June 11, 2022

Let’s Change the Narrative Around Guns.

We’ve all been affected by what happened recently in Uvalde, Texas.

The news is replete with arguments over gun control, legislation, and how to move forward amidst preventable tragedies. While Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are spewing out defensive rhetoric and attacking Democrats for coming at them with common sense gun control legislation and stirring up fear that we are out for their guns at this weekend’s NRA conference, the rest of us are coming to grips with our new reality that an 18-year-old could purchase an automatic weapon and that the freedom to do so is sanctioned by the powerful few.

Some of us are feeling the sadness over the loss of a teacher who stood in front of her students in their defence to her peril or grieving the sudden loss of her husband two days later, afflicted with a broken heart.

Even more of us are shocked at reports that the police waited an excruciating 78 minutes outside as children called 911 for help and parents demanded to be allowed inside to protect their children. There is no doubt that the commander will be fired as investigations proceed as to how and why he ordered police to stand safely out of harm’s way as children were inside in the violent path of an aggrieved, young man.

The raw fury of knowing there was a gunman inside the elementary school taking the life of your child and that the commander was keeping you from going in to protect him or her while barring your entry and refusing to send in someone who could help would be more than anyone of us could handle.

When people offer thoughts and prayers in response, the natural reply to all of this is, “Stick them where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Much is being written on how people feel, the justified lack of faith in our leaders to do anything to prevent such unimaginable tragedies from unfolding in the future, the unjust and infuriating hold on politicians by the NRA, the shocking marketing of Daniel Defense to sell its automatic weapons to—God help me—children and on the extreme end, and the vitriol of Cruz and Trump at this weekend’s NRA conference attacking anyone criticizing the gun policies in our nation.

That tired strategy of going on the offense against morally minded citizens is akin to Putin constructing a narrative that he is undertaking a special military operation in justifying his atrocities and violent invasion of innocent people in Ukraine.

Narratives are powerful, in that they set up in the mind. Depending upon a host of factors, ranging from education to gender to socioeconomic status to life experience to religious beliefs to culture and beyond, people are as vulnerable to the narrative as the end results themselves. An angry, young white male raised in a dysfunctional family afflicted with mental illness, poverty, and divorce, for instance, will believe his father’s narrative of victimhood. Seeing helplessness and rage against entrenched institutions may feed his sense that there simply is no place in the world for him. Lacking support, he may, rather than double-down with determination or resolve, turn instead toward resentment and anger. He may redirect it inward and become depressed.

Or redirect it outward at society.

All of it feeds disenfranchisement. Feeling disempowered that there is no place for your wants leads to lashing out. With others, it leads to escape in drug addiction.

I lost my own nephew of 27 years to a Fentanyl-laced heroin episode. Having known the extent to which he languished in disempowerment and intrinsic lack of opportunities, I know the toxic effects firsthand.

Narrative is powerful, in that it seeps into the silence of our minds. In our private moments, we feel the impacts of living in a culture where a corrupt and greedy few are controlling our lives from afar. Who among us can get into our cars at the start of our days, without a passing thought, that the guy in the Dodge Ram tailgating us on our narrow canyon road doesn’t have a rifle at the ready in a moment of road rage? What woman doesn’t feel vulnerable to the presence of a lone guy sporting an American flag behind the wheel of a Trump-adorned pickup truck at the car wash, glaring angrily at us from the gas pump?

I can’t peacefully leave our sweet, disabled dog out in our yard alone for too long for concern about the random passerby from one of the more gun-populous Red States chancing by and taking a potshot at him, for his unique handicap on the Canyon highway where we live. And I can’t kiss his sweet caramel muzzle when I bring him into the safety of our living room without feeling the deep, abiding sadness alongside the love for his carrying bullets in his small body or the effects of his broken spine, courtesy of the motorist who struck him down and left him to die.

He, too, came from the very same region in the Rio Grande Valley where those 21 precious lives were all lost. It’s hard not to feel the vulnerability when I see a set of Texas plates and think of the three disabled dogs rescued from that region, all with bullets in their bodies.

If guns can take away precious lives before their time and traumatize the minds of millions, words can create the antidote. Let’s start there, by changing the narrative:

Guns kill. Political partisan beliefs notwithstanding, we all want to live to see our families and our animals enjoy their sacred lives, to live peaceably and fully, without fear of injury and death.

Let’s start there. And see how far that narrative goes.


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