Friday, February 22, 2013

Guns, Women, and My Friend—God Rest Her

My friend Deanna was murdered this weekend.

There. I said it. After days of struggle to come to grips with what happened, I’ve put it down in black and white. I have to live with it. And now that you’ve read it, so do you.

Reporters are playing coy with some details, probably because the police are doing the same, but we know this:

When Deanna failed to report for work at Allen Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday, the school sent someone to her home to investigate. They found Deanna lying face down on her bed. They also found her boyfriend—name withheld—elsewhere in the house, dead. They currently believe the boyfriend shot Deanna, then shot himself in the head. They believe this happened on Saturday, though nobody found the bodies until Tuesday.

With all the violence in the news lately, we have grown bored. The casualties in Aurora, Clackamas, and Sandy Hook meld into a faceless mass. We can’t calculate numbers, much less remember names or personalities. Murder, in some cities, has become downright ordinary; it takes body counts in the double digits to blast us out of our saggy, narcotized complacency.

But Deanna was not a statistic. This is a woman I ate dinner with, told jokes with. This woman bought me coffee. This woman came to my house and fawned over my cat. Deanna is a real person, a real part of my life—a part that is now over.

We have a real sickness in American society, one that manifests in serious, concrete ways, but which we will not address seriously because we believe doing so will violate... what? What will it violate to take serious steps to curb gun violence? Certainly, in writing the Second Amendment, the Founders did not mean we could do nothing to save my friend. They did not mean for us to stand powerless in the face of violence destroying our communities.

Advocates claim we need guns for protection. But Deanna was killed by the man who should have protected her, using the gun he should have protected her with. Advocates claim women are safer with a gun in the house. But the CDC, FBI, and Harvard’s School of Public Health agree that a positive correlation exists between firearms availability, and women’s likelihood of violent death.

Somebody reading this will say that, if her boyfriend had not had that gun, he would have used another tool to kill her. He might have stabbed her, struck her with a hammer, or beat her with his fists. I say: maybe. He certainly would have needed more effort to kill her, and would have had to do so in very close quarters. His success would have come at much greater cost. Without that gun, Deanna would have been much more likely to survive this encounter.

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA famously claimed, following Sandy Hook, that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” But as a Christian, I reject such manichean divisions. We all have good and bad within us. And I know Deanna; she would not have let that man into her house if she thought him anything less than a “good guy.”

For all the good that did her.

In the wake of recent mass shootings, many reform advocates have felt the need to qualify their statements with demonstrations of their own macho strength. Progressive pundit Ed Schultz can’t endorse regulatory reform without saying “I’m a sportsman.” Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords stressed their own gun ownership. Joe Biden suggested shooting shotgun shells into the air. It’s as though we can’t demand change without first flashing our machismo credentials.

So let me say it: I’ve never owned a gun. I’ve never knowingly permitted a firearm into my house. I do not hunt, shoot skeet, or target shoot. I’ve gone range shooting with a rented gun, once. But like nearly two-thirds of Americans, I am not a gun owner or sport shooter. I consider myself a regular guy, but will not prove it through Freudian strutting.

As a non-gun guy, I say we must change. The current debate is too narrow, driven by crinkum-crankum opinions that have not changed in decades. The demand for perfect solutions or none at all has stalled. We need to move forward, now.

Because you don’t want to join me in mourning a friend, dead by the gun that should have protected her.

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