I am the daughter of a man who was shot by someone who never should have had a gun. My father almost died on that cold drizzly day when John Hinckley tried to kill him. The scar that marked the doctors’ heroic efforts to save him wrapped around his rib cage and remained visible for the rest of his life. Jim Brady’s head was torn apart, his brains spilling out onto the sidewalk. His life would never be the same. Hinckley didn’t have the weaponry that’s used now. If he’d had a semi-automatic weapon, no one would have survived.
John Hinckley bought his first gun in 1979. He went target shooting, and played Russian Roulette with it. A year later he took a photo of himself with the gun pressed to his temple. That same year he began stalking President Carter. At the Nashville airport he was arrested for carrying handguns in a suitcase, along with handcuffs. He paid a fine, was released, and bought more guns in Dallas. His parents knew of his mental health issues and sent him to a psychiatrist. But no one took away the weapons he had so easily purchased. I know firsthand what bullets can do to a human being, and I don’t understand why we are even having a debate about gun control in this country.
Or maybe I do understand. I saw someone from Texas on the news praising the new “open carry” laws in that state. He used the phrase “those of us who love guns” twice in a short interview. And I thought, This is the heart of the problem. The people who “love guns” might be in the minority, but love is a powerful thing. And if the rest of us aren’t as strong, or stronger, in our passion for a country without weekly news bulletins of slaughters and mass killings, our streets will continue to run with blood. While it’s true that the NRA wields enormous political power in the halls of government, the love for guns is the most dangerous power.
When I was young, I learned to shoot a .22 rifle at a paper target. To my father, target shooting was a sport, not a training exercise for killing. Not only did he never hunt, or aim a gun at a living creature, he was elaborate in his descriptions of what guns do to flesh and bone. He wanted us to be frightened of guns, and it worked. He had never heard of hollow-point bullets until they were used on him and almost ended his life. He would be aghast at the weaponry used now.
And while it’s always risky to surmise what someone who is no longer with us would do, I believe he would applaud President Obama’s attempts to at least make it a little harder for guns to get into the hands of people who should not have them. It’s no secret that Republicans hate President Obama. Hatred is just as strong as love. Right now, this country, in which most of the people are horrified by gun violence and want change, is being held hostage by those who hate President Obama and love guns.
More than 1,700 people were injured or killed in mass shootings in 2015 alone. There is no accounting of how many friends, loved ones, family members were left to grieve. It seems to me that we owe it to them, and to the innocent people who were slaughtered, to make our love for a more peaceful country stronger than the hatred amongst Republicans for our current president. And stronger also than the love for guns claimed by a minority of Americans. They are welcome to speak their minds — that’s in the First Amendment — but they can’t be allowed to slaughter the dreams of peace that reside in so many hearts.