Living with fear


Growing up in Chicago’s Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood, I lived in what was euphemistically called a “changing neighborhood (it has since changed for the better).” That meant there was a lot of crime close to us and it infiltrated into our bastion of safety. I was not allowed outside alone after dark, even to go to the neighbors house. Our neighbor was mugged in front of her house—we laughed, but nervously, that the attacker got her Bible and not her purse. I went to a high school with about 5,000 other students, and fights were common. One of the first cautions I heard was never to stop to watch  fight between two black girls because they would turn on a white girl. But there were no guns in those fights—occasionally a knife, but to my knowledge, no one died. I was close to twenty before I stayed home alone at night.

For years, Texas has been a relief. My safe place. I have always locked my doors when leaving the house untended or at night. But recently, after Jordan expressed worry about our “night walkers,” I started setting the alarm system. And more recently, I started locking the doors when I nap. (This has resulted in occasionally locking Jordan out, much to her frustration!) I am a little bit edgy all the time.

A fatal shooting near the local high school, witnessed by a friend and almost by my grandson, brings crime home to my neighborhood and larger community. While I am deeply saddened by the death of the young man—he sounds like a good kid from reports I’ve read—I am appalled by what the tragedy has revealed about gun culture in teens. And I know the local school is not an exception. (I am also upset about what it has revealed about teen pregnancy, but that’s another story.) When I said we’d be amazed to know the number of backpacks at Paschal that hid guns every day, my grandson just said, “Yeah.”

Take it beyond our local community. When I read the daily news briefs that our local paper chooses for my information, there are always two or three shootings, many domestic. And then there are mass shooting--in the twenty-four days of 2023, there have been thirty-nine mass shootings, many more than one a day and three in one recent day. We are killing our children, our families, our neighbors. And too many of us seem unable to transfer the horrifying statistics into compassion for the victims and their families, whose lives are forever disrupted.

Why and how this situation developed has been studied and studied. Seems to me there are two factors behind it: misinterpretation of the second amendment which pairs with that illogical, defensive flap about our “Freehdoms” that conservatives (read “the base”) like to rave about. The second root cause is greed—on the part of weapons manufacturers, the NRA, and federal and state legislators who take “campaign contributions.” Have you ever checked how much your senator or representative accepted from the NRA? But identifying causes is not going to fix the problem. What to do?

I doubt giving grammar lessons to most gun owners is going to be effective, no matter that a grammatically correct (and logical) reading of the second amendment as written clearly does not authorize personal possession of firearms. Yes, education helps—about proper use and storage of guns, but effective gun control has to come from our government—federal and state. Strict law that are strictly enforced—it’s a big challenge, but it could be done. Look at gun death statistics in the US and compare to those in other “civilized” countries. We need to stop throwing up our hands in despair, saying, “It will never work in the United States,” and sending our kids off to school where they might well be slaughtered. We can make it happen, but each of us must press our representatives on the state and national level.

To start with, instead of banning books and robbing women of control over their own bodies, at risk to their health and very lives, Greg Abbott might well address the problem of gun violence in his state. He seems to ignore it’s a problem, even after Uvalde. We, his constituents, know better. It comes home to our communities.

Gun control doesn't mean taking everyone's guns away. Sport hunters can relax. But it means getting guns out of the wrong hands--and there are many of those, from teens with uncontrollable tempers to the mentally disturbed who kill for who knows why? It’s simplistic, but as a friend of mine said, “If you don’t have a gun, you find another way to solve a disagreement.”