No More Guns Over People


I’ve never held a gun, owned a gun, fired a gun, or had the first thing to do with a gun. They aren’t my thing, but they are many people’s thing. That’s fine. I’m not here to pass judgment on anybody for that. But the Columbine shooting happened just a few days after my older daughter was born, and how many mass shootings have happened since then? Sandy Hook hit me hard, and Orlando did too, but there are probably a hundred others where I shook my head and moved along until it happened again. That can’t happen anymore.
I’m quite comfortable with the 2016 elections being a binary propositions about guns in this country. Either we do nothing at all to limit people’s access to guns–the NRA model–or we do something in the hope that it saves even one life somewhere. If your home is on fire, you don’t passively watch it burn. But that’s what our Congress is doing, and will continue to do. The NRA owns them, and their inaction on this matter is entirely by design.
So vote guns this fall, or don’t. It really is just that simple. Mark Kirk, my senator in Illinois, broke ranks with his party (the GunsOverPeople crowd) but it won’t be enough to get him re-elected, not when his war hero opponent was on the House floor during yesterday’s sit in. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are indeed desperate times. Grieving families from coast to coast will attest to that.

I got you, babe


Groundhog Day is one of the more ingenious movies to have come along in my lifetime. Yes, it’s funny, and that made it entertaining to watch. But what made it ingenious was how it has become a cultural shorthand for the same thing happening over and over and over again. When you tell someone that something is “like Groundhog Day” they know exactly what you mean. And how many movies can you say that about?

One of the things about Phil, Bill Murray’s character in the movie, is that once he realizes what’s going on with the same day being repeated over and over again, he uses this recurrence to modify his behavior. Take the scene where he asks Rita, Andie McDowell’s character, out for some coffee. He learns about what she likes, and then goes about becoming that person. He learns to play the piano, after he discovers that she wants a guy who’s a musician. He then gets the girl, and as a result his repeating day spell is broken the next day. There was no more “I got you, babe” played on the radio to start each day.

So I want to apply this lesson to the wave of gun shootings taking place in this country. When someone shoots up a high school in Colorado, or a college campus in Virginia, or a mosque in Wisconsin, we should take notes and learn from those experiences. The shooter who killed several people in Arizona, and severely wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, had to stop firing to reload his weapon, and that’s when he was taken down. So smaller magazines would make a difference to prevent these things from happening again. We can learn from the tragedies, in order to prevent similar ones in the future. That shouldn’t be so hard to do.

But the gun makers don’t see it that way. Using the Second Amendment as a full and complete bar to any sort of reasonable gun restrictions–which might save the lives of innocent bystanders one day in the future–they go to great lengths to suggest that no changes should be made. And they throw their political and PR weight around until we, as a nation, get distracted by something else, and then life goes on. Or, at least it does until the next gun massacre takes place. Modifying our collective behavior in the hopes of getting the girl isn’t in the NRA’s playbook, because they’ve already got the girl right now. It’s the rest of us that have to watch as children are blasted into bloody bits.

Let’s see this for what it is. “Getting the girl” as Phil saw it in Groundhog Day, is reaching a point where these massacres don’t happen quite so much anymore. The experiences of Newtown and Aurora and the Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago can all help us to get there, if we make this a priority.

Let’s all of us understand that the NRA doesn’t want us to get the girl, and will do everything it can–up to and including distorting the Constitution–in order to see that it doesn’t happen. For a group of unarmed children standing in a park on a rainy day after final exams are over, their answer is to put more guns into the equation, not to remove the one that was already there. But that way of thinking won’t help any of us learn from the past. And it will only provide a steady diet of “I got you, babe” in the morning.

The gun issue rears its ugly head, again

We live in troubling times, indeed. A Congresswoman who was shot in the head and somehow survived, addressed Congress and pleaded for new gun restrictions. Too many children are dying, she said. And then, the day after she made these remarks, we get another example of exactly what Gabby Giffords was speaking of.

The girl on the left in the video above, Hadiya Pendleton, was a sophomore in high school until a couple of days ago. She was standing under a bus shelter, keeping out of the rain with a group of her friends, when some idiot jumped a fence, fired some shots, and ran away. And now the world knows her name, and not in a good way, either.

The NRA would have us believe that a group of high school children, having just taken their final exams, could have prevented this shooting if they were carrying weapons. They’re hoping the ludicrous nature of this argument takes us away from the fact that if this fence-jumping idiot had not had a gun in his possession, nobody would be dead. Is this what they really believe? And what makes anyone believe a group of teenagers with guns is a good idea to begin with? Trust me, it isn’t.

This all happened in the neighborhood that President Obama lives in. You could walk from the crime scene to his house in less time than it takes to read this post. And yet, somehow, any talk of limiting or restricting the flow of guns onto the streets of Chicago is greeted with cries of “tyranny.” I guess that children dying, at an ever-increasing rate, is just fine with these people, so long as it’s not happening where they live.

It’s a terrible commentary on where we are as a society that this continues to happen. I hope we can somehow find our way to a rational place, before too much more killing takes place. This saps our nation’s strength more effectively than any external enemy ever could. All who love this country must heed Congresswoman Giffords’ call to action. As she said, be bold, Congress. That’s what you’re there for.

Let’s don’t forget about it

Today I had to drop off a cable box at a customer service center. The place was empty, which I had never seen before in this location. People seem to love their cable TV, and there are always long lines of people whenever I have gone there in the past. But today was a nice change of pace.

As I explained to the lady working behind the counter what my issue was, the TV that was on in the room had a CNN story about guns, asking whether we would ever be able to find some common ground about what to do with them. The lady behind the counter asked me what I thought about guns, and in particular the story of the fire fighters who were killed while responding to a fire alarm in western New York. The lull in business to the customer service center made this conversation possible, and I was glad it did. As anyone who knows me or reads my blog can attest, I’m always happy to share my opinions.

I told her that it was a tragedy for the families of the firefighters, and for us a nation as well. On the heels of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, it proves that something needs to be done. What exactly that is isn’t clear, but we can’t accept the status quo any more.

I also told her that news outlets like CNN are part of the problem. The 24-hour news cycle that makes an event from three days ago feel like ancient history allows us all to forget about things like firefighters killed in the line of duty. Life doesn’t ever return to normal for the victims of these crimes and their surviving families, but as soon as a big storm comes along, or a political scandal takes place, or any of a hundred other distractions occurs, we’re focused on that, instead of remembering the tragedy that just took place. Until, of course, the next gun tragedy comes along, just as it always does.

The lady behind the service window agreed with me, and told me that we need to keep this issue in the forefront of people’s minds. We parted by wishing each other a good day, and a happy new year as well. It sucks that such a set of circumstances had to occur in order to have a conversation like this with a stranger, but it’s one that I’m happy to have had.

I walked out of the service center, and thought about the ending of Santana’s song “Smooth.” It’s one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite albums, and I’ve not written about it before in this space. Near the end of the song, Rob Thomas–who wrote the song, but only sang it after Carlos Santana suggested it–sings “let’s don’t forget about it” over and over again.

It’s Thomas’ frenetic insistence that helps to bring a truly great song to its conclusion. I didn’t want to forget my conversation with the lady, whose name I didn’t even learn, because we forget about important things too readily in our society.

Gun violence keeps on happening, and when we forget about this–or become sidetracked by what Lindsay Lohan is doing, or other such trivial matters–then assault rifles will continue to be sold to civilians, high-capacity magazines will continue to be stockpiled, and the NRA will keep working to normalize guns in our society. We’ve let it happen for too long already, so let’s stop it while we’re already far, far behind. Or as Rob Thomas suggests, “Let’s don’t forget about it.”