About Us| Issues & Campaigns| Media| Get Involved| New to the Issue?| Donate

April 28, 2008

Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House

You can look on the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence website and find a myriad of reasons to not have a gun in the home. Most of the arguments are grounded in statistics and research, but one of my favorite reasons was cited by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins (2001-2003) in the following poem:

Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

April 21, 2008

The Wrong Question

Last week marked the first anniversary of the gun massacre at Virginia Tech. The remembrance was marked by more than 70 "Lie-Ins” across the nation, including one at the university, which also conducted a candlelight vigil and other commemorative events.

I could not help but be moved by the remarkable way the VA Tech community has responded to this great tragedy. I am also impressed that so many of the Hokies—students and parents—have become involved in the movement to stop gun violence.

As each of these shooting events takes place, the public response has for the most part become predictable. Most Americans are horrified and frustrated in equal parts. Certain politicians decry the violence, yet proclaim that guns have nothing to do with the problem. We all know that is not true. Guns have everything to do with it. There is no other consumer product used so frequently to deliberately kill our fellow citizens.

The pro-gun lobby is predictably using the recent school shootings as an opportunity to ask, “What if the teachers and students had been armed?” That is the wrong question.

The right question is, “What if the perpetrator had NOT been able to obtain those firearms?” How many lives would have been saved? Instead of asking what the U.S. would be like with more guns, shouldn’t we be asking what our country would be like with fewer guns? Guns do not solve problems, they create problems. A handgun is designed for the sole purpose of taking human life.

It is tragic that we have come to this; that we are obliged to be fearful of gun violence in our schools, our places of work and worship, our streets and highways. Our efforts must be dedicated to ending this shameful chapter in the life of the nation.

April 14, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Over the years, I have learned a couple of things about "Conventional Wisdom”: 1) It is conventional—not a lot of thought has gone into it, and; 2) It is seldom wisdom.

The current conventional wisdom on gun violence is that it is an intractable problem that cannot be solved and that no one in or running for public office is willing to deal creatively with the issue.

I am constantly dismayed that people who have witnessed dramatic changes in public policy—the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of apartheid and the creation of a new South Africa, the winding down of the nuclear arms race, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, etc.—people who have seen these miracles in their own lifetime, will look at you dumbfounded when you say, “We can have a society free of gun violence.”

Where is our vision? What is our hope? We must confront and change the common wisdom that will lead us to despair and hopelessness. We can and must envision a nation in which we are not afraid of the gun lobbyists, a nation in which we have sensible gun laws; laws meant to protect us, to protect our communities, to protect our children.

We cannot achieve what we do not first dare to dream.

April 7, 2008

Style and Grace

In my 40-year journey through the gun violence prevention movement, I have had the opportunity to meet—and at times to debate—many fascinating people. One of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever encountered was Charlton Heston, who served as President of the National Rifle Association (NRA) from 1998 to 2003.

I must admit that I was never a fan of Mr. Heston's wooden acting style, nor his stentorian delivery.
Neither could I find much value in the right-wing political philosophy he embraced later in his life. However, I found him to be a kind and humorous gentleman in person. Perhaps I was swayed by his referring to me as a "young man"; something I had not been called in years!

Heston was extremely successful at portraying some of the great characters of history on the silver screen. But perhaps the greatest character he was able to project was that of Chuck Heston, the larger-than-life, rugged American hero. His manner of sharing his final battle with Alzheimer's disease was a great testimony to the man, as was the forceful way in which he led the NRA. I will truly miss his style and grace.