Maybe I live a sheltered life. When asked about guns, we simply don't have them, allow them, nor want them in or around our house. There is no need.
So when my 8-year-old nephew got a shiny new .22 calibre rifle for Christmas, my shock should come as no surprise. Two hours earlier, I would never have thought my sister-in-law would have allowed her son to have a gun, after I got in trouble for playing a World War II game on the Nintendo Wii (it wasn't really even a good game).
I was unfortunately too sick at the time to respond the way I should have, and so I could very easily have given the impression of a person who was indifferent or even accepting of this "gift".
Let me be clear. I am not.
You see, not an hour before the giving of this gun, I was having a conversation with the family of my sister-in-law's boyfriend about Gun Culture following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Their opinion was that more guns will solve the problem. That having an armed officer in every school was an appropriate measure. That tagging the mentally ill was the best way to keep this from happening again. (I found that last one insensitive as my in-laws have a family history of mental illness) I seemed to be the only one in the room who disagreed.
So many things said by these people alarmed me and deeply saddened me:
"Anybody who has something out of balance in their brain is mentally ill." Does this include the seasonally depressed? People with ADD? People with dyslexia?
"The only people who would do such a thing would be mentally ill." So I should be afraid that the 75 students who are coded in my school of 300 might pull a gun? The vast majority of those who are "mentally ill" are non-violent.
"No rational person would ever kill 20 people." Ask Sheldon Cooper that one. Or Adolph Hitler. Or a soldier fighting for peace.
"A cop at every school with a gun would have prevented this." No, not having access to guns AT ALL would have prevented this. After hearing about the Nose Hill Gentlemen, I will never be convinced that more US cops with guns is a good idea.
Then my brother-in-law gives our nephew a gun, and started talking about all the "wonderful" things they can do with it, including going behind a blind and "picking off targets". This, after a discussion amongst grown men about how they are planning to create their own cannons.
Now to be fair, I was impressed with the respect my nephew immediately affording this device, and I know that he was being coached to respect it. However, sick as I was, I did not have the energy to get up and leave as I should have.
However, saying only that guns can be fun is irresponsible. They are tools of death. That's how they were designed. The more available they are, the more you open up the opportunities for them to be managed irresponsibly.
Evidence of irresponsible gun management exists everywhere. When it involves an 8-year-old who doesn't know how to use guns, such as one in Philadelphia who shot herself just weeks before Sandy Hook, it doesn't just scare me. It infuriates me.
The responsibility starts with the parents. I have to wonder if my nephew's father (his parents are divorced and fighting over custody) is aware he just got a gun for Christmas in his mother's house. I can assure you that my boys will not be getting guns in our house. Ever.
So if I get blacklisted amongst my family for saying all this, so be it. I just hope they realize I feel this way because I actually care about my nephew.
Don't give more guns out to 8-year-olds. Get rid of them.