Every day in Illinois, some of us get cold little shivers up our spines when we open doors that have stickers like this one on them. Many times, we are dropping off our children at their schools or daycares, their ballet classes or basketball games in buildings with these stickers. Our state has a concealed carry law, which means that people can have loaded guns hidden on them in most public places (with some exceptions, like schools or Target, for instance. Well, hopefully…).
If a person with a gun comes to a building that has a sticker like this on it, it is against the law for that person to enter with his gun on his person. (I am using the male pronoun here on purpose because… I want to).
I have some general concerns about how it all works exactly, since I didn’t grow up with this being the law: When you’re packing heat in your coat pocket and you forget to take the gun out of your coat when you get to an entrance like this one, do you run back to your car to take the gun out? Some people certainly do. Of course they do. What about if it’s pouring rain outside – do you still run back? Does anyone ever just say, “Oh, this one time will be fine,” and then run into the building with it on them? Or, does anyone ever just forget that it’s in their pocket? One time I found my cell phone in the refrigerator after a week of little sleep with a newborn; has anything equally ridiculous ever happened to a gun owner who is carrying regularly? We know the answer is yes. Because ridiculous things have happened with guns involved.
Also, one note I’d like to make: If you’ve ever thought, “Oh, someone responsibly carrying a gun would never accidentally do something illegal or stupid with it,” I’d just ask you to think about how many responsible men you’ve ever seen with their fly down. That’s a pretty important step in the getting dressed process and, still, it gets missed. So, yes, I have concerns about people walking around with loaded guns and I think they’re legitimate considering, well, life in general.
People say, “Well, responsible gun owners take precautions.” And that is true. And what is also true is that responsible gun owners mess up, make mistakes, live with other less responsible people who find their guns, get angry, get drunk, make bad decisions. And then lives get lost. Thousands and thousands of innocent lives. Babies, tiny children, loving mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and daughters and sons. Who were in places where they should FEEL and BE safe.
Responsible gun owners are not immune from sudden changes in mental health. Responsible gun owners can and do have children and family members with mental illness who can get to their guns and who have gotten to their guns. Responsible gun owners’ bullets kill just the same.
When we see a father talking about his 7-year-old son who was killed while attending school, we think, “Well, I understand his stance. He has lost a child. Of course he has to speak out against guns.” Think about that: Does someone really have to lose a child to feel the problem at hand? Can we not empathize enough to imagine it could be any one of us? Do we not imagine it somewhere in our consciousness every time we open a door with a “no guns allowed in here” sticker on it, walk our babies through that door, and then leave them there?
I believe in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, even with the debate that surrounds about its meaning and its intention. I also believe and know that when the Second Amendment was written, the ability to own a firearm that could rapidly fire an entire magazine of bullets did not exist. If someone wanted to come in to some public building in the year 1790 and kill people, they fired one shot and then they had to reload. That means someone else had the time to shoot back, to attack, to run away, or to hide.
Not anymore. There is no time to protect yourself (with or without a gun, really) when someone comes in firing without needing to reload. Even if you had a fully loaded gun on you, if the shooter can get 20 shots off in seconds, who cares? Highly trained police officers still take moments to get to their guns. Highly trained police officers still get hit with these rapid-fire weapons, even though they are specifically trained to grab and shoot when under fire. More guns and the capability for ridiculous amounts of ammo to be fired from these guns have meant more gun deaths in our country. That is plain and simple.
Also, I’d like to acknowledge some history with the Second Amendment for a sec. The Second Amendment is not, as some people believe, a right that has never been restricted. In 1939, the Supreme Court stated that the right to bear arms was offered in relation to the needs of a militia (as opposed to the needs of an individual). That was the law for decades until 2008, when the Court changed its mind on that stance and ruled that the reference to the militia in the Second Amendment was not as it was interpreted before. Well, ok then. That’s all fine, I guess. But, just so we’re all clear, 2008 is when an individual’s right to bear arms (as we know it today) became the law. This idea that individuals should have unrestricted access and control in handling and owning guns is all recent stuff. It has not been this way since forever.
So, now, people can have their guns. I can have a gun. Great. Awesome. Can we also make it where people can keep their babies? Safe and alive, please.
I, along with millions of other Americans, do not feel it is just fine for people to have the ability to fire off 100 shots in minutes with magazine style ammo. I also do not think that every Tom, Dick, and Harry should be entitled to walk around with a loaded gun on his person in plain sight (in open carry states) or hidden on his body (in concealed carry states) with such limited training.
Constitutional rights are not absolute. There are restrictions on many of the rights offered to us by our Constitution: My freedom of speech allows me to write this piece, but it does not allow me to make a bomb threat. And the freedom of the press lets newspapers delve into plenty of issues, but they can’t print child pornography. I’d say those are good, fair limits that the majority of us are happy to have in place.
It seems fair, then, that there might be some limits on the Second Amendment, too. I’d like a shooter who enters a movie theater to have to reload so that innocent, unprepared people have some chance at survival. That means I don’t think any gun owner should have the opportunity to possess and fire 100 bullets in minutes. I know plenty of hunters; none of them need or use ammo like that.
I see the sweetest, most wonderful little kids every day showing empathy, loving their people, acting kind; the world, from my viewpoint, is coming to a whole lot of goodness. The only way it won’t get to good is if we become so apathetic that we believe that we have no say in the matter, that we believe that life means that tiny children die in crowded huddles and that all we can do is cry about it, pray about it, post about it, and then, promptly, forget about it. Until it happens again next month.
I believe our kids deserve the safety that most of us had and felt when we walked into our schools everyday without any stickers on our doors.
I’ve written my congress people. You can, too. People who want more guns out there, who have significant financial interests in having more people buy and carry more guns and more ridiculous amounts of ammo (magazine style) are writing and calling and donating (with a meeting first, to discuss their “needs”) to our elected officials.
If those of us who have no financial interest but enormous amounts of personal interest stay silent, then our elected officials only hear from one small percentage of people. And that small percentage is loud because dollars are loud.
Here is a place where you can find your state’s congress people: http://www.contactingthecongress.org . If you feel like we have certain rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution and that we should have laws, along with those rights, that help keep us all safe in a civilized society, please write to your people. This is one thing that you can do that costs no money. And, when another gun massacre happens and your kids find out about it, you can tell them that people are trying to make it safer. You are trying to make it safer.
I don’t totally get it, but I know, America, we love our guns. Let’s love our sanity and our safety in the names of our babies, too. We can do both. And we must.