One Nation, Under Guns*

A couple of weeks after a gunman murdered 10 people in a grocery store near me, I threw on flip flops to pick a few things up at the grocery store. When I got there, all I could think was – why did I wear flip flops? I can’t run in these.

We are One Nation, Under Guns.

In restaurants, I always take the seat where I can have my back to the wall. I never sit with my back to the door.

Because we are One Nation, Under Guns.

In public places, I scan everyone. To see if they are carrying a gun. Especially at movie theaters. I once left a movie because a 20-something male entered, alone, with a large backpack.

I almost never honk my horn anymore. Not even when someone’s about to hit me. Not even if the person in front of me at the stoplight is so absorbed in their cell phone that they miss the green light. Because in our One Nation, Under Guns, 44 people are shot and killed or wounded every month in a road rage incident.

When I kiss my kids goodbye and send them off to school, I worry. My son is 10 and in 4th grade. Just like the kids at Uvalde, whose beds are now empty. Whose parents awake at night screaming, helpless, devastated. The nightmare they will never wake up from.

My friends are buying backpacks with bulletproof lining for their children.

We are One Nation, Under Guns.

In this country, before I send my kids to anyone’s home to hang out with their kids, I ask the parent if they have guns. If they do, I ask them if they are stored unloaded and locked separately from the ammunition. So many parents store guns in a shoebox under the bed. Or “hiding” in the closet. They claim their kids don’t know where they are. But the kids almost always do. They pull them out to show them to their friends. Because they look cool. And then, a child dies.

The truth is, One Nation, Under Guns.*

Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in this country. We teach our kids to hide under their desks, to be perfectly still, perfectly quiet. We do drills to practice hiding from an intruder. Because this is the price of freedom.

One Nation, Under Guns.

I don’t enjoy concerts any more, or large gatherings. I don’t feel safe. I used to love parties and clubs and concerts and losing myself in loud music on the dance floor. But then, Pulse. Las Vegas. And the random fights that break out every day in public places where someone brought a gun, because they made the decision that in the event of any conflict, they are willing to escalate that conflict to the ultimate end point: death. They made that decision for the rest of us, and the rest of us, if we are lucky, will live with it.

We are One Nation, Under Guns.

I go to protests and marches. I see angry men, openly carrying weapons that don’t belong on a city street in the hands of a civilian. I meet their eyes, trying to understand what could create a man who thinks this behavior is acceptable. They stare at me in hatred. Trying to scare me, put me in my place. Telling me in no uncertain terms that no death toll is too high, they love their guns more.

This isn’t freedom.

I’ve been ridiculed for my fear. By people who love their guns, who believe they are “protecting” their home and family. Yet – why is violence the only method of protection they are willing to provide? And while they’ve been conditioned to believe that a gun is required to fulfill their manly duty, the truth is that gun makes it 2X more likely that someone in their home will be murdered with the gun, and 3X more likely that someone in their home will use it to complete suicide.

One Nation. Under Guns.

Why shouldn’t I be scared? We have more mass shootings here than days each year. We are 26X more likely to be murdered by gun than we would be if we lived in any of our peer countries.

I bet those countries don’t consider us a “peer.” My French family and friends look at us with both confusion and horror. We are rich with money and resources. But we are not civilized.

110 people die by gun every day. Four years ago, when I began my volunteer work as a gun violence prevention advocate, our informational handouts said “96 deaths by gun each day.” I keep having to edit that number.

We are One Nation, Under Guns.

I watch as the rest of the world tightens gun laws in response to horrific mass shootings, domestic violence, and murders. I watch as these laws work. I watch in shame as they point to us as a cautionary tale.

I watch as our right-wing politicians block any and every meaningful legislation. Even the most basic – background checks. They point to everything but the guns and the loose gun laws: mental health, declining religion, Covid restrictions, non-traditional family structures, video games. Every country has these things, and at the same rates as we do. But only in America do we live like this and die like this. These same politicians point to “evil.” They claim it is not a “gun” problem, but a “sin” problem. I ask those politicians, who claim to love America and to be the only party of patriotism: Do you believe Americans are inherently more evil than people in any other country? Do you believe that we are more “sinful?”

I don’t. And I bet these “true patriots” will never claim that, either. So then, the obvious conclusion is to look at the only changing variable: The fucking guns.

Or perhaps we are more evil. How depraved is our society when we allow a man to murder an unarmed black teenager and walk away, and then auction the gun he used in the murder for $250,000?

They say: the answer is, we need more guns. More police officers with guns in our communities. More security officers with guns in our schools, churches, grocery stores. More “patriots” with guns patrolling our communities. It’s a dangerous world, so go out and buy a gun to protect your family. No one else is going to do it.

So more guns are sold. Gun laws are loosened. The gun crime rate skyrockets. The body count rises. And the people with pockets full of money from the gun industry say: We Need More Guns! “They” all have guns, and the only way you can protect yourself is by having a gun! Even more depraved: If you don’t have a gun, if you aren’t willing to buy into this arms race, if you don’t want to contribute to the danger and sickness that is our gun culture, clearly you have chosen to be a victim in waiting.

But we have no choice – we are at the mercy of whoever has decided to bring their guns into our shared spaces.

One Nation, Under Guns.

I ask this: When will we finally see this supposed guns-everywhere utopia? Where all these guns make us safe? We have 400,000,000 guns in this country. More guns than people. Will it be 500 million? A billion? When do we reach that magic number of guns where we stop dying at these rates?

Or maybe, we can look at the many, many examples around us – abroad and in states like Massachusetts. Gun. Laws. Work.

Areas where there are more guns and looser restrictions have more deaths by gun.

Areas with fewer guns, and those with tighter safety laws, have fewer deaths by gun.

This is not hard to understand.

I’m exhausted by the people who are determined to keep us as One Nation, Under Guns.

*credit to poet Amanda Gorman, who wrote, “The truth is, one nation, under guns”

National Gun Violence Awareness Day – a uniquely US tradition

A brief interlude from my trip down memory lane….

Yes, you read the title correctly. This is a yearly awareness day we have in this country. Gun violence and the United States are synonymous. American exceptionalism. Only I don’t think this is what we envisioned with that phrase.

It was inevitable. Me, being an activist. I’m following in the great American (and French) tradition of standing up and speaking out.

I recently became a co-lead for my local Moms Demand Action group. We advocate for common sense gun laws and work to increase awareness of the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. For my readers who don’t know about us: no, we aren’t trying to steal your guns. Yes, many Moms are responsible gun owners. And no, it’s not “extreme” or “unpopular” to recognize that universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods would make a difference.

We had to work hard to convince our city to allow a display recognizing victims and survivors of gun violence for this weekend, also known as Wear Orange. In the end, our city council and mayor voted to allow us to display 100 pinwheels to represent the 100 people who die daily in the U.S. of gun violence.

Yes. One hundred. Every day. A rate 25 times that of our peer countries. A number that is growing.

With some help from my family, I set up our group’s display today. Here’s what I wrote about the experience.


One Hundred Pinwheels

For National Gun Violence Awareness Weekend, our group decided on a display: one hundred pinwheels plus a sign to explain them, placed outside the Lafayette, CO library.

The sign went in easily: its sharp metal spikes digging into the lawn, as strong as the facts it displayed: 100 American lives are lost every day due to gun violence. Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens. Access to a gun increases the likelihood of death by suicide threefold.

Would people read the sign? Would it reach them? Penetrate the numbness so many of us have developed to the horrors of gun violence in this country?

I went to place the first pinwheel in the ground and it broke apart. So fragile. I stared at the fragmented remains: our display wasn’t going to work. We had one hundred pinwheels and we couldn’t secure them in place.

My dad retrieved the lug nut wrench from my car and used it to drive a hole into the ground, then we followed the shaft of the wrench to place the pinwheel into the newly-made hole. Each pinwheel placement was an effort, shoving a tool not meant for this job into the ground. I glanced at the bin stuffed full of pinwheels. This was going to take forever. I didn’t have time for this; I had a full day of things to do and I needed this to go smoothly.

Body weight on the wrench. Grab a pinwheel, put it in the soil. Repeat.

My kids, eight and seven years old, eyed the box.

“There are so many more,” my daughter said.

“I know. This is taking way longer than I thought it would,” I answered.

And then I realized. I realized what I’d been trying not to think about as I set up this display with my children and my father. Each one of those pinwheels represents a person. A human being. A hole dug into the earth. A life lost, placed into that hole. These pinwheels deserved more than a jab into the ground with a blunt tool and a quick, mindless placement by a mom wanting to get on with her day.

I grew more deliberate as I placed each pinwheel. Each time, thinking: this pinwheel represents a life that will be lost today. And a life that will be lost tomorrow. And then again the next day. Every pinwheel, a life lost, on repeat.

As we finished, rays of sunlight began to shine over the library and onto the display, bathing it in an ethereal early morning light. My kids ran off to play on the grass nearby, unaware of what the display they’d just helped set up really meant. I was happy for their innocence. One hundred lives, lost yesterday. And today. And tomorrow.

We must change. We must do better.

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