If I Carried a Gun


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I keep thinking about the idea of teachers carrying guns.

When the Newtown massacre happened, I was teaching fifth grade. Immediately after the horror of that day, the NRA and dozens of political leaders tossed out the idea of “arming teachers.”

Even now, five years after this stupidity was mentioned as an answer to school shootings, the idea continues to be thrown about.

There are so very many practical reasons why this is a completely idiotic idea, including impossibility of safely keeping a loaded gun in a room full of kids.

But one issue hasn’t been raised yet, and it is the biggest problem as far as I’m concerned.

It is the moral question of killing, even in defense of others.

What would happen to the spirit, the soul, the conscience of a teacher who successfully shot and killed another human being? How have so many come to believe that all there is to killing is pulling the trigger?

I was a pretty typical American public school teacher. I’m a mother, a wife, a grandmother. I loved my job because I loved being with children. I loved laughing with them, exciting their interests, forming relationships with each of them.

I have spent a lot of time imagining myself in an active shooter situation.

I try to imagine myself with a gun in my hand, knowing that my 24 students are cowering against the wall. Knowing that outside our door there is someone trying to kill us.

I imagine the door bursting open as I raise the gun, pulling the trigger, hitting the target.

I imagine the face of the young man in front of me exploding in a shower of blood and bone. I can hear the screams of the kids behind me as he collapses. I imagine watching him die in front of me.

What then?

What if he turned out to be a student I knew? Maybe one of the many struggling kids I had taught myself some years before? What if he was a former student at our school?

What if I knew his family?

Would I be expected to walk back into my classroom a day or a week later, ignoring the newly laid flooring where his brains and blood had damaged the carpet? Would I be expected to focus on my math lessons and recess and homework corrections?

What would I feel as I looked into the eyes of my young students? Students who had come to trust me? What would I be expected to say to them?

I would never be able to look at myself the same way. I’d never feel clean or whole again.

Oh, I know, the press would call me a hero, the survivors would cheer me, there would be articles in the paper and on and on.

But I would have been changed from a teacher to a killer. The very essence of my self would be smashed and reshaped into something unrecognizable to me or those who love me.

There may be times when it is reasonable to kill another human being outside of wartime. I don’t know.

But I do know that is deeply wrong for people to casually toss out the idea of “arming” civilians so that we can protect ourselves from each other.

It is morally wrong to lightly suggest that those who have not chosen to be members of the police or military could simply shoot to kill and then go back to teaching phonics.

I think we need to step back, away from the growing pile of weapons in front of us, and take a deep breath. We need to ask ourselves if we really believe that killing is anything other than a life changing, painful, horrific event for the killer.

Life is not a video game. None of us is Rambo. Causing the violent, ugly, bloody death of another human is not a joke. It’s not a part of life in civilized societies.

Where are our morals? What happened to our souls?

 

 

What now?


It’s so hard to write at this moment in time.

What do I reflect upon? Do I continue to scream my rage about the slaughter of our children in their classrooms? I feel that I have to. Until we come to a place where common sense has ruled, I feel obligated to keep on screaming.

But my throat is sore. My heart is sore. My mind is sore.

I have signed every petition, sent money to every gun control group I can find. I am a part of Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Never Again, March for Our Lives. I will march in Boston on Mar. 24th.

I WILL keep on screaming.

But. In the meantime.

Children are our purest measure of ourselves. Our own children, our grandchildren. These are our own personal futures. We all want to feel eternal. Our beautiful children give us that belief.

My little grandchildren give me the strength to keep on screaming. Even while I am braiding Ellie’s beautiful brown hair, I am screaming inside, “Take away the guns that might kill her.”  Even as I rock my sweet little Johnny in my arms, I find myself screaming, “Keep him safe! Let him be safe.”

When we have children, we believe that our love will protect them. When we create our loving, supportive families, we think that it’s enough to keep our children secure and to let them grow into adulthood.

We can’t believe that one depressed, angry, lonely young man could tear apart all that love. All that joy. All that sweet, uplifting hope.

But we are, of course, wrong.

I keep trying to write. I keep trying to post funny stories about my grandchildren. How funny it is to see my sweet little Ellie, at all of 2 1/2 years, asking me, “So how is your Momma feeling? Is she getting better and better?”

I want to make you laugh as I write about the challenges of toilet training with a sassy little toddler. I want to tell you funny little stories about baby Johnny learning to crawl.

But I can’t.

Every time I try, I am overwhelmed by images of Daniel Barden of Newtown Connecticut. I try to see Johnny, and I see Daniel.

When I try to write about my beautiful, brilliant, funny little Ellie, I keep seeing beautiful, brilliant, funny Jaime Guttenberg who died in Parkland, Florida.

I’m sure that I’ll be back soon. I’ll write funny little tales about the kids and about aging not-so-gracefully.

But for now.

I can’t stop screaming.

I’ll be part of the “March For Our Lives” on March 24.  I hope you will be out there, too.

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