“It was an AR 15,” Ben said as I lifted my suitcase onto my bed and started unpacking. Todd and I had just returned from a four day drive through Florida, passing ten miles from Parkland the day before the shooting. Ben had been watching the house, and the news, apparently.
I had heard it too, of course.
It was a nineteen year-old armed with an AR 15.
Wasn’t that the same kind of gun someone used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, killing 20 children, six staff and himself in 5 minutes?
Wasn’t it the same kind of gun used by someone in a movie theater in Colorado, killing 12 people and injuring 58 in less than 10 minutes?
Wasn’t it the same kind of gun used at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring 851 in less than 10 minutes?
Wasn’t that the same kind of gun used in a church in Texas, killing 26 and injuring 20?
And now? An AR 15 was used in a high school in Florida, killing 17 teenagers and staff in six minutes.
“I can see why people use it,” Ben continued. “Remember, that’s one that I shot that time I went with the guys to the gun range. It’s light. It’s easy to hold. You’d think with its firepower the kickback would knock you across the room. But the recoil? It’s hardly more than a tap. The gun hardly moves, so it’s no big deal to aim when you want to pull the trigger again.”
“You know what they call it don’t you?” Todd asked.
I had no idea.
“The grown man’s Barbie doll.”
At my raised eyebrow, Todd added. “You know, on account of all the accessories you can buy to go with it. Scopes, grips. Even a flare launcher if you want.”
I shook my head and sighed.
“It’s a weapon of war- there’s no other reason to have it,” said Ben. “But I have to say it’s fun to shoot.”
As Ben left the room I remembered little Ben, who’d make a gun out of a grilled cheese sandwich.
When Ben was three, his preschool teacher tapped me on the shoulder at pickup and let me know that my son and his buddy Forrest had spent the morning making guns out of their pointer fingers and chasing each other around the room, not to mention circle time shooting each other. “But don’t worry,” Mrs. Pettett said, “after he couldn’t seem to help himself, we told him that though the classroom wasn’t the place to do that, he was more than welcome to go into the bathroom and point his finger at the mirror whenever he needed to.” It wasn’t nearly as fun that way. Mrs. Pettett was brilliant.
“What’s the big deal about a play pistol?” my father in law once asked.
I think I shrugged my shoulders and told him I just didn’t like it. If I had been braver about disagreeing, I might have said that if he wanted to pretend to hurt people in his play, he could do that, but I wasn’t going to supply the weaponry. His finger would have to do.
My father in law didn’t understand. I imagined many others I loved wouldn’t either. Many of them were hunters. They lived in the country and ate what they shot. Guns were part of normal life and treated with safety and respect. But we lived in the suburbs and ate meat from the grocery store. Todd might have earned the expert marksman badge on his Air Force uniform, but neither us was comfortable having a weapon in a house with children.
“I’ll get other toys,” Todd said. “I can go to the gun range if I want to shoot.” The risk wasn’t worth it.
Now, with the barrage of mass shootings in our country, most everyone admits we’ve got to do something. I understand that some people like to hunt, some people like to target shoot, and some people want to be able to protect themselves. I don’t think we need to take away everybody’s guns- though I have to be honest and say it wouldn’t bother me after having lost three dear friends to suicide by gun and Todd’s Uncle Harold to murder by gun. But we can’t continue as normal, without making any major changes , expecting that the madness will stop.
As we take a hard look at all the factors to consider, we need to ask ourselves a question. Why is the AR 15 on the market? Guns that make it so easy to obliterate masses of people so quickly? So easily?
Aren’t there other weapons for people to hunt with? To protect themselves with? To play with?
Who gets to play? People who love to shoot an AR-15, with the likelihood that other killers will use these Barbies for grown men to mow down someone you love (or someone else loves just as much) at a school, a movie theater, or a church? Kill them so quickly that the victims don’t have a chance?
I vote for the kids.