The other day, while walking the dogs, a little boy extended his hand out a window.
"BANG BANG BANG!" he said. "You're all dead."
I was walking the dogs, Fable in her stroller, Archer on his scooter. I turned to him and then looked away. Pretended not to hear him, let it bother me. We kept walking.
Archer didn't respond and I got to wondering how he would have had he known and understood what the little boy was doing. Had he known and understood what a gun was, how it was meant to be used.
Violence in any form churns my stomach. Always has. I turn away from violence in movies, forbid my children to watch movies where characters "good" OR "bad" kill one another. (That's why I like CARS. The only "bad" guys in CARS are the character's egos. No one dies or tries to kill anyone. The conflict is on the interior. Much more kid-friendly.) But I digress. I've been thinking quite a bit lately about weapons and violence, specifically the way violence is depicted on television - comic book superheroes saving the world by killing "bad guys"... "bad guys" that lurk in shadows and under beds and behind the mirror glass.
Many of Archer's friends at school carry X-Men lunchboxes, wear Spiderman shoes, Batman T-shirts. Archer doesn't know who Spiderman is. Or Superman. Or Wolverine. Or any comic book superheroes. The only television he sees is peaceful. I turn the television off when there's a preview for a show that involves violence of any kind.
Recently I've been wondering if this constitutes as sheltering.
Oh my God, am I sheltering him?
I've written at length about empowerment, about truth and telling it with eyes open, the heart exposed. I believe that fear comes from our inability to see, to trust and understand, educate and yet when it comes to guns, to violence, I can't do it. I can't talk about guns or weapons without feeling sick and sad, even fearful.
So goes my paradox: I'm afraid that by educating my child I will scare him. I will scare myself.
We live in one of the largest cities in the world. Where drive-bys occur blocks from us. Where break-ins happen regularly. Where our own things have been stolen, our cars broken into, our things swiped from our porch. Three years ago, a man carjacked my husband at gun-point, stole his car and left him on the side of the road. He had just left the set of his job for his lunch break. There were dozens of witnesses. Everyone watched in shock.
Many pro-gun advocates argue that carrying a weapon can ensure ones safety. I disagree. Had my husband been armed with a weapon and used it to defend himself someone could have easily been killed. Instead? Hal lost his car for two days until the cops recovered it in South Central where they arrested and jailed the criminal.
Using gun as defense seldom works to defend. Guns used as offensive weapons? Different story.
I lost three friends in gun-related accidents in High School and since graduation. Two were accidental. One was suicide. I grew up in upper middle class suburbia where everyone lived gated existences. There was NO REASON for them to have handguns in the house. None. If gun control existed, I would have three friends alive. PERIOD.
Do I carry a gun in my house? Never. Do I believe in the right to bear arms? Yes. But I believe there should be stricter regulations. I believe that fear is the worst possible reason to carry a weapon and therefor will never understand why so many feel the need to "protect their families," especially when housed in gated communities in middle-class suburbs, alarms activated.
What are you afraid of?
Guns are far more likely to kill innocent people than criminals when kept inside the home. Period.
That being said, am I being naive to think I can shelter my son from fear by keeping violence away from his eyes? Perhaps. Is it important to teach gun safety to people of all ages? Yes. Will I be teaching my child how to properly use a weapon? No. Because I don't believe he should know how to kill.
To keep a handgun in one's house insinuates, in my opinion, a certain amount of fear, which is why guns are so scary.
There will never be a happily ever after story involving guns because guns were invented with the sole intent to take life.
For me, it all comes down to fear and teaching our children to resist it as much as they possibly can. I will be educating my children to live peaceful lives. To love and respect and stand up for themselves in ways that are empowering.
And in my household? Guns will not be factoring into that equation.