Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Something Something Guns

This morning, I saw a person I follow on Twitter quote-retweet to this tweet from James Woods about being the victim of gun violence with his own story about how he’d been victimized and yet still didn’t own or carry a gun.

I did the same, in two tweets, talking about my own experience of being robbed at gunpoint in my late twenties, and then about being very close by when Dr. John Locke was murdered at the University of Arkansas. I did it at first because I wanted to offer a public rebuttal to what I read into Woods’s tweet about how his being victimized led to his desire to arm himself. It’s not that Woods said you’re wrong if you don’t do as I did–that’s the impression I got, but upon reflection, that’s more due to Woods’s public persona. What he said is that you can’t really understand if it hasn’t happened to you, and I think there is some truth to that.

What’s not universal, though, is the way people react to those moments. Woods’s response was to arm himself, presumably because he felt like if he were ever in that position again, he would be able to fight back. And if you look at the replies to his tweet, you’ll find a lot of people agreeing with him. That’s not really a surprise, given the place guns hold in this society.

That’s not how I reacted, obviously. I’ve never been comfortable around guns. I’m not scared of them–I’m just hyper-aware of the damage they’re capable of, and so I’m very cautious around them. They’re a tool which, if used in the manner they’re designed for, ends a life, whether we’re talking about a human or an animal. All the other claims about their use, whether for self-defense or home protection or hunting, stem from that central power to end life. Any honest gun advocate will tell you that a gun is useless for self-defense if you’re unwilling to use it to kill your attacker if need be. That’s the responsibility you take up when you own a gun: you are in possession of a tool designed to end a life. And that’s not a responsibility I’ve ever been comfortable taking on.

Not even when I was robbed at gunpoint. I didn’t spring up from that hot street where my face had been pressed into the concrete by a gun barrel at the base of my skull and start figuring out how I was going to get hold of a pistol to make sure that never happened again. I waited until I was fairly sure they were gone, walked the several blocks back to where I was living, called the police and made a fairly useless report, and had a friend take me to get a beer because I was afraid if I didn’t leave the house right then I might never leave it again. What I wasn’t conscious of at the time, but what I came to realize later, was that I never wanted to make another human being feel the way I felt laying face down on that street, afraid they’d never see the people they loved again. Not even if I was angry with them. Not even if they’d hurt me first.

And I want to make something clear here. I’m not saying my response was more right or more moral than the reactions anyone else has had to an incident like this. It’s just mine. I can understand what motivated Woods and the people in his feed who agreed with him to arm themselves, and while I might think they’re overestimating their abilities to fight back if they were in actual danger, or while I might think they’re doing some questionable math when comparing the relative protection a gun could provide versus the damage it could do, what I’m not doing is saying they’re wrong for feeling the way they do. We all react differently to trauma. I think it’s important we remember that.

January 16, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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