Have you ever shot a gun?
I blinked at the text. Then I pushed out my lips, took a deep breath and texted back: No.
Do you want to? he texted back.
I scrunched my eyes and looked up at my John Lennon poster. I bought it when I started college and have called John the man in my life ever since. He was staring at me as if to say: Are you really going to do that, girl? That’s what took me away, darlin’.
I texted back: Sorry, my heroes are John Lennon and Bobby Kennedy.
I surfed You Tube. All I am saying is give peace a chance...They keep us drugged with sex and religion and TV...I’m sick to death of hearing things from up tight short-sighted narrow minded hypocrites...
Then I stumbled across the clip. The one from December 9, 1980 just after John Lennon was shot. People were crying. There were flowers on the streets and for once no traffic. The big trees were bare for winter. The newscaster announced, “Rockstar John Lennon was shot dead today by Mark Chapman. John Lennon’s last words were reported as, ‘I’ve been shot.’”
Instantly, I felt the same punch in the gut that I always felt when I find something horribly wrong with the guy that I am dating.
I ruminated and figured that Joe was from Kentucky, living in Iowa, and about to move to Montana—it was just part of the culture in which he grew up, as much as it was not part of the one in which I had grown up in California.
I thought about a co-worker named Cat who was from Missouri. She liked deep-fried turkey, beer on the lake, and guns. She reasoned that because Missouri had a conceal-and-carry law it was a safe state and if people wanted to do bad things they went to Kansas instead. Yet, Saint Louis is still one of the most dangerous cities in America.
Over the next few days, I discussed the gun issue with different women in my life.
My mother said, “Oh, I understand what you are thinking. But some people do shoot guns. Chuck has some in his house.” Chuck is my godfather and an LAPD cop.
My Polish grandmother has always said, “I would never have a gun in the house."
Pro-NRA commentators frequently say that during the time of Nazi Germany if the minorities had possessed guns there would have been no Holocaust. My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Her father had a gun and fought with the Polish Army with his hunting rifle on a horse and was defeated by the German soldiers in tanks.
My best friend Jen, whose parents fled El Salvador during the revolution, said, “Oh Marie, gun control is such an American issue.”
When I pointed out that Britain had banned them, she said, “It’s such a first world issue. Everybody in El Salvador has guns.” Then Jennifer told me about the child soldiers in El Salvador.
A few years ago, Jennifer’s aunt and her baby were murdered by gunshots. But because they were in El Salvador and the cops were dirty, there was nothing that they could do about it except bury them.
Jennifer’s parents had moved to America—a safe dreamland. They lived in Fairfax, a bad part of Los Angeles, and her father was threatened with a gun by their neighbor while he was in front of his own house.
I asked my college friend Laura about guns. She is half American Indian, grew up on a reservation. She told me, “Actually, it’s a lot nobler if you are going to eat meat to go out and kill it rather than to go to a store that got the meat from a factory farm.”
I am a meat-eater but try not to think of where my food comes from.
Joe said that he’s not a hunter and though I was glad at the time, I think now that I would prefer it because it might explain his fascination with guns.
I had believed that men who owned guns for pleasure were making up for something. My high school crush was Hawkeye Pierce from MASH and I think he summed it up best when he said, “I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns. I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even 'hari-kari' if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!”
I hadn’t been in touch with Joe for a few days after his text. Then he friended me on Facebook. It was under a fake name and I just had to shut my eyes. His profile picture was him holding a semi-automatic. His cover photo was two men with handguns. He listed his likes and interests as “guns,” “rifles,” and “the second amendment.” He was a fan and member of the NRA. He had urged the revocation of the lethal weapon ban and talked about his love for “cop killer bullets.” I found out, through a pro-gun article that he was interviewed for, that he had at least four guns, one of which he carried in his belt at all times, one he kept in his nightstand, and two semi-automatic. He had at least thirty pictures of himself and his buddies shooting guns. Then I saw an album from a few days earlier with him and some brunette shooting guns in the middle of nowhere.
He posted that Obama loved murdering children. He called Abraham Lincoln a racist. Then he admitted to watching porn.
Joe texted me on a Saturday night at about eight p.m. asking me what I was doing. I lied and said that I was having a girl’s night. Around one a.m. he drunk-texted me: I would be remiss in not telling you that I wish that I had kissed you the other night but you didn’t seem open to it. Was I reading you wrong?
A few days later, my family and I spent the day cleaning out my apartment. I hadn’t gone online or turned on the TV all day. When I did, I saw what everybody else was posting about: the Sandy Hook Massacre.
Even my Republican friends were posting about the school shooting. Syed, who grew up in Iran and witnessed the violence in the Middle East, said, “I can't see how a ban on automatic weapons, which did to exist until 2005, would ever be viewed as unconstitutional.”
Another Republican friend, Charles, who was always worried about the government getting too big and overstepping its boundaries, wrote, “I have never been one to question our ‘constitutional rights,’ but after what happened in Connecticut, I think it is fair enough that we relinquish our right to bear arms...Totally disgusted, No more mercy.”
And, of course, Joe posted about how the government was causing these shootings and that there needed to be armed guards at all schools and every teacher needed to carry a gun.
I left for California two days later and blocked him on Facebook.
Marie Haverford grew up in Los Angeles and studied at the University of Iowa. She currently works as a teacher. When not teaching or writing, she enjoys baking, traveling, and of course reading.