Saturday, December 09, 2006

Approx. Sept. 2003

December is "Best of" Month - Introduction

Love is an absent gun

One of my guilty pleasures is the occasional devouring of a women's magazine like Glamour or Cosmopolitan, partly to see if anything new has been added to their cycle of topics, but mostly to keep abreast of the crap we're feeding the next generation of women. A couple of months ago, I read one that featured an article on domestic violence. It contained a chart listing all women who'd been killed at the hands of their significant others within a local area and a specified time period. The article didn't provide the statistic, so I counted up manually, how many deaths, out of the total, had been caused by a gun (instead of strangulation, knives, or other means). Unfortunately I don't have the article any more so I can't recall exactly what my statistic was, but a ballpark would be 45 out of 50. I had to wonder, given the general laziness of people, how many of those deaths would have occurred had the perpetrator been forced to make an effort to kill his beloved? The body is resilient and has an ability to reshape itself that is due more credit than we give it. Plus, it's hard to kill someone. Many bullets to the head don't actually kill their victims. If a gun is an easy way to kill someone and many bullets to the head don't actually kill their victims, imagine how much of an effort it would take to kill another person with one's bare hands.

I had read the article the day after my birthday party, during which a friend of a friend had shocked me with her declaration: "I like guns. Shooting them is fun!" And then proceeded to wax rhapsodic about its pleasures for five minutes. If reading the article alone didn’t sadden me, having done it on the heels of the birthday declaration certainly did the trick. You see, I grew up in the stranglehold of domestic violence. When there was no Mommy or Step-Mommy to distract my father's rage, it was directed to me. I shudder to think what might have happened had my father kept a gun.

Domestic violence is a pattern. Generally, those who grew up in violent households become perpetrators and victims as adults. This was the case with my ex-husband Jeffrey, who, during our marriage, had been keeping a gun, against my wishes, in our apartment. The day I left him for good, I told him that I had fallen in love with someone else, and that I was moving out. As he held me up against the bookshelf by my neck, all I could think about was that a firearm was within reach. Not that I was going to use it - by choice, I didn't even know where it was kept. But I prayed that he wouldn't use it. After about a half hour, the police intervened, and I had them confiscate the weapon. My words were, "Take it before he hurts himself or someone else with it." At the time, it was illegal in New York to possess an unregistered, sawed-off shotgun. I hope that is still true today.

I had tried to leave Jeffrey before, at other times during our tumultuous relationship. There had been a history of verbal abuse and furniture destruction, but, until that day, he had never put his hands on me. I'm certain, however, that had I stayed any longer, the violence would have escalated. When I left my father's house, I swore to myself that I would not repeat the domestic violence pattern. I made good my promise the day I finally left Jeffrey.

I do not believe that eradicating guns is the cure-all to society's violence. Men would still murder their girlfriends and wives. Mothers and fathers would still beat their kids. Incest would continue. And I'm not sure that I want guns completely eradicated, because I can't predict all contingencies. I can't declare with certainty that there will never be a day in the future when I might feel it's necessary to take up arms either against my own government or another invading force, or to just protect myself and my children should we ever find ourselves living in lawless times. And it is true that a gun is not capable of killing anything without a human hand, with its opposable thumb and all, pulling the trigger. But the problems we have with violence are centuries away from being solved, and until the day we have systems in place that ensure the peaceful resolution of our collective anger, deregulation of guns - putting them in the hands of persons who do not comprehend the consequences of their actions, letting guns freely circulate within a society that not only can't manage its anger but actually engages and escalates it - is both suicidal and genocidal.

Whatever I feel about Michael Moore's propagandist tactics, I believe and support the content of Bowling for Columbine. If you haven't already, go see it. And if you feel the need to do more, learn about Sarah Brady and the Brady Campaign.

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