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Wednesday
Apr112018

* * So I got a quick shower

Yes, I know. You’re reading the headline and asking yourself why you should bother to read an article about me taking a shower. People take one every day. The recent shower I got was a bit different.

Many of us who are politically motivated have a series of issues that frame our perceptions of the nation and world. National security. Education. Health care. Taxation. Infrastructure. Energy policy. For me, during the last several decades, the issue of gun violence has been near or at the top, accentuated when a madman killed 32 people in my town of Blacksburg and at my Virginia Tech, 11 years ago. We lose over 30,000 of our fellow Americans each year to gun violence. It’s a national tragedy, unique among other First World countries.

Other industrialized nations have implemented a series of common sense gun restrictions, combined with active mental health treatment schemes, to virtually eliminate gun violence. For example, following a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, that nation implemented stringent gun controls that lowered their rate of gun deaths to 10% of ours. We have the 11th highest rate of gun violence in the world, and by far the largest of any large or highly developed nation

Any number of reasons contribute to our inability to reduce the carnage here. Various interpretations of the Second Amendment have limited what lawmakers feel they can do. Powerful lobbying groups like the NRA carry a disproportionate level of influence, and because they have significant funding can put oversize pressure on lawmakers. And there’s the legacy of our Wild West past.

Communities like Las Vegas, Orlando, Austin, San Ysidro, Sutherland Springs, Littleton, Charleston, Camden and schools like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Stoneman Douglas have experienced the horror of mass shootings.

We know we cannot eliminate guns or gun violence from all private hands in America. But I’m convinced that strict background checks which would make it harder for people suspected of violence, waiting periods to eliminate sales at gun shows, better safety features (e.g. embedded chips to prevent anyone other than the original buyer from firing a gun), limited lethality (in muzzle velocity and magazine capacities), and liability laws for dealers, manufacturers, and owners whose guns are involved in shootings, would all reduce the carnage.

After each of these terrible events, empathic people have implored lawmakers for change. But after each, the dust has mostly settled and the blood has mostly been wiped away with little if any change. Through the power of social media, however, after the Stoneman Douglass massacre on St. Valentines Day, activists became emboldened and took to the streets. Last week, I participated in a Rally for Commonsense Gun Reform organized by the New River Valley chapter of the national action group Indivisible, at the town center in Christiansburg, a half-block from Congressman Morgan Griffith’s office.

I found myself carrying a borrowed sign that had in the background the black silhouette of an assault rifle and in the foreground the red circle with the diagonal line indicating “no,” alongside 25 or 30 other protestors. Several drivers honked approval. We got some thumbs-ups and some thumbs-downs.

Then, a driver in a pickup truck slowed and threw a shower of water from his cup at me, splashing my face, head, shirt, and sign. I wiped myself off and the ink began to run on the sign. I was so flabbergasted by this liquid assault I didn’t think to retaliate or even be angry.

Afterwards, I was overwhelmed by mixed emotions. I have had far worse done to me by ugly people. What the guy did was despicable, but it would only damage myself more if I lashed out. Then he's hurt me twice. Maybe, just maybe, he’d return home and realize he was an ass. Maybe on Sunday, his preacher will say something like being kind to your fellow man or turning the other cheek, and he’d feel remorse. Who knows? Maybe he was simply an ugly person, and would find smug self-satisfaction in his dastardly deed. I can’t concern myself with that. All I know is that not lashing out, not throwing a fire-hydrant or similar thing back at him, makes me feel better about myself.

I think people like he are scared right now. They really, truly feel that their lives will be deeply endangered if jack-booted thugs storm their house to take away their weapons. And they see me, and the other protesters, as facilitators.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m sure this guy remains adamant about being able to exercise his Second Amendment rights, to the extreme, in the way he interprets them. But then he became angry enough at me to prevent me from exercising my First Amendment right to free speech and peaceful assembly free from abuse or assault from him. I’m guessing he’s the type of guy who would need the concept of hypocrisy explained to him.

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