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.
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?