Before I get into my discussion here, before you jump down to the comments to get all angry at me for being a liberal cuck who’s going to take away our guns, just know I’m not. But my life, which I’m going to explain, has led me to many experience that bring me to my position on guns. But also understand: of almost all the issues, this is very important to me. That’s why I’m starting this new series (Let’s Get Political) with this piece.
One year and 10 days before I was born, two young men dressed in black trench coats and carrying multiple weapons each walked into Columbine High School, which is about 40 minutes from my house. I think I was about 11 when I first learned about the Columbine massacre, and it kind of broke me for a little bit (I had a similar reaction when I first learned about 9/11, that’s a discussion for another time). At a certain point, everyone my age had learned about Columbine, and had a pretty good idea of what had gone down on April 20, 1999. It hangs over us like a cloud, slowly lifting itself every year as it move further into history.
Not long after I learned about Columbine, a man walked into a movie theater for a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises. This theater is only about 20 minutes from my house. The Aurora shooting was a really scary experience. Because it happened so late at night (I think around 1:30 a.m.), local newspapers didn’t report it in their morning editions the next day, and so I only happened to find out about it because my grandfather, in town visiting, was on the Seattle local paper’s site and saw it. At that moment, you get really afraid of what might happen. With so little known and the events unfolding so close by, it’s hard to react. My family had no idea if someone we knew was at that theater and had been hurt or even worse.
Aurora was really scary. Then came Sandy Hook, which I won’t discuss as much because it had less of a direct impact on me (not that it wasn’t a horrible event, and I am terribly saddened every time I think of what those little kids may have been able to grow up to do). My parents tried to hide the newspaper from me the next morning so I wouldn’t learn about it and freak out (they failed there, I learned later that day). But the most important shooting (by impact on me) is one that many people haven’t heard about: Arapahoe High School.
On December 13th, 2013, I had a half day of school. I was in 8th grade, and so at that point my friends and I were just realizing the extent of which we could explore Denver and do fun things without parents. But at some point that afternoon, I got a text from my mom that there had been a shooting at Arapahoe High School. The fright I had in this moment cannot be more amplified. Like with Aurora, there’s a panic of not knowing if you know someone at Arapahoe High School (I didn’t actually then, but nonetheless). There’s the panic of all of your friends not knowing if they know someone. And there’s the growing belief that no school is safe anymore, no way to know if the kid sitting next to you in Geometry is going to come to school the next day with an AR-15 and shoot 25 kids.
With the situation at Arapahoe, a student had become very frustrated with his teacher, and came to school in the middle of the day with a gun. He stormed past the security guard, who would later be identified as the initial call to 911, and to that teacher’s classroom. He didn’t find the teacher, and stormed back into the halls, where the few students in the halls tried to stop him. He fired the weapon someone randomly, but a few bullets wounded Clair Davis, a senior at the school. He then went into the school library and shot himself. Clair died 8 days later.
The most important part of the Arapahoe shooting was the response. After Columbine, Colorado schools had a specific set of procedures to follow in an active shooter situation. And at Arapahoe, they worked. But for me, after that day, everything changed.
By the time the Orlando shooting occurred last year, I had begun to be numb to these shootings. Orlando was the worst mass shooting attack in American history (carried out by a lone gunman, the Sand Creek Massacre was worse), but I didn’t say “Oh my god”, I said “Shit, again?”.
Here’s my position on gun control, now with my background on shootings to back it up. I believe in universal background checks. If you are a criminal (a violent criminal, I should specify), you should not be allowed to own a gun. I also believe that we should have a system in which doctor can place patients on a blacklist for buying guns if they determine their patients may be suffering from mental health issues. I also believe in the “No-fly no buy” idea, where if you’re on a terrorist watch list, you can’t buy a gun. I also believe that gun laws should be all within federal legislation, and that states shouldn’t differ on these laws, as states where the laws are strict have their laws undermined by states where there are no gun laws.
But understand this as well: I believe that if you are a regular American, going about day to day life, and want to hunt or have a gun for self-protection, I support that 100% of the way. I just don’t want guns falling into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. I think that’s something everyone can get behind. And I’m pretty sure the writers of the constitution would be behind that as well, and the constitution won’t be violated.