The trouble with guns

Let's leave them at home more often

  • Diane Sylvain

 

I don't like guns. Before you erupt in outrage, let me clarify: I respect the Second Amendment of the Constitution. I'm a liberal Democrat, but I don't want to take away anybody's guns.

I just wish Americans would leave their guns at home a little more often.

I feel this way because of my own experiences. I'm not your standard big-city liberal elitist: I'm more of a small-town liberal elitist -- a military brat from a lower-income Southern background, a practicing Catholic who has spent her entire adult life in small remote Rocky Mountain towns. When I say I have friends who hunt and own guns, it's the simple truth.

I like my gun-owning friends, but I don't like their guns. That's because of the damage I've seen guns do. Although I've never worked as an EMT, I've twice had to treat gunshot wounds. When I was 18 in northern Florida, a kid from down the street accidentally shot himself in the stomach. My boyfriend and I called the ambulance and did our best to help the terrified boy.

Years later, in Colorado, a friend of mine was shot on his way into the restaurant in which I worked. The shooting had nothing to do with him; he simply strolled around the back of a car into somebody else's drunken argument. A guy pulled out a gun and fired it, just to make a point. He ended up firing his warning shot into my friend's lower leg.

The ambulance was a long time coming -- it was already out on a call -- and so I spent a half hour or so kneeling in the street, treating my friend for shock, trying to stanch the bleeding with restaurant towels and tablecloths, and lying to him about how bad the damage was.

Other gunshots have echoed through my life. My best friend in eighth grade, whose father died in Vietnam, lost her mother when she was shot by a guy who then turned the gun on himself -- in front of my friend's 3-year-old sister. One of my younger brother's high school classmates shot himself, and I have known other suicides. People kill themselves all the time, using all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons. But guns make it all too easy.

I realize that there are all kinds of ways for humans to hurt other humans. We're an ingenious little species, and relentlessly bloody-minded; we are good at improvising ways to do each other in. That's why guns were invented, after all: They're really good at killing things.

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people," the saying goes. Cars don't kill people, either; people driving them do. It's just that if you are hit by, say, a truck while crossing the street, you will be considerably more damaged than if you were rammed by a pedestrian in a hurry. That's why we have traffic rules and regulations. Our freedom to peacefully assemble doesn't mean that we can assemble anywhere by driving there on the wrong side of the road at very high speeds while drunk.

Now, since the Tucson shooting, probably even more people will carry guns and be primed to use them. We've all watched movies and see ourselves as the quick-thinking hero who pulls out a gun at just the right instant and prevents a total bloodbath. Maybe that sort of thing happens all the time in real life, but I doubt it. In the heat of a crisis, it's not always easy to know who to shoot anyway. In the movies, the crisis unrolls in graceful slow motion, and you're warned by ominous music that Something Bad Is Going To Happen. You can also tell who the bad guy is because he looks like a bad guy and dresses like a bad guy and is played by one of those actors who plays bad guys. But real life doesn't come with a script. Even trained officers sometimes shoot the wrong people -- mistaking a cell phone for a handgun or hitting a bystander.

No doubt there are plenty of citizen heroes who have saved the lives of innocents by their marksmanship. But I only know the kind of ordinary people who end up hurt when accidents happen or guns are deliberately used against fragile human flesh. If you want to be a guest in my house, you'll have to leave your gun at home. I think that even Wyatt Earp would back me on this.

Diane Sylvain is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She works for the magazine in Paonia, Colorado.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations to value, conserve, enhance, manage, and protect...
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • NORTH TUCSON FOOTHILLS
    11.63 acres of lush desert foothills on Tucson's near north side, secluded, secure, no HOA. 10 minute walk to Waldorf and Montessori schools, regional bike...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.