Yesterday, in a neighborhood very near mine, a 53 year-old mother shot her 10 year-old daughter and her 79 year-old father twice each with a 12 gauge shotgun, and then turned it on herself. The woman’s husband (and little girl’s father) found the three in the house after returning from an errand his wife had sent him on. All three died, but the little girl’s grandfather lived long enough to tell the Sheriff’s deputies what had happened, and investigators found signs of struggle as he and his granddaughter fought for their lives. According to friends and neighbors, the mother was active in the community, helped out at school, and organized neighborhood games, but had been “distraught” in recent weeks.
We hear a lot of blather about having guns for home security, for hunting, and for general protection. But the reality of guns in the home is homicide, suicide and accidental shootings. Owning a gun is a primarily a danger to one’s self and family–not to some nameless, faceless, vanishingly rare home invader–as this and countless other incidents show. When someone is distraught, upset or stupid in a home, having a gun gives that person a tool of unsurpassed lethality. Perhaps this 53 year-old mom could have stabbed her child and father to death with a kitchen knife, or bludgeoned them with a hammer. Even so, she would have needed far more strength and luck to get the job done with anything other than the implement she employed a few minutes before her beautiful daughter had to catch an elementary school bus.
I grew up in gun country, and we had guns in the house. I’ve fired many guns, including a variety of pistols, rifles and shotguns. At close range, by far the most powerful and fearsome weapon I’ve handled is a 12 gauge shotgun. Inside a house, it’s basically a hand-held cannon. Distraught people should not be anywhere near one. You, me and every other human has the capacity to become distraught enough to do something extremely stupid and violent with that kind of weapon.
So, if you have a gun in the house, give your family the best Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gift imaginable: get rid of the damn thing. You’ll still have the precious right to own one even if you don’t exercise it.