What My Grandfather Would Do
When my mother’s father died, she was a teacher in Wausau, Wisconsin, a gorgeous young twenty-something that resembled Ingrid Bergman. She was close to her father, a big Irish motorcycle cop with a big laugh. While the details of the story she told me in high school are now hazy, and it is much too early as I write this to call her to confirm, I recall her being in a hospital room with him while her mother was walking briskly on the sidewalk outside. Her father was making terrible sounds, dying, and my mother was hoping against hope that her tiny, tough Swede of a mother would get inside quickly because it seemed he was hanging on for her arrival. I don’t remember if my grandmother made it. In my mind it was snowing. I do know for sure that at his funeral it snowed, and this made my mother happy because my grandfather loved snow.
My guess is there will be a lot of arguments, in coming weeks, surrounding the notion, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” when it is plainly obvious that it is people with guns that kill people. Many more people a lot faster with greater certainty than if the killer didn’t have a gun. This is why I have been for gun control since my youth. Then, I didn’t live in an area where people hunted for meat. I have since shot guns myself at targets in the woods and at indoor ranges.
I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: if I was hunting and a magical wood sprite promised, “If you give up your gun right now, there will never be another mass murder in the U.S.,” I would trade it in for another “sport” in a heartbeat. I can’t think of a single thing I wouldn’t give up for that. Some argue that the bad guys will always have guns. That may be true, as it is in New York City where it’s extremely difficult even for even a sane business owner in a high-crime neighborhood to procure legally a handgun, much less an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine designed to kill many as quickly as possible. But regarding the black market gun supply, I doubt the mentally ill who fire upon schools or movie theaters would find much access to guns in a gunless America.Nor do I believe that all angry psychotics can be cured or neutralized by “early detection.”
Access to guns is almost impossible in some countries, yet their citizens seem to live perfectly satisfying lives without them. They find other things to do there. Their murder rate is a fraction of ours, which is astonishing and shameful. At the very least, and I do mean the very least, immediate renewal of the horrifyingly, inexplicably expired assault weapon ban is beyond discussion. We need new, draconian gun access restrictions. We’ve proven that, as a nation, we cannot be trusted with guns.
Here in rural America, I will make enemies by advocating for gun control. That’s fine with me. I am unafraid to take a stand, take abuse, defend my position, get into a barn burner over it. But maybe I will carry as my silent weapon a photo of my friend’s beautiful youngest child, Daniel, who will now remain forever and ever seven years old, with his wide, brown, little-boy eyes and unruly auburn hair and his two front teeth missing. If someone questions my stance on gun control, I will show them this photo. I couldn’t care less what they say after that. But I suspect they won’t say much. To me, anyway.
Without getting up, I open the blinds to look outside my window as one does after staring at the computer for hours, and I think of my grandfather the motorcycle cop. He carried a gun. He adored his children. And I wonder, if he’d seen what happened in Connecticut this week, to Daniel and the others, if he would give up his right to carry a gun if that would end these senseless massacres. I ask him this, the grandfather I never knew, as I peer up into the dark of winter’s morning. Finally, in a cold December strangely devoid of the white stuff, it begins to snow.