For the past seven days, I’ve been at a loss for what to say.

A week ago, I woke up and found out that 49 people were killed in a gay club in Orlando, Florida. And my heart broke. It continues to break.

What does one say in the light of such tragedy?

I remember Columbine. I was in 5th grade and we heard about it while we were in school. I remember not really understanding it fully but looking around my school and thinking “what would that be like here?”

I remember Virginia Tech. I was about to graduate high school and move off to college. I remember having a conversation with my mom about safety. I remember stating “If someone really wants to hurt someone, they’ll find a way. It could happen in a mall, at a restaurant, or a school. You can’t live in fear.” I still believe that, and the past 9+ years have really shown that to be true.

I remember Aurora. I remember posting on Facebook a call for mental health awareness. I remember thinking 12 was too many deaths. I remember thinking our country needed a major change, I just wasn’t sure what it was.

And then, I remember Newtown. I was in grad school, studying to be a counselor. A counselor who specifically wanted to work with children and adolescents. I was checking twitter and I saw it. And I cried on the spot. Who could do this to children? I was outraged. I remember having conversations with my friends who were teachers and thinking “what would I do if that happened at their school?” I remember starting my internships in grad school and going to schools to visit children and thinking “what would I do if a shooter came in here right now?” Again, I remember thinking our country needed action. I remember my heart breaking. Over and over.

From 1999 to 2016, these are the major shootings that have vividly impacted me. They have shaped the way our country functions and thinks. It should not be my first thought when I go to a movie to notice how close my seats are to the emergency exits. I shouldn’t have to visit a child in elementary school and take note of the locks and doors and where the best hiding places are (all things I did when I saw children in schools as a traveling counselor for almost 3 years).

Between Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown, and Orlando, 134 people were killed. By individuals with guns. And these aren’t even all of the mass shootings that have occurred in our country within the past ten years! Why are we allowing this to go on? Orlando is now the deadliest mass shooting in our country.

I also just found out, while typing this, that if you search any of those towns or school keywords in to google, the first thing that comes up is “shooting”. We now live in a world where when you start typing “Orlando” in to google search, the word “shooting” automatically generates. Just let that sink in. That is NEVER going to change.

How is this ok?!

I live in Texas. Texas is GUN country. There are many, many, many people on my facebook feed this week who are defending keeping their guns. Yes, they have that right. But also, really? I’m so over this debate. I’m going to do something I have never really done on this blog before and I’ll probably lose some followers over it but – I’m getting somewhat political and picking a side.

We need to get rid of our guns. 

My husband and I own a gun. And I would gladly turn it in and get rid of it if it meant saving more lives in the future. This senseless violence has got to stop. We as a country are allowing it to happen. These individuals need help, yes, I’m not saying there isn’t another issue to talk about here. But when they are able to legally get a gun that can fire 30 rounds in a blink of an eye? We are responsible for this. This is OUR fault.

There are a lot of issues with this shooting last week – it was at a gay club, which the shooter frequently visited for years. There are rumors that he was physically abusive to his wife and then he pledged allegiance to ISIS. I’m not getting in to those facts because we can’t change it. Uncovering what this guy was about is not going to bring those people back. It’s not going to undo what has already been done.

The fact is this:
Last Sunday, I spent most of the day on the couch refreshing my Twitter feed as new reports came rolling in. I shifted between grief and anger. I cried when I saw the final count. I became angry when politicians who before blocked gay rights bills and supported gun rights laws posted #pray4Orlando. I cried again throughout this week when I saw J.K. Rowling sent flowers to Luis Velma’s funeral. I sobbed when Anderson Cooper struggled while reading all of the victim’s names. I hoped for a world in my lifetime where I would no longer wake up on a sunny Sunday morning and read about yet another mass shooting in my country.

We keep allowing this to happen. I hope that we as a country realize this. It’s our responsibility to protect our citizens.

So the fact is this:
We don’t need guns. You can say to me all you want that you need a gun for protection of your household. Or that you need it for hunting. I am throwing a big wad of BS at that. You don’t need a gun for anything. We live in a world where you can get any type of meat you want at a grocery store any time of year. We don’t live in a world where we have to hunt to survive. Hunting is a recreational hobby. Anybody who hunts will survive without a gun. I realize this is going to make me extremely unpopular in my home state, but I’m at a point where I don’t care. My husband and I have a gun for our protection at home, but honestly? I would feel safer without it. I do not like holding a gun in my hands. I know how to shoot it properly, but it still makes me nervous. Know why? Because it was designed to kill people. That’s it! It was not designed for anything else. It is not a toy. It is not something to play with. It is a weapon that was invented to hurt other people. Bottom line, end of story.

While I would ask that you take a minute to remember the victims, donate blood, and mourn for the loss our country took last week, I would ask something more of you. I’m asking you to take a good hard look at what our country is becoming. Who our politicians are. What are they fighting for? I can’t believe we have let this go on for as long as it has. I’m going to ask that you write your representatives. Ask them for change. Ask yourself what’s really important here: a person’s life or your guns?

I’m going to ask that you move forward with empathy and love. That we teach our children and our friends gratitude instead of entitlement. Model respect and understanding. If any of the shooters in our country’s mass shootings had felt empathy, I wonder if they still would have acted in violence.

I read a lovely book by Zak Ebrahim earlier this year called A Terrorist’s Son. He talks about living his life knowing that his father was responsible for terrorist attacks in our country. He struggles with what he was taught (hate) and what he wanted to become (loving). I will leave you with a passage from his book:

“There’s a reason that murderous hatred has to be taught – and not just taught, but forcibly implanted. It’s not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is a lie. It is a lie told over and over again – often to people who have no resources and who are denied alternative views of the world. […] But I’m convinced that empathy is more powerful than hate and that our lives should be dedicated to making it go viral.”

I hope you make the choice to pick empathy over hate. Love over anger. With that and action, I believe our country can make better decisions. Until then, we have to live with the responsibility of these unfortunate evens. Let’s be better.

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One thought on “Guns & Shootings Vs. Empathy & Love

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