Safer In the UK – One American Mother’s Perspective On Gun Control

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Few things were certain for me in my early years, but some things were absolute.

School was my safe place, home was not.

Watching the news yesterday as the reports came in of the murdered children and adults in a Connecticut school, I could not help but flash back to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, where my daughter was a student at the time.

I wonder how the recent mass shootings affect her, but I don’t know because she doesn’t talk about it.

My husband, John and I spend a fair amount of time talking about gun laws in the US and the UK. Having lived in the UK since 2008, our conversations are different from when I first moved to Cornwall. While it’s based more on how I feel here than the statistics John has quoted, it’s difficult to argue with the facts.

John frequently cites the numbers of gun deaths in the US. It used to annoy me, but having lived in a place now where I feel safer because guns are so restricted, I wish I could have the same relaxed attitude when I’m in the US.

I kept a .22 revolver for years in my home in the US. It was an old family pistol that my dad gave me and it made me feel safer. Unlike some of my handgun owning friends, I had weapons training in the military firing M16 semi-automatic rifles, and a M60 machine gun. Additionally, I’d had some experience with handguns as well.

I always recognized how deadly guns could be, but felt the risk necessary to ensure my daughter and I were safe if someone tried to break into our home and cause us harm. My gun was meant for protection at home which is the argument most Americans make when people talk about new laws intent on restricting their ability to own handguns.

Statistics still show that most gun deaths occur in the home with family members killing those they once wished to protect, a reality that makes the protection at home reason more difficult to justify. While the right to bear arms may be protected by the constitution, it has long been one with frequently deadly effects.

Here’s something for gun enthusiasts in the US to consider. The most recent figures I’ve been able to find show 87 people die each day in the US from gun related injuries while in the UK, only 58 die each year. It’s difficult to argue with those kind of numbers.

87 Deaths A Day versus 58 Per YearI feel safer living in the UK. I never ever worry about being held up at gunpoint or shot while shopping at the mall. Church is still a place of sanctuary and while I might get a rude gesture by someone with road rage, I know I won’t get shot. I could go on listing … public transport, movie theaters, and University campuses, but I think you know where I’m going with this.

Britain didn’t wait for as many reasons to push for change … after the Dunblane massacre of sixteen elementary school children, they did what was needed to keep it from happening again.

The Brits I meet are always talking about the US and our need to have so many guns. They tend to make ‘Wild West’ jokes about it, but they’re not really trying to be funny. I think they’re shocked by how much Americans will sacrifice to carry guns, a question I’m beginning to consider now myself.

I’ve chosen to focus on change in this post because I can’t bear to think about any more sadness and loss. This year alone has had more mass shootings than I want to consider and the grief of the families who’ve lost those who were precious to them, breaks my heart.

4/16/07 – A VT Mom Remembers

Virginia Tech 4.17.07

We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

~ Nikki Giovanni

I woke this morning to see this quote on my daughter Miranda’s Facebook page along with a few words of her own noting the significance of this day for her and for many associated with Virginia Tech and its community. She has shared with me some of the private ways she remembers the 32 who died that day and I’m grateful that she has found a way to honor their memory in a way that hopefully gives her some sense of peace.

I say hopefully, and peace, with more optimism than I really feel because I’m not sure how one who has been in the middle of something so violent and unexplainable can ever really let go of some of the questions that have no answers.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this day and likely won’t be the last. I know the events of 4.16.07 have had a lasting impact on my daughter and I worry as a mother does about the silent sorrows that remain hers alone, the thoughts she chooses not share.

My father died 20 years ago, long before Miranda could know him well enough to have any memory of him and for the last few weeks I have been hearing something he wrote. It’s been in my head on an endless repeat cycle almost in the way you hear a tune that won’t go away and I’ve been puzzled as to why until just this minute as I was considering my daughter and how inadequate I’ve felt over the last four years watching her deal with her memories on her own.

People we love reach out to us in their own time or sometimes not at all and if it’s your child, watching from the sidelines can be a difficult position to occupy. I tend to be emotional and very open with my feelings, giving in easily to my tears now after years of holding back. Miranda is more stoic and more like my dad, tender-hearted for sure but private and contained. It’s interesting that I’d not noticed that similarity until today and it comforts me to feel as if my dad were reaching out in a way with some paternal advice reminding me of who I once was and how our positions are now reversed.

The words that have been with me the last few weeks seem perfect in this moment and the meaning clear as I struggle with my own memories and search for ways to support a daughter who seems fine on her own. I am quoting my father when I say to my daughter as he once quietly said to me, ” I am here as you need me. “

And I add to his words my own, saying, ” In this, and in all things, I am here as you need me “