The first time I held a gun I was around seven-years-old. I remember the feeling of being at the outdoor gun range with my mom, which in El Paso is really just the desert with some wooden barriers put in the right places. It was bright. I squinted even wearing my mom's oversized aviators. The hot but cool heat of her .357 service revolver in my hand was heavy. I felt like Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry and every other western I'd seen on TV with my grandma only I was wearing pink Converse.
When I tell this story, I get looks. I get the pursed lipped looks. I laugh the judgement off just like I've learned to laugh off the other things on the ever growing list. It's easier to judge when someone wasn't there. When they don't know. Their faces change dramatically when I follow up by saying my mom worked in law enforcement, and that she showed me how to use a gun so I understood what it was. Suddenly, I'm no longer some hellion from Texas who went around swinging guns in the air like they swung balloons and fucking rainbow unicorns.
That revolver and later the .45 she carried on her hip on a daily basis meant many things. It meant she was going to work when it lay on a stool near her dresser in her bedroom. It meant she was staying home when it hung near her bedside from the headboard. It meant she might have to kill someone who wanted to hurt her when it hung from her hip. As a child, it meant it might keep my mom safe. Even when I realized it was only the intention of the person holding the weapon that determined its use for good and evil, I prayed at night that my mom would be safe when she went to work a graveyard shift.
Guns have a lot more meanings than the ones above, though. Especially now. They mean fear, death, loss and more importantly they mean money. Now, as an adult, I like to say things to bait my gun connoisseur mother because I see how much more these metal shaped objects mean. That's why people get so angry and defensive, right? That's what gives grown men the right to call teenage girls "lesbian skinheads"? Guns have become a warped symbol of antiquated American ideals. Guns covered under the 2nd Amendment from the 1700's should not be compared to AR-15's. This is not a to-mato tom-ato discussion. This is 800-rounds-a-fucking-minute.
This past Christmas as many times before the topics of mass shootings came up while I was in Medellin, CO. "¿Pero por qué pasan esas cosas en los EE.UU?" my in-laws ask. Obviously, I don't have a response. But one has to stop and wonder, when people from one of the countries with the most violent histories is asking what our problem is, maybe there's a fucking problem. I believe that many are clinging so hard to ideals that are only filling already rich white men's pockets because they are eating spoonful's and spoonful's of propaganda. As long as we keep fighting amongst ourselves, they win. It's no longer, "Let them eat cake". It's "Let them eat guns."