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Sad Day

Photo by Luigi Boccardo on Unsplash
Photo by Luigi Boccardo on Unsplash

Jenna sent me a message on Snapchat.

I didn’t respond so she followed it up with a text, “Hello where are you?” “At Starbucks. What’s up?” “There’s an active shooter in Squirrel Hill.”

Jenna is one of my best friends from college and she knows that I’m often in that area, so once news hit about what was happening at The Tree of Life Synagogue she sent me the message. Once I found out what was happening, I sent my friend and her son a message to ensure they were ok. They were. So was I. But 11 lives were lost in the wake of a person fueled by hatred. And many lives were effected.

I don’t often write about current events but I also don’t stay within a single lane of a particular genre when I’m writing either. This event is too devastating to not acknowledge by the medium in which I share my heart.

I personally did not know any of the victims of the shooting but as I was getting ready to leave the cafe where I do all of my work for the night, I felt that I needed to attend the vigil that was being put on by high school students in the area of the sad event. I didn’t really know what I’d do once I got there, but I knew I had to be there.

I’m cold just looking at you!” Confused, I finally realized that I was wearing shorts and my standard socks and flip-flops. (Must be a Pittsburgh thing… Or just a weird Mark Craven thing). Me and the woman and her daughter exchanged a few words simply saying, “What can be said…”

News anchors and cameramen from CBS to NBC were on the scene asking questions and pointing bright lights in the tear-stained faces of heartbroken people forever changed by this sad act of incredible violence. Melted wax from burning candles and wilted flowers lay on the ground beneath slowly moving hurried feet all trying to grasp some form of sense from this senseless.

And again, after our country experiences something so devastating, the debate of gun control arises.

This is going to be a bit of a slippery slope for me because I don’t write to incite heated political debates. And when you feel the heaviness of such massive sadness as I felt standing on the street that night, the last thing you’re thinking about is debate of any kind. You’re only thinking of love. How can I love better?

This is going to be my attempt to talk about something very volatile without causing an explosion.

Right away, I’m going to lose some people and immediately gain some people. That’s how topics of debate work, but I’m hoping that you will give yourself an opportunity to listen and me the opportunity to learn from you. If you’re determined to write something hateful, I’ll just delete the comment.

Many, not all, people suggest the banning of all guns in the US. I don’t think that’s the answer. Things like heroin are illegal yet the opioid epidemic persists. By the way, this is coming from a guy that has never shot anything more powerful than a pellet gun. So, this is not the writing of someone entrenched in the beliefs held by the NRA or it’s followers.

Through various articles that I’ve read, the NRA and those supporters of the organization will often, not always, point to Switzerland when defending their Second Amendment rights. I also want to point out some things about the Swiss and their stance on gun ownership.

There are three million privately owned guns in a population of about 8.3 million. The last mass shooting was in 2001 leaving 14 victims dead including the shooter. There is something called, Knabenschiessen which dates back to the 1600’s and is a shooting contest held for kids 13-17 years old. All men within the age range of 18 to 34 that are fit to serve in the military are given pistols or rifles and trained. Most gun deaths in the country are suicides. Also, Switzerland ranked fourth in the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report. (So, they have their guns and they’re happy!) [1] [2]

Here’s some other things about the Swiss.

Twenty-five percent of Swiss gun owners said that they kept their guns for military or police duty. Less than 5% in the United States keep their guns for the same reason. Gun licenses are often only given out after psychiatric evaluation and not given to individuals with a criminal history or drug and alcohol addiction. Guns are given to men serving in the military but are not given ammo. This is because the Swiss government sees gun ownership as a matter of National Security and not self-defense. Only hunters and sportsmen are allowed to buy ammunition if they have a clear background of crime and the other things already mentioned. Hunters and sportsmen are greatly outnumbered by those that own guns for military and police duty purposes in Switzerland. Those numbers are flipped in the US. Here is a graph illustration showing these massive disparities [1] [2]

The US ranked pretty low on the 2018 UN World Happiness Report. We actually dropped four spots and landed at number 18. Contributing factors were epidemics such as obesity, untreated depression, and corruption. [3] So, we have our guns too yet we’re not happy?! Can it be because the Swiss have their guns for the right reasons and we do not? (If I’m losing you, go back and look at that chart in the paragraph above. Also keep in mind that the mindset of owning firearms is to ensure national security rather than self-defense to the Swiss).

Who’s to blame?

Maybe no one. Maybe we each have to separately learn how to love people collectively. Practice acceptance. Practice tolerance. Practice extending our very short fuses. We truly cannot answer hate with hate. It just doesn’t work.

I’m not attempting to write this to cause more divisiveness than is already present. There are ways for us to work together on such sensitive topics as gun violence and racism.

Guns have come into existence the same way as e = mc2 lead to the atom bomb. Maybe it’s something we wish we could un-invent. That’s not an option though. Being at each other’s throats if we want peace is also not an option. It’s actually something we have to work together to achieve. We have to come together to better understand and better handle these extremely powerful weapons we’ve created.

I don’t believe an average civilian requires an armory of AK’s in their home. Also, when comparing America and Switzerland, to reiterate the research mentioned, the purpose of a Swiss citizen owning a gun is not connected as much to thoughts of self-defense as it is an understanding of national security. There’s a bigger problem present if I feel that I need a weapon that’s one step down from a military-issued M-16 to feel safe.

Practice acceptance. Practice tolerance. Practice extending our very short fuses.

Man is marvelous. We can continue to do that which holds us to such a standard.

I pray healing and restoration over the families and friends of these 11 victims:

Joyce Fienberg

Richard Gottfried

Rose Mallinger

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger


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