and politicians who are often funded by the NRA say, "gun-control advocates are politicizing this tragedy to try to pass an agenda of gun-control. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," I think to myself, "No. I'm saying my friend didn't need to die, and unregulated gun access is a well-documented public health risk, and you care more about your money than you do about saving people's lives, and that's pathetic, you turd."
Life is short. Life is hard. Life is tragic. Life is beautiful. We're all living on borrowed time: every day we get is a bonus, every hour we get to spend with someone we love is a blessing, and every minute we get to smile is the ultimate manifestation of the good. There are a million dangers conspiring against us every day to try to keep us from seeing tomorrow's sunrise, and still we persevere.
Some of these things are out of our control, while others we have the power to change.
We can't stop tornados, but we can build shelters that help save lives when tornados strike. We can't stop the flu, but we can wash our hands to prevent it from spreading, and treat the symptoms of the virus so it's no longer deadly. We may never be able to prevent every single person who is full of murderous rage from killing our loved ones, but we can make it much more difficult for them to do so.
You can help save lives by supporting common-sense gun-control so things like Sandy Hook or Orlando or Aurora or Roseburg or Columbine or stray shots in dozens of cities killing kids daily doesn't happen with a regularity that has made us numb and desensitized. If you stay silent on gun-control, you're complicit and condoning gun-violence by association.
But since we've agreed you care about yourself, your loved ones, and humanity as a whole, and that you have common-sense and freedom, I don't think you'll keep quiet.
There are no words that can adequately express how heartbreaking, devastating, and sad what happened in Charleston yesterday really is. Nine innocent people are dead. Nine innocent people who have moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Nine innocent people who were murdered by a racist, grown-up, white male simply because of the color of their skin. Nine innocent people who were murdered because racism, and gun culture, are institutionally endemic in our society.
As much as Fox News would like you to believe that gun control wouldn't have prevented this, or that racism doesn't exist because we live in a "post-racial society because we have a black president", they're not true. (Hours after the shooting occurred, Fox was already live with coverage lambasting President Obama for understandably mentioning that the conversation about gun control needs to happen. They referred to the shooter as a "troubled boy" who was specifically targeting Christians, even though the shooter specifically said he was doing it because he wanted to murder black people.) And though it would be easy to write a tomb about Fox News being a cancer in our society and the public discourse, because they are, this isn't about them. This is about us.
This is about how racism exists, and is allowed, in two ways: actively and passively.
Racism is active in the fact that the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism, slavery, hatred, and oppression, still flies high above the South Carolina Capitol.
It's active when police officers pull someone over because they're committing the crime of driving while black, or pull a gun on black teenagers for attending a pool party, or choke a black man to death for selling loosey cigarettes.
It's active when Tamir Rice was shot to death, and not given CPR, for holding a toy gun.
It's active in the fact that the Charleston shooter was taken into custody without a scratch on him, which is more than can be said if you're a black teenage girl at a pool party in Texas.
It's active in the fact that people of color make up 30% of the population in the US, but 60% of the prison population.
It's active when Richard Sherman is called a "thug" for raising his voice in an interview with Erin Andrews.
It's active in more ways than can be listed here, unless you want to be reading for the next 7 months.
Racism is passive when people say "I don't see color." Certainly, most mean well when they say that, but…really? To portend not to see color is to deny the differences in our cultures that make us unique, that make us diverse, that make us beautiful.
Racism is passive when news anchors use the phrase "the n word."
Racism is passive when the shooting in Charleston is talked about as an "act of violence by a mentally ill boy" and not, simply "a murder and hate crime by a racist, white man."
Racism is passive when we deny the fact that racism still exists.
Racism is passive when you and I choose to stay silent rather than speak up at injustices done to our friends, neighbors, or strangers of color (Black, Hispanic, Native, Asian, Middle Eastern), because there are a lot of egregious, hateful acts committed toward minorities every day. To pretend otherwise is to condone the actions.
This is about how the murder of innocent children, women, and men may not ever be fully stopped, but the prevalence can sure as hell be reduced.
How many Charlestons, Sandy Hooks, Columbines, or Auroras need to occur before we admit we have a gun culture epidemic in our society? How many black kids need to be killed in Chicago, in Baltimore, in Washington DC before we actually have a meaningful dialogue about gun control? How much money do we need to drain from the politicians who accept lobbying money from the NRA before we take concrete action to diminish tragic deaths from a weapon whose only purpose is violence?
Gun control opponents don't want a drastic overreach by the government into their personal liberties. I get it. (Hopefully they can empathize with women who want the same consideration from the government when it comes to personal control of their body). But this isn't about "taking away your guns." It's about minimizing the chances that hate-filled people with vendettas will get their hands on one and murder someone's child.
It's about common sense safety measures designed to prevent more unnecessary death in our country. Sort of like vehicle safety measures. Who would argue that speed limits, seat belts, air bags, traffic lights, and laws against drunk driving are bad things that infringe on our rights as a society? We still have thousands die on the road every month, but can you imagine how many more would if we didn't have those safety measures in place?
If you're opposed to gun control, I don't think you're a bad person. But I'd like you to take a little test to check on your level of compassion, empathy, and love. Here's a picture of the 20 children and 6 teachers murdered at Sandy Hook, and the 9 men and women murdered in Charleston:
Look for a few minutes. If it brings tears to your eyes, you're a caring human - just as I thought. Please understand that, if you don't believe in regulations to prevent someone from getting a gun and committing another atrocity like Sandy Hook or Charleston, then these innocent souls died in vain and, ultimately, you're OK with something like Sandy Hook or Charleston happening again.
We can't do anything about what happened in Charleston. But we can prevent another act of terrorism, hatred, and racism from happening again. It starts with us. It ends with us. It starts with being honest about the fact that racism exists and gun control does not. It ends with more innocent people dead, or with a society that acknowledges and embraces diversity and decides gun violence is an intolerable evil that must be vanquished.