I've taught my children for almost 18 years now that the word "hate" is wrong. And perhaps it is in this case as well... But it seems fitting.
Understand, when I say "I hate guns", it is simply my opinion. I actually recently considered overcoming my hatred because "the world is a dangerous place". I thought being a member of the gun-toters society may be something I'd grow into.
But travel back with me in time. Join me in a college class I had my freshman year. You remember that time. The year you were about to learn just how little you knew. You entered those walls filled with pride and puffery, convinced that everything the world had to offer was somehow absorbed in the previous 12 years of education. You knew everything. Or at least I thought I did. Perhaps you were less arrogant about your drop in the bucket.
I was a freshman. Dr. James Kweder was our professor and the class was Social Control. His job was to enlighten our class how the world worked and who had the power. I strutted in there with all the answers. Or so I thought.
The year was 1985. Our teacher asked us how we felt about guns. I boldly raised my hand and announced, "I hate them. I will never own one." I quickly was about to learn how little I knew. My Socratic instructor raised an eyebrow at me quizzically, and said, "Really?" The question mark was a lower case one, if there is such a creature. His question was more an invitation as he proceeded to invite me to the front of the room.
"Kim, you hate guns, cannot imagine yourself using one, correct?"
I emphatically nodded, with a small speech prepared, ready to talk about all the reasons I would never use a gun, but he continued...
"Take a few minutes with me, Kim. Put yourself in these shoes..."
He began to describe a street corner. It was evening, the sky was dark and I was alone, waiting for a friend. I had a gun in my pocket, just to be safe. Okay, I thought arrogantly, and I tried to ignore his part of the scenario that I had a gun, because I never would. What kind of game was this, I wondered.
He continued, in his even voice. "Kim, you're in Hough. (for those of you who aren't native to Cleveland, Ohio, Hough is one scary neighborhood, the historical site of the 1960s riots). It's irrelevant that the riots had ended two decades ago, a reputation is forever. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
The HOUGH RIOTS, were a spontaneous outbreak of violence characterized by vandalism, looting, arson, and sporadic gunfire. Although there had been racial disturbances earlier in the summer, these events proved to be more serious and widespread. The riots were sparked by a dispute over a glass of water at the Seventy-Niners Cafe at Hough Ave. and E. 79th St. on the evening of 18 July, which escalated until the police were unable to deal with the situation. As the crowd grew larger, rock throwing, looting, and vandalism gradually spread throughout the Hough area. The following evening the violence was repeated, with fires set in the area as well as reports of sniper fire.I took my grades seriously, so I mentally immersed myself in the worse neighborhood in our metro area. He paused and was silent while I digested where I was mentally waiting. He walked outside the classroom door, still silent.
I ran through the scenarios. I knew what to do. I could run, I could avoid that neighborhood. I could never have to know if I had it in me.
He started to walk back into the classroom, slowly and wordlessly, but with arms extended. I said, "Can I help you?" More silence, and he moved closer.
I watched my professor and thought about the scene he painted. I was on the corner of the theoretically most dangerous neighborhood in town. Alone. Waiting for a friend. A gun in my pocket. He took a few more steps towards me, slowly. I stepped backwards, and for a moment the professor broke the wall. He said, "I forgot to tell you, you're on crutches. You cannot run."
"What do you want?" I asked, hand confidently patting my pocket. More silence, but another step closer, arms still extended.
"I have a gun," I announce.
Another step closer.
"Stop or I will shoot", I state, confident my threat will stop this madness that is building.
I pull out my gun and point it at the silent menace as he continues to move closer.
My personal space is invaded. And with all the absurdity of my statement about never, I state, "bang" and pretend to shoot the gun.
I shot him. It may be predictable to know that his explanation was that he was the harmless neighborhood hugger. Naturally the person I pretended to shoot was harmless. Regardless, gun ownership and usage took over the minute I was out of my realm of understanding. I shot a man who wanted to hug me.
My idea of invincibility, when I was literally and figuratively paralyzed, coupled with the arrogance we embrace when we're young, dissolved. Even in the most contrived situations, once I got inside my head long enough, I was ready to shoot. Our media's job is to get into our heads. When I was 18, I was sure I knew everything. What I didn't know yet was that I possessed within me the fortitude to kill my brother or sister.
When you own a gun, the most important thing to remember is who the owner is. Don't let the gun will own you if you forget, and it's easier than you imagine.
That is the moment I knew, I hate guns. I hated that they made me weak. I hated how lazy I was about figuring out what a person wants. I hated that I acted like a gun made me safe, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it if I were scared enough. And Lord knows the world is forever trying to scare us, rather than inform us. Scared folks with weapons are much easier to manipulate.
That was the moment.
So I say again, I hate guns. I hate that they remind me who I am.