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A Sunshine State Of Mind

In the aftermath of the deadliest attack in American history and on our LGBT community, Senator Chris Murphy's recent filibuster on gun violence has offered some of us renewed hope that important measures might be taken on Capitol Hill to reduce the gun violence epidemic in our country. Until then, here is one person's perspective on what it feels like to be living in a country where close to 300 gun-related incidents take place per day.

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A pro-gun reform perspective usually ignites the sort of debate where the opposition gets mean and disparaging in response. Please note: There isn't an internet troll in any basement on this earth, who can take the fear and sadness out of my heart for what has gone on in our country over the last two decades.

I was 18-years-old in the spring of 1999 when the Columbine massacre occurred. It was absolutely shocking and terrible, and was certainly out of the ordinary in terms of news coverage at the time. I remember sitting in my high school library weeks later, and seeing scary images in my head of trench coats and guns bursting through the double doors while I sat there studying with my peers.

What I didn't imagine back then, was that seventeen years later, news of mass shootings will have become commonplace reporting. That late night hosts would be creating and recreating somber monologues regarding the subject on a regular basis. That each time our President addresses the carnage, he is immediately criticized for 'politicizing' the issue even after he's already been elected twice. That I now tend to have second thoughts about going to the movies or to a big concert, or to the mall, or that I would even sometimes feel nervous about my career, which has predominately involved working in schools. That a normal news weekend now involves a beautiful young singer being shot to death while signing autographs, followed by forty-nine others being murdererd in a gay nightclub the next night, and many more injured.

And never in a million years could I have guessed that when twenty-plus first graders and their teachers were shot dead just before Christmas, in a town a few miles from where I used to live–that the right people wouldn't care enough to make the necessary changes to prevent such horror from ever happening again. Or that there would be such despicable sentiments shared in the wake of that tragedy, as many would suggest that Sandy Hook never even happened. A stance which is beyond offensive and disgusting, not to mention psychotic.

But perhaps what I am most surprised about–What I wouldn't have predicted in my wildest dreams–is that there actually is a huge population of people who have a primary instinct to stand up and staunchly defend their gun rights as blood still stains the walls of a nightclub, or a church, or an elementary school. That scores of people line up on social media and in regular conversation, to essentially tell me that I am crazy and stupid for thinking that guns are a problem in this country. That a senator discussing gun law reform on the radio would take questions from callers who call him "disingenuous" and accuse him of preying on people's emotions. What could be more emotional than eighty-nine gun deaths per day in our country? And how can a person who wants to change that be accused of insincerity? I am to believe that the issue is only as deep as a 'mental health' one, or that it's terrorism, not a weapons problem. (*Fun fact: In '99 the violence was blamed on Marilyn Manson and video games.) It's usually a pretty aggressive argument, too, which I don't understand because if you're a responsible gun owner who has nothing to lose, what are you so worried about anyway? Oh yeah, the government is supposedly coming for your guns and it's like Nazi Germany, etc. I'm bored with this garbage rhetoric. But if I have the audacity to speak up about my fears and convictions, the same tired argument will be thrown my way time and time again. "Cars kill people, too. Knives kill people, too. Should we ban those?" It's insulting and frankly embarrassing to even have to humor this anymore. And I won't.

I no longer imagine sitting in that library. Now…What I picture is what those on the other side of the aisle would seemingly like me to adhere to, because it's only fair to try and understand the opposing side of this. So now I just imagine myself walking around surrounded by people with guns. Men, women, the toddlers and young people who repeatedly get their hands on them–Everyone. I imagine violent felons at gun shows simply being asked, "Are you a felon?" And answering "No." Before purchasing an instrument that has the capacity to kill dozens in minutes. I picture that murderer in Orlando buying an assault rifle with no background check, even though it took me several weeks and 3 tries to change my driver's license over, after I moved to a new state recently. I imagine that this is all okay now and that it's the way things should be. Because it's what so many passionate citizens are telling me to believe. (People are so passionate about their guns!) I think about living in a society similar to what the Wild West might have been like. I'm simply trying to rise to the occasion now and accept the idea that I might just have to deal with being shot while seeing Andy Samberg's new movie. At least until all the mental illnesses are cured, or until that wall is built. (Fingers crossed that all cases of diabetes and cancer will be cured in my lifetime, too, and that the wall will also keep out all the white, male shooters.)

If this is our new normal and I'm going to be force fed this b.s. logic day after day after day, the second we hear of more gun deaths no less, then I have no choice but to conform to the notion that more violence is the answer, not less. Crossfires in the food court, not stricter gun laws. Duh, you dumb liberals. Okay.

I'm just afraid that when I tell 18-year-old Katie this…Well I just don't know if I can ever make her understand. Mostly because she was still living in a world where mass shootings were shocking and horrific. She was living in a country where assault weapons would still be banned for 5 more years. She was coming of age during a time when thoughts and prayers weren't yet becoming generic due to repetition. And she was still under the impression that most people valued human life over defending the right to own something that only causes destruction and death. She was naive and would be so disappointed.

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