On Tuesday, Hanover County will be (hopefully) voting to declare itself a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary – something that many Virginia counties have already done – in response to a very strict gun control bill hitting the floor in January. It has been a hot topic in our house as Rich and I sit on opposite sides of the political fence, yet can scooch closer when it comes to this particular issue. Now, don’t be fooled – many heated discussions took place pre-scooch because, like most of America (as far as I can tell), we automatically think of each other as zealots because one of us votes red and the other votes blue. Surely that makes us enemies, right?
We are a house that practices the right to bear arms, a home already declared a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary hundreds of years ago – by our founding fathers. We do it safely, with common sense, locks, safes, practice and discussion. Some people collect coins, some people collect guns. Rich does it by the book – submitting for a background check with each purchase, waiting the allotted time for pick up, taking his time to ‘learn it’ and to teach anyone else in the house who is interested.
Our kids are knowledgeable about using them safely. Zack seems to be following in Rich’s collector foot steps while Zoe sways to my side – happy to learn how they work, willing to use one in case of emergency, but no more interest than that. They know their locations but they also know that they reside under lock and key and are only accessible to the adults in the house.
It seems like we have it together when it comes to preparation for an apocalypse, zombie or otherwise. The rub of it is, if this new bill passes in mid-winter, Rich will join hundreds of thousands of Virginians in becoming instant felons (and myself – guilty of housing him? Guilty of looking the other way? What?). How is that possible? We don’t feel like bad people. We abide by every law, promote good character, push the Sir’s and Ma’am’s and never step on cracks. It’s a hole Rich dug himself – by being honest, by registering his guns, by buying them in retail shops, by getting background check after background check – thus giving the government a handy list of everything he owns. And giving the sheriff the right to knock on our door and ask for whatever he wants back.
Now, I do understand fear. I understand that nearly everyday, there is some kind of shooting and that a large percentage of the time it will be labeled a ‘mass shooting.’ But I also understand that that term has many different definitions – and that the media uses it very loosely to ensure the conversation on the dangers of guns stays on the front page, where it can stoke the fires of the public’s fear.
It’s not that I’m not sympathetic or that it hasn’t hit close too home. It has hit very close to home – I grew up with the principal of Sandy Hook – kids running between houses, trying to convince my parents that we needed a St. Bernard like theirs, our moms covering for each other when something unforeseen popped up. Like most parents, every single time a school lock-down pops up in my news feed I stop and immediately check to make sure it’s not Oak Knoll or Hanover. I actually don’t even expect to get both kids to graduation without some sort of incident. I used to scoff and look away when Rich would suit up before leaving the house, grumbling about the necessity of a Sig at the movies. Now I prefer it.
For us, there is much more to the gun collection than safety and prepping for Sharknado. For us, it is about history and passing a skill down from generation to generation. Rich grew up with guns and the rare moments where he was able to bond with his dad, it was over those guns. He’s doing the same with Zack. They have lots of ‘moments,’ but the most frequent are over guns and bullets and the reloader and suppressors (if I see a bag of lime, I’ll start to get nervous). They often get up and out on the weekends before ‘the girls’ arise to wander around Green Top or Bass Pro, touching this or fondling that. They travel several times a year to Appleseed events, learning about American history and improving their own target skills.
So for Rich, having much of his collection removed would mean also removing precious time with his son. And that terrifies him. Rich is doing what a dad is supposed to – offering all the time in the world to his child to mold him into the best young man possible.
We all know there is a problem right now. We all know the problem is very specific to this country. We can even almost agree on the need for some kind of ‘time out’ while the problem is figured out – in a deliberate, thoughtful way, not the ongoing ‘oh there was a shooting yesterday so let’s all jump up and down about the need for change today until we forget about it tomorrow.’ I think we also all know that this is more of a mental health issue than a gun issue. Stable people do not just start shooting at random. So what are we missing?
My mom view is video games. Of course, I can only speak for my house – where we are very limiting and are adamant that there is a balance to the ‘shoot ’em up’ games with unicorns and rainbows. We can tell when Zack has had too much – again, just my opinion – he should never re-appear from the basement glazed over and jonesing to go back. That’s too much. Zack mentioned once that he knew how to shoot already (as in, no, I don’t need to go to the range) because he plays Call of Duty. After a few days of stressing on the range at an Appleseed event with sweat running into his eyes and a bandaid on his trigger finger he now understands that experience only counts if it comes from the real world. Otherwise I’d be able to flip a house in less than three days, under budget and with a posse of flannel wearing carpenters. A critical lesson for people of all ages.
We are already, as a country, eroding personal rights. How far are we willing to take it? As we work to erase the 2nd Amendment has anyone noticed the degradation of the 1st? That in NYC, just saying ‘illegal alien’ can earn you a $250k fine if it’s determined that you meant it in a, well, mean way. (I can pretty much guarantee someone will read that last sentence and infer that I meant it in a mean way (I didn’t. I was just providing an example. I love aliens. E.T. was awesome.)). We’ve started turning campuses into word-free zones. Sure, you can attend, but please don’t say the words he, she, tall, short, birth, death, study, test, abuse, massage, lunch, dog, Santa, pillows, or giraffe. And if you do say giraffe do not define it as tall because we don’t really know, do we? Don’t even get me started on the demise of the 4th amendment.
We love Virginia. We love our house, we love our schools, we love the history (I mean, I just found out about it at Hamilton). But we are also preparing for the possibility of leaving – and navigating around the feeling of being driven there by a vote down the street. Remain, keep your stuff, you’re a felon – doesn’t sound like a great option. Remain, give it all up, lose tens of thousands of dollars, a major connection with your child, and a sense of safety – also not so great.
The Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow is a small step – the ‘big’ vote will be in January, one that is already being slated as full of protesters ranging from peaceful to an angry mob. Rich intends to be there and I intend to be there supporting him. It’s maybe not my first choice of topic for a dabble into the political pool, but I suppose it’s something.
Like many others, maybe even you, I’ve spent the last few years wondering what the frack we are becoming as a country – watching from the sidelines, annoyed, but not enough to say out loud ‘hey, something’s not right here.’ And I certainly didn’t think when I did (or that I would), it would actually be about something my own party is proposing. But maybe my small voice will close some of the gap – by saying to those across the aisle, ‘hey, it’s all of us who are going too far.’