Back at Junies diner. With Bob and Jay.
“You hear about the shooting in Connecticut?” says the waitress.
We tell her we have not. And she tells us the story. Twenty six, at the time, believed dead. Twenty elementary school children.
Who did it?
She doesn’t know. Some guy.
She doesn’t know.
We sit in silence for a few beats.
“He must have used high capacity magazines," says Bob.
“Great,” says Bob, pondering the situation. “Now they’re going to try and take away our high capacity magazines."
A week later, I’m working in a plastics plant. I’m waiting for a crane three stories up to lower the hook so I can send up a 650 pound tank of refrigerant. I’m standing next to one of those enormous, red tool boxes with many drawers and secret compartments. It’s a professional tool box and on the inside of the lid are taped two photographs.
“Those your daughters?” I say to the guy who approaches the tool box.
“Wife and daughter,” he says.
I look closer.
“Oh,” I say. “Sorry.”
“No,” he says.
I look up at the hook, which is now slowly descending. The guy is arranging some tools in his box.
“That’s a hell of a thing,” I say, “that shooting, Huh?”
“Oh, man,” he says, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”
“Hits pretty hard,” I say. “Especially if you have kids.”
“I know,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep all that night.”
I reach up for the hook and remove the rigging strap.
“Well,” I say, wrapping the strap around the tank, “if you believe in God, you know the kids are all right.
You know? They’re all right. But the parents. And the other kids. Teachers. First responders.”
I wasn’t going to say the thing about God. This type of thinking really pisses some people off. “The kids are all right?! You mean it’s all right the way they’ll never graduate high school? Fall in love? Have kids? That’s what’s so all right about them?” I don’t know why I said it, but I did.
The guy shakes his head.
Finished wrapping the tank, I motion for the hook to hoist away. The tank is lifted clear of the floor and begins its ascent.
The guy is wearing a Harley Davidson shirt. He is frowning severely.
“You know,” he says, stepping closer, “I’m a payback guy. I can’t help it. I believe in payback. And. . .if I’m the father of one of those kids, I don’t know what I’d do. Drive to the guy’s grave every night and empty my shotgun into the ground?”
Most of my Facebook friends are quite liberal. I don’t know if I’m liberal or not. Maybe not. Because it disgusts me when, on the day of the shooting, I scroll down and read about someone who goes on a rampage about a fundraising concert the previous evening where all kinds of old-time rock stars were performing. What bothered my Facebook friend was how all the performers were drinking water from plastic bottles. “They’re part of the problem!” he wrote. All in caps.
Another Facebook friend wrote a post about how he was deleting all his asshole “friends” who posted something about how guns don’t kill people; people kill people. And this disturbs me also, this instant dismissal of the “enemy”. Bob’s comment about high capacity magazines bothers me. As does the fact that the shooter was on the autism spectrum, like my son. As does the murder of those little kids. And teachers.
Some proud gun owners (I don’t know why they always us the word “proud” in the sentence, ‘I’m a proud gun owner,’ or ‘I’m a proud member of the NRA.’ Like, you bought a gun. What’s to be so proud about?) Anyway, some proud gun owners are now making public statements that they are willing to talk about “what must be done.”
“I don’t want to see us diminished to target pistols and shotguns,” says one proud NRA member, a congressman, “but. . .” What came after the “but” was a concession of some kind. The “but” is the important part of the statement. The “but” means that the congressman is taking a far more admirable stance than unfriending people who may be on the other side of the gun control fence.
A few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about the approaching civil war. I have shot a rifle one time. At a target. It was pretty cool. I enjoyed it. Although I missed the target. But I understand that a lot of people really like to shoot guns. It’s fun to do. “But,” I said to my friend, “I don’t see why you guys think you need assault rifles and shit.”
My friend looked at me sadly.
“You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Really?” I said. “Why do you say that?”
“What’s an assault rifle?” he said.
“You know,” I said. “A semi-automatic or fully automatic rifle.”
“What’s the difference?” he said.
“I think, semi-automatic shoots one round every time you pull the trigger, and a fully automatic one shoots many rounds if you keep it pulled in.”
“How is that different from a hunting rifle?” he said. “That shoots one round every time you pull the trigger too.”
“An assault rifle isn’t the same,” I said. “You know that.”
“Do I?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “And you don’t hunt with an assault rifle.”
“How do you know that?” He said. “You know,” he went on, “I get so tired of you people who don’t know anything about guns trying to argue with us about guns. You don’t understand anything. They want to take away our guns so they won’t meet any resistance.”
“Who?” I said, mystified.
“Who do you think?” he said. “Our government.”
“You think you’re going to be attacked by our government?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t.”
“That’s because you’re naïve. You think it’s never happened before? You don’t think it’s happening right now, somewhere in the world?”
He went on to tell me about the big civil war that’s coming. And he started guessing whether or not the military would stand with “us”.
Maybe I am naïve. In fact, I’m sure I am. What happens when some country, pissed off at us for sending drones over to kill them, decides to strike back? What happens when the bombs start falling? Shit, an ice storm can shut down a city – no electricity, no heat, no water, no food – and everyone panics and goes all survivalist on everyone’s ass. Imagine what a war would do. An unstable government.
My friend reminds me about the Revolutionary War. “What would we have done if we didn’t have weapons then?” he says.
I suppose we would be a colony of England. Which doesn’t sound so bad. Everyone would have bad teeth and spend a lot of time in their gardens. And listen to the BBC. Which is better than NPR.
Some people want to arm the teachers. All of them. As if a teacher is immune to going on a shooting spree. If a student pisses her off enough. Some people want to ban all handguns. I’m for it. “But then,” the gun people may argue, “where would we be? All the bad guys would then have guns and we good guys would not.” And although I don’t believe anyone on earth is qualified or able to distinguish between the two, there is something to this argument. What if someone shot your kid? What would you do? I’d want to kill the motherfucker who shot my kid. That’s what I’d want to do. And it might be what I would, in fact, do. I can’t really say.
I suppose God wouldn’t like it much. But then, God’s kid wasn’t shot. He was only tortured to death. I guess it’s a good thing for us that God isn’t anything at all like I am. If he were, our entire species would have been extinct for the past two thousand years or so.