Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The media frenzy over the Virginia Tech shootings has subsided. No more Geraldo Rivera frothing at the mouth. No more Fox News and CNN talking heads trying to squeeze every atom of titillation out of each and every particle of new information.

I overexposed myself to cable TV news and talk radio in the wake of the shootings. It left me with approximately the same feeling I get when I binge on candy: Despite my consumption I feel empty and my head hurts.

I also began thinking a strange and alien thought: Maybe I should buy a gun. Maybe I need it to protect my wife and myself from home invasion. Maybe I could carry it in my backpack at work and be the hero if one of my co-workers goes postal. Maybe I could tuck it into an ankle holster at the mall in case another rogue shooter starts picking off shoppers.

The thing is, I don't like guns. I’ve had some bad experiences. A childhood friend of mine was killed in an accidental shooting. At least four childhood or teenage friends committed suicide using guns. I used to play with BB guns as a kid and once accidently shot a friend in the back (we were running and I tripped). Fortunately, it only caused a welt. When I was 14, I was shot in the eye by a kid a half a block away. I nearly lost my sight in that eye. What if the gun he raised, aimed at me, and fired had been a 22 instead of a BB gun?

The thing that disturbs me about guns is that they make it too easy to do something rash or stupid or insane which will have permanent and drastic effects. I know a young man who recently broke up with his girlfriend. He was distraught and intentionally made four cuts on his arm. Not very deep. But what if there had been a handgun nearby? The very thought makes me nauseous. When I was in Junior High school I became distraught because Karen Rhyne dumped me for Todd Dunn. I tried to off myself by taking 36 aspirin. That also made me nauseous. But what if there had been a gun nearby?

There's an old Jewish saying that to take a life is to destroy an entire universe. Thirty-two victims at Virginia Tech. Thirty two universes gone. Who knows what they might have contributed to the world. Parents, siblings, spouses, children and friends of the victims -- all shattered -- some irreparably. Who knows how this will change the trajectories of their lives? All because some twit can go buy a gun for $500.00 and unleash his rage and stupidity upon the innocent.

Any coward or nutcase or inebriated person or novice gun owner or road-enraged trucker or depressed teenager can squeeze the trigger and destroy a universe.

Yet I found myself wondering if I should give in and buy a gun. I find the idea repulsive. Let’s face it, a handgun is a machine designed to kill people. It really has no practical application other than that. Do I want to bring a killing machine into my house? Do I want to cross that bridge? Jesus said, "Love your enemies", and, as songwriter Derek Webb so eloquently put it, "How can I kill the one I'm supposed to love?"

In Texas they have a saying: "An armed society is a polite society." But, I have to wonder, are they only polite because they're scared shitless of each other?

Now that the dust of the media storm has settled, my thoughts have settled also. I’m not ready to give in to the fear. I can’t give place in my home or heart to a thing designed to kill.