Intersections – Locked and loaded
By Nicki Salcedo
I grew up with water guns. Cheap plastic weapons of happiness. There were no rules. Nothing was off limits. Our first target was usually the face and then the crotch. We were merciless in our play fighting.
By the time I had kids, I couldn’t find water guns. They’d been renamed things like water “squirter” or “soaker” or “blaster” because the word “gun” is bad. I enjoy soaking my kids and tossing water balloons as much as the next parent. Toy guns are extinct, because our world is filled with so many real guns.
I’ve never touched a gun. I’ve never laid eyes on a real gun except what is worn by the police. I lost a friend over a gun. Not because he was killed, but because our friendship ended. He wanted to wear his gun into my house, and I wouldn’t let him.
He came over to pick up something. I knew he carried a gun even though I never saw it. That wasn’t a deal breaker in our friendship. I don’t require my friends to be just like me or have my same beliefs. At the same time, I didn’t feel comfortable letting a gun into my house.
“I’d like you to leave your gun in the car when you come in,” I said.
He wanted to know why. At the time my kids were very young.
My request should have been enough, but the conversation went on too long for my liking. As we spoke, I knew our friendship would fade away. Eventually he agreed to lock the gun in the car, but reluctantly.
Have you ever been to a house where they ask you to remove your shoes before you enter? My no gun policy is that simple. My home, my rules.
I met Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, the author of “Choosing Hope,” at an event sponsored by Georgia Center for the Book. Ms. Roig-DeBellis is the first-grade teacher from Sandy Hook Elementary School who saved her entire class from the tragic massacre by piling her students into a single-occupancy bathroom in her classroom.
I was hesitant to read her book and speak with her, because the catalyst for her book was a tragedy. I have children. I have teachers in my life that have saved me in different ways. I didn’t want to read a book about guns or the people who used them to kill.
Fortunately “Choosing Hope” is about how we react to adversity. But gun massacres continue to occur. I wanted to know what the author thought about the issues of gun safety and regulations.
“I’m an educator,” she said. Ms. Roig-DeBellis suggested that something needs to be done, but did not specify by who or in what way. You’d expect that she would be firmly against guns, but she is focused on teaching kids to give. She encourages people who are overcoming tragedy and illness and grief to consider hope and take action by helping others.
I believe this works. I want to focus on hope. My hope lies in conversations about guns and not just opinions.
Stories of gun violence are pervasive in American culture. We were the original outlaws. My first favorite heroes were gunslingers and my first favorite books were by the author Louis L’Amour.
I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t want to live in the Wild West.
I have yet to hear a story where the presence of a gun has de-escalated a situation. We live in a world where I hear about guns and shooting and killings too often. Why does our current society seem so lawless?
I think back to my friend with the gun. Who was he planning to shoot while his was in my house? An intruder? My bad cat? I realize the answer now. He was trying to kill fear.
People who rely on guns to ensure public safety are afraid. You might be locked and loaded, but you can’t kill fear.
I am not against guns. I am against fear. I am against hearing another news story about someone killed by accident or with intent because of guns. I am not against people learning to use and own a gun. I am against guns being a way to feign power and intimidate others. Guns do not thwart death.
We are all going to die anyway.
Some believe a gun might save their life. This is true. It might. Would a gun improve the quality of my life when with it comes the burden of fear? A gun will not save me in a car accident or a plane wreck or when my heart gives out. A gun will not protect me from cancer and old age or a fall into the swimming pool. Guns do not make us impervious to death.
When I went looking for water squirters for my kids, I felt irritated. I miss water guns. I’d banished the word gun from my vocabulary when I became a mom. Now I need to take it back. I’m not afraid of guns. I need to learn about them. We need to talk about what they are meant to do and what they really achieve in our communities.
We are more often locked-down, than locked and loaded. Is that the freedom we wanted? Freedom to rage? Freedom to fear? Fear is an epidemic. The weight of fear is heavier and more dangerous than a gun. Something needs to be done. I hope something is done.
I hope. I hope.
A Decaturish.com reader who comments or shares this article will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of “Choosing Hope.” Author Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis writes about moving forward, choosing hope, and her non-profit Classes 4 Classes.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.