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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Pen is Mightier Than ... by Carla Damron

As a writer and social worker, I find the pen to be a useful tool in advocating for social justice.  Last week, my letter to the editor (The State newspaper, December 25), posted. Here is what I wrote:
The billboards show Christmas lights draped over assault weapons and the words: “Do you hear what I hear?” Gun enthusiasts might find them clever. As a social worker, I find them quite disturbing.
This month is the fourth anniversary of the slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A gun used there looks much like the one on the billboard.
This month, a barely healed wound that South Carolina suffered 18 months ago was reopened during Dylann Roof’s trial: Family members of the victims at Mother Emmanuel Church had to see photos of their slaughtered loved ones. We heard Roof’s chilling words about white supremacy and how he carried out his attack, using a gun purchased in the Midlands.
South Carolina still has one of the highest rates of women killed by men; 60 percent of these murders were carried out using guns.
I am tired of this bloodshed. The sign asks, “Do you hear what I hear?” My reply: I hear the cries of grieving survivors — parents of the Sandy Hook children, families of the Mother Emanuel nine and children of mothers killed by their abusers.
What an abysmal Christmas message.
Carla Damron
When the newspaper added this to their Facebook page, quite a discussion ensued (also on their webpage). I was called a “hand wringing ninny.” I was blasted for “standing on the graves of innocent children” to speak out against guns. It got personal and insulting. It was not unexpected.
My advocate friends chimed in, pointing out why they found the signs offensive. Mothers talked about how difficult it was to explain the billboards to their children. Several hundred comments posted; the letter had almost three thousand views.
While I didn’t mention the name of the company that posted the signs, readers did, some talking about how wonderful the armory is, how they will engrave an AK 47 for you. 
Did my letter give them free publicity?
Last year, the company had a sign displaying a silencer attached to handgun. The text read: “Silent night. Deadly night.” Many people complained, and that sign did not appear this year.  Sadly, it was replaced with others that were almost as bad.
My personal stance? I do not want to own a gun, because it might be used against me. Do I think nobody should own one? Absolutely lnot—I believe people have the right to sensible gun ownership, and the RESPONSIBILITY to know how to use it and store it safely.
I don’t see a reason for owning an assault weapon unless one is police or military. As one of my advocate friends said, “if you need an assault weapon for hunting, then you are a TERRIBLE hunter and should find another sport.”
But I believe the billboards I describe, which can be found all over SC, project a very negative message about our state and the people who live here. I do not regret sending my letter, despite the blow-back I received.

What’s your stand on guns? 


Jim Jackson said...

To legally own and operate an automobile you have to show competence and purchase insurance. Cars have unique identification numbers and must be registered each year. We have those rules because vehicles can be dangerous. Even with them, we lose more than 30,000 people annually to vehicle accidents.

A similar number of deaths each year are caused by firearms, of which roughly two-thirds are suicides. I am of the opinion that assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition, and large ammunition clips are designed solely to kill people and have no role outside of the military.

All others should have training before they can own a gun (I had went through hunters’ safety as a teenager), should be held liable for any damage done by their gun. Guns should be registered and bullet striations sampled and held in a database. All gun transactions should go through the same background-check protocols. This is not so someone can take away guys (just as licensing cars doesn't remove them from the roads), but to reinforce the responsibility requirements.

Gun ownership involves both rights and responsibilities. Legislation has largely been about the rights. Future legislation should reflect the penalties for not meeting responsibilities for safely storing and using the guns.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I agree with Jim. But the gun lobby is strong. We have no comprehensive registration laws. In fact, NCIC is prohibited from containing gun registration information. There's a little town in WVA where all the registration forms are sent after a gun's purchase. It's a paper system, which takes days to go through to find an owner. And to compound the problem, each state has its own laws as to how they file gun ownership information.

I find it inconceivable in an age where my online research and purchases are tracked to give me personalized advertising--that something so vital as computerized gun registration isn't automatic. I don't question the right of people to own guns, but I do question why our society doesn't require and foster individual accountability and responsibility.

Warren Bull said...

Guns are excluded from court challenges that allow people to sue on the basis that something was manufactured in such a way that the item was unsafe due to manufacture error. The mantra, "They want to take your guns away" still drives elections.

Grace Topping said...

Carla, I commend you on your courage to take a public stand on this issue, especially in an environment when some people can become so vicious in response. My husband is from England and would never allow a gun in our house. He served in the military and knows how to operate all kinds of weapons--and still would never own one.

Grace Topping said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carla said...

The gun lobby is strong and preys on fear. Healthy fear is a good thing--it keeps us safe. But some folks take it too far.

KM Rockwood said...

We've certainly lost track of the probable collective intent of the 2nd amendment, somewhere in the 20th century deciding there is an individual right to bear arms.

The 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

If all gun owners belonged to "a well regulated Militia," as the constitution says, and thus received training and a bit of oversight, we'd have many fewer problems with guns.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

background checks, a centralized, current, national data base of gun owners, total ban on sale of assault weapons to civilians. A mandatory skills and safety test.

Ownership accountability, especially when a child gets hold of a gun which isn't locked in a gun safe.

Shari Randall said...

I have family and friends who collect guns and hunt. Properly trained and licensed gun owners are not the problem. Fear mongerers who think that their "right" is being infringed because some want to keep military grade weaponry out of the hands of people who shouldn't have it are the problem.
The whole gun "issue" is a perfect example of people refusing to consider any viewpoint but their own. Common sense solutions that would save lives won't happen as long as discussion stays at the "troll" level. Sorry you had to endure that, Carla. I admire your resolve.

Gloria Alden said...

Carla, I admire you for bringing up this topic. I so agree with you and Jim. There is no reason anyone outside of the military needs assault weapons. I have no gun, and do not want one. Even though my collie probably wouldn't defend me, I feel safer with her than having a gun. My son used to hunt and keeps guns, but they're locked in a safe so his grandchildren wouldn't have access to them. Not a month goes by when I don't read about some child getting a hold of a loaded gun and shooting themselves or someone else. I was so sure after Sandy Hook that better gun laws would be put in place, and am so disappointed that it didn't happen.

Kait said...

Great post, Carla. I am a gun enthusiast. And yes, a gun owner. I would be shocked to see a billboard such as you describe. That is not the message anyone needs to put forward. Words escape me.