“What happens when the gun shoots through you, Mom? Does your heart come out?”
These are not the sorts of questions I expected my 5-year-old son to be asking me on this, the seventh night of Chanukah. What happened to “can I have another piece of chocolate?”
As impossible as it sounds, a young man walked into a school this morning, shoved past a brave principal and school counselor, and did his best to shoot as many young children as possible. Little boys and girls whose parents had kissed them goodbye after packing their lunch, bundling them up in coats, hats, and mittens, and sending them off to practice their reading and handwriting and maybe do a little art. Off at work, these parents sat, as my husband and I do every day, thinking of them but mainly unconcerned, knowing that hugs would reconnect the dots at day’s end.
I spent this afternoon fighting off tears in a faculty meeting, trying not to play out the scenarios that confronted my son’s peers in Newtown, Connecticut. Trying not to think about the look on that teacher’s face as she was shot while teaching, trying not the hear the screams and wide open mouths of children just hoping it was a game and yelling for mom and wondering where dad was and then falling, falling to the ground—gone forever while sisters and brothers ran in distant halls unable to help….I kept drifting in and out of the meeting, trying to stay engaged while feeling so enraged, such fury, such complete helplessness, shouting it out with a Tweet once in awhile (“end the NRA” cried my fingers valiantly)… no point.
I didn’t want Conor to wonder about my sadness tonight, mistaking it for something else. And I never, ever want to hear him again asking for a toy gun. So I decided to tell him, when his baby sister was out of earshot, what today meant for those kids. He listened, and said “wow” and seemed to really struggle. “Can I see him, the shooter?” he asked. “Can I watch the video of him doing the shooting?” No, I said, “there’s no video.”
“But what happens, Mom, do they just fall down? And they never come back?”
Yes. They never come back. We just move on. We can’t quite bring ourselves to do more. We are too chicken, it seems, to fight with our fellow Americans who mechanically argues for the right to purchase guns without background checks or waiting periods, the right to own high capacity magazines, and the right to own automatic assault weapons. Even though they make no sense. Even though our silence can kill our kids. Even though we know exactly what’s right. We just fall down.
I can’t take this anymore. My son knew exactly what to do, and he did it. He said, “We will draw a picture of a gun and then cross it out, Mom. We will write ‘No guns allowed. No bad guys.’ I will tell those guys at school, it’s not cool. Let’s do that. Let’s write it down.”
And he did. He signed it: “Conor, Annie, Mom, Dad.” That’s our family. We’re lucky enough to still all be here tonight, alive.
God bless America. It’s long past time to fix the 2nd Amendment. Let’s get it written down.