Recently released statistics from Colorado show a spike in gun sales since the Aurora shootings last week. People who didn't have guns, felt they needed them and those who had enough guns felt they needed more.
Form the gun buyer's perspective it would seem that arming oneself is the surest way to stay safe in a world where a masked, lone gunman can shoot up an unsuspecting crowd in a movie theater. That assessment seems logical, and just. But it is dead wrong.
Several years ago a friend of mine - a police officer - told me that it was imperative that I have an emergency kit in my garage, and that I should stock this kit with first aid, water, rations for three weeks, a knife, a gas valve tool, a bucket and toilet seat, a roll of quarters and cash, flash lights, foul weather gear, and... most importantly... a gun. He told me, as the trained professional that he was, he never wanted to be caught with his pants down should any disaster - natural or man made - befall him. He wanted to be ready for anything. And he was! His disaster kit fit inside a ski carrier and it was truly impressive. Inspired by my friend's example I began to assemble my own disaster survival kit. It became quite fun as I shopped for various items I could include. I planned and worked for weeks on the kit, assembling it with such care and precaution. I left nothing out... except the gun. That I refused to add.
When I was done, after weeks of planning and assembling, a feeling came over me that I didn't expect - one that truly frightened me - but was as real as any other I had ever felt: I began to hope for a disaster so I could put my emergency kit to the test.
As I wrestled with these very real and very frightening thoughts, I began to imagine how the weekend warriors and militia brigades feel when they stockpile weapons and hold training exercises in the woods, preparing to defend themselves against enemies foreign and domestic. I understood the instant paranoia preparing for the unexpected can bring and I suddenly understood how getting wrapped up in "defending yourself" can easily lead to being the aggressor.
History has shown that amongst nations, mutual destruction scenarios have been enough to stem the obliteration of all mankind - e.g. the U.S. and the Soviet Union stockpiling so many nuclear weapons that each side realized setting them off would mean the demise of their own empire - a scenario where neither side could win.
But the stockpiling of guns by ordinary citizens of this country is not the same thing. Proponents of the second amendment will tell you that it is their constitutional right to bear arms. Their #1 reason: To defend against any government who seeks to take away their freedoms. Their #2 reason: To defend against intruders or those who may do them harm. And so the second amendment exists so that those who feel the paranoia of others coming after them can defend themselves at all costs.
But what about the perpetrators. They have rights too, don't they? Mass murderers like the shooters at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Fort Hood, and of course Aurora have the right to bear arms. But their reasons are for inflicting undue harm to innocent life without provocation. Do we forgive these heinous acts in the name of the second amendment, or do we decry them in the name off the first amendment - the right to stay alive?
Its been famously said that guns don't kill people, people kill people. That is certainly true. But what is the alcoholic without the alcohol? What is the boxer without the ring? What is the crazed, lone misfit without the gun?
When the gunman in Aurora pulled the trigger, taking 12 lives - one of them a child, three of them men throwing their bodies over their women to shield them - He did so with weapons he bought easily and ammunition he stockpiled without raising any red flags or arousing suspicion. Because it was his constitutional right to do so, this crazed gunman - protected by the second amendment and lax gun laws, took the lives of people who would never and could never abuse that same privilege or harm others just because they could.
Bein given the right to carry a gun doesn't mean you should. And those who hold onto their guns will fight for their right to keep them, even going so far as to use that gun against anyone who tries to take it away.
And that's the point, isn't it... "I have this gun so you won't take it from me."
I still have my disaster kit, but I no longer secretly wish to try it out - it's there in case I need it, but I don't want to need it, and in fact I never think about it. Guns are not, and should not be thought of as a deterrent. Like thoughts, actions, words, and emotions, guns are what we make of them. But if we never had guns in the first place, we might actually have to solve our issues like the civilized people we claim to be.
We might have to actually talk to one another.
Be your best...