Friday, May 27, 2022

The futile search for a solution to gun violence

A few years back I got embroiled in yet another email argument with a friend whom I respect, about gun ownership. Our opinions on guns, and politics in general are, and remain, as diametrically opposed as east and west. 

He's a firm, long-time owner, who, if I recall correctly, keeps a couple of handguns in his house and carries one strapped to his leg sometimes when he goes outside. 

One time we visited him and his wife in Florida and he showed Stew his plastic, but very real, Glock handgun. Stew was wide-eyed, as if Superman was being shown a chunk of kryptonite. I skipped the demonstration. I'm openly terrified of guns. 

The portraits in the New York Times of the 19 schoolchildren killed in Texas a couple of days ago—all Mexican-American— at first almost made my cry. 

Their faces were a mixture of innocence with a mischievous sparkle in their eyes. They reminded me of our former gardener's Felix's three kids, now ages eight through thirteen, whom we watched grow when they came to visit over the years. 

Three of the kids murdered in Texas.

Strangely, I have also thought of the arguments my friend and I have had over guns, especially his assertion that owning a gun gives you a feeling of "personal empowerment," by affording you a measure of protection from the whirlwind of craziness that surrounds us. 

It's an insane yet frequent reaction: Guns caused those kids deaths. And yet, if previous gun massacres are any indication, gun sales across the country will increase, past the 400 million guns already in private hands, as people seek some sort of relief from the sense of powerlessness they feel at times like these. I wish I could offer an alternative balm but I have none.

Extending our "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the victims has been become such a putrid cliché no one dares use it anymore. It makes me sick.

Likewise, craven politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, afraid of even the slightest whisper about gun control laws, blamed the tragedy on "mental health issues," or "the politicization of the problem," whatever that means. 

Worst of all, perhaps, from some right-wing corner of the internet universe, some got the rumor going that the killer was either an undocumented immigrant, a transgender woman, or both. 

Among those spreading the rumor was U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona. He tweeted, in part, that the shooter “is a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore [sic] Ramos.” The tweet was deleted later, but the zombie rumor lives on out there. 

My response to this horror may in a way sound as cowardly as Abbott's, and won't be of any comfort to anyone who reads this. After the initial news story, I've avoided reading or watching any more news analyses, speculation or bloviation about it. 

Yet the faces of those 19 kids will likely be stuck in my mind for some time.

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