As I understand it (although I do not fully understand it) guns are a lifestyle for millions of my American neighbors.
Once upon a time, before gun violence became a daily, even hourly, norm for the United States, guns were just a lifestyle choice. Your family hunted or your family didn't hunt. Your family owned a gun or your family didn't own a gun. You supported guns or you opposed guns. No biggie. Chicken or beef? Either was fine.
This is a beautiful thing in American culture. We can agree to disagree. We can raise our babies up in a melting pot of beliefs and ideas and we can all still love and respect one another. For this reason, while guns and talk of guns and toy guns and imaginary guns and any sort of gun in any capacity will never be allowed in any household of mine, I still proudly melt together as friend and neighbor with gun owners and supporters.
The problem is, the once upon a time is behind us. Gun ownership, contrary to a distorted belief held primarily by current gun owners and supporters, is no longer solely about a person's personal right to bear arms. The gun conversation became much, much larger when people's children stopped coming home from school.
I get it. I mean I don't get it, being the appeal to owning a gun, but I do get it, being that I do understand what it's like to feel entitled to a right. If I was raised in a home where guns were a piece of my culture I'd likely feel robbed if my constitutional right to bear arms became a national conversation.
What I don't get is how any responsible gun owner can sit back and watch the horror -- the slaughtering -- of thousands of people each year and not stand up and say, "things really, really need to change."
The reality is that America is slow to reform gun control because we have to jump through senate and congressional and countless other hoops to arrive at a place in time when real change can happen. Changing laws is no easy feat and while we fight against each other politically so that you can sleep next to your gun at night, people are dying. Children are dying.
"But I like guns, I grew up with guns, guns are important to me."
I can think of a dozen things off of the top of my head that I love and value. Things that I was raised up with as a part of my cultural norm. Things that I use to bond with family. Things that bring back beautiful memories of childhood. Things that make me, me. The reality is that if any of these things started to appear in classrooms and movie theaters and churches and nightclubs as murder weapons, I'd reevaluate just how important it felt for me to stand behind these things.
"People who want a gun will find a gun."
This is true. Except when it isn't. The reality is that countless mass casualty shootings have been at the hands of mentally ill, every day Americans. These individuals will not "find a gun." If we place a stricter, reformed ban on guns twenty-seven-year-old Floridian boys living out of their mother's basement are not going to call their drug dealers and get hooked up with a handgun. Do you want to know why? Because twenty-seven year old Floridian boys living out of their mother's basement typically don't have drug dealers stashing arsenal in the back of their black Escalades. I know it's fun to think of everything like a James Bond movie but realistically thousands of lives would be saved each year if America took a step forward in screening mentally ill Americans more throughly before selling them guns.
Will some people still find guns after a reform is put on them? Yes. Will there still be mass casualty shootings? Unfortunately, yes. Is it worth it to put a reform on guns to save one single life? Absolutely, yes.
"But you can't take it from me."
Are you five years old? Are we talking about apple juice or arsenal? There is nothing on the table, congressionally or otherwise, to suggest that guns will be completely banned from America. Calm down, relax, and start to think logically about how you, as a responsible and concerned gun owner and fellow American, can make our country a little safer by hopping on board the gun control train.
"Laws don't apply to criminals."
There are already incredible methods in place to monitor and intervene with illegal weapon trade in the United States and a huge part of a gun reform would be the continued, close monitoring of rings and potential rings that could lead to illegal weapon distribution.
It is true that some criminals will still have or obtain guns but there are plenty of criminals, actually most criminals, that don't go out in broad daylight and shoot up schools and malls or up and coming celebrities like the beautiful Christina Grimmie. The majority of these individuals are mentally ill. More often than not, mentally ill people don't have the capacity or the means to gain access to an illegal weapon distributor. If one does, there are ten-fifteen that no longer would. A step forward for gun control is not the only step but it is certainly a step forward. Every life matters.
"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
A personal favorite. First of all, technically, the gun kills the person. A person without a gun might kill a single person with their bare hands. A person with a gun can easily kill an entire room of people within seconds in a very impersonal, impulsive way.
The fact of the matter is that people with guns kill people and you, as a concerned and responsible gun owner, should be concerned about making sure that America takes a step forward in making sure that everyone is safe from guns. All the time.
"How will we defend ourselves?"
Again with the James Bond movie. No politician has ever made me more angry than Donald Trump did during his press conference the morning after the tragic Paris nightclub shooting in November of last year. According to the Republican front runner, there wouldn't have been nearly as many casualties that night if people were armed to protect themselves. Stupid Paris, banning guns. It's all their fault. Right? Wrong. Super wrong.
First of all, I don't know about you but when I'm applying my lipstick and deciding which jacket to wear with my favorite little black dress on nights when I go dancing, I don't stand at my closest thinking, "gosh I'm going to need something that goes with my handgun."
When I send my future Kindergartner to school I'm not going to pack a weapon next to their string cheese. "Here you go baby, just in case you have to defend yourself."
So no Donald, sit down, calm down, and stop saying things that make absolutely no sense at all.
Second of all, Paris IS a gun free zone. This means that, even with the tragedy in November, 0.6 of every 100K individuals is a victim of a gun-related homicide whereas there are 3.2 (and rising) gun-related homicides per every 100k individuals in the United States.
I don't know why or how there are still places in America in 2016 where it is okay to take your handgun to Walmart just in case a deranged shooter pops up in isle six BUT the rest of the world does not want to live in fear. The rest of the world does not want to settle for Donald Trump's remedy to a national gun crisis -- giving the good guys more guns does not stop gun violence in America. We know this. We know the statistics. We understand the reality that people cannot go everywhere, all the time, with a gun to "defend" themselves just in case.
This morning I am crushed. I am crushed for the family of Christina Grimmie and I am crushed for the families of the 50+ victims that lost their lives at an Orlando nightclub yesterday evening.
It is time for change and I will shamelessly, unwaveringly vote and petition for reform (and candidates to reform) that will implement these changes to protect my community and my future children. I encourage you to do the same and to my friends that sit on this issue, I hope that you recognize the seriousness of this conversation.