I am nine or ten years old. I am playing the back of my dad’s flatbed work truck parked outside of our house. It is full of tools, scrap wood and other construction materials. I see what I think is a toy handgun. I pick it up and am surprised with how heavy it is. I want to know if it is real so I decide to fire it into the ground, despite remembering all the warnings adults have given about how dangerous guns are. I aim at the grass beside the truck, point and pull the trigger. Nothing happens. I decide it is fake and put it back down and continue playing. Later on that day, I mention it to my dad and a concerned look spreads across his face. He walks out to his truck and I see him walking over to the trashcan. I can only assume it was a real firearm that was dumped there while he was at a work site.
I am around the same age and my family and I have returned from a trip to Mexico. We are poor and sharing a two-story house with another family, we have the upstairs and they live downstairs. The house is large and has a wrap around balcony on the outside of both floors. Our balcony is where my dad kept his pit-bull named Quico. My parents go outside after we return from our trip to find Quico dead, shot through the head.
I am eight years old and my parents tell me that my oldest sister is leaving for a time. I am extremely close to my sister and don’t understand why she has to leave. She is sixteen and attending the local high school. We are still poor and the high school has developed a dangerous reputation. Many of her friends and classmates and have been shot and or killed in a slew of drive by shootings. After the home of one of her best friends is targeted, my parents make the decision to send her to live with my grandparents in their small Texas town. Later, when I am old enough to understand, my mom explains they it was a really difficult decision, but they feel they made the best decision at the time. I fall into a deep depression after she leaves.
I am in the fourth grade and join the junior Brownie program that is for girls who want to become Girl Scouts. I love the program and look forward to it every week. A teacher named Ms. Garcia runs it. One weekend my mom calls me into the living room and shows me a newspaper clipping. A mentally unstable brother gunned down Ms. Garcia at home, along with her parents. The school does not replace Ms. Garcia and program is cancelled.
I am in high school and in the pick up truck of some friends. We are driving out to the shooting range to shoot guns. The two guys we are with have their sites set on becoming Marines after graduation. My best friend and I at the time take turns firing rifles and pistols. Later that year, both of the guys would end up enlisting and serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. One loses a leg and eye, and returns home in a wheelchair, but continues to serve in the Marines. The other had several close encounters with death but survives multiple tours. He is currently stationed in Virginia and maintains a wide, personal arsenal. I went to visit him some months ago where I observed the collection first hand. We go to the movies and he takes a handgun out of the console, tucks it into the back of his pants and takes it into the theatre. He mentions the movie theatre shooting in Aurora Colorado as justification for this.
I am 21 years old and spending a week in San Diego California. A month earlier, I was vacationing with a good friend and I met Dave. Dave and I clicked immediately and I return to spend some more time with him. Despite constant phone and email conversations, I still know very little about Dave. He leaves for work one morning and I stay behind and decide to pick up around the house. As I am making the bed, I lift up the mattress to tuck in the sheets. I see a handgun underneath his side of the bed. I pick it up for a moment then quickly place it back. Later on that day, he tells me to not worry about making the bed and I tell him I’ve already seen it. He apologizes for being so careless and the next day the gun is gone.
Many years before I was born, my mom was a single mother of two, struggling to make ends meat. She is working at a meat packing plant, which is majority male. One evening a friend of the family asks her for a ride home. Once he is in the car, he makes advances to her, which she rejects, after which he threatens violence. She reaches down into her boot and pulls out a small pistol, which she holds to the temple of his head. Several co-workers pass by and pull the man out of the car. He never approaches her again.
I am in elementary school and we are living in a rough neighborhood. I awake to commotion and disoriented from sleep, and am confused about what is going on. I gather that someone is trying to break into the house and my dad emerges from the bedroom with a sawed off shotgun I have never seen before. He holds up to the door and yells a warning. No one breaks in and I never see that gun again, despite looking for it afterwards. I wonder if the warning would have been as effective if he didn’t have the gun?
I am twenty-three years old and have just moved into an apartment downtown by myself. I mention the idea of getting a handgun to my folks and they do not object. A couple of days later, my dad gives me a brown paper bag with a silver pistol. I refuse to accept it because I do not have a license and don’t want to get into trouble if it is stolen or if I end up using it and cannot trace where I got it. I scold my dad and he takes the gun back.
I am in college and watching the news at home. A story comes on about a twenty something kid who was shot at a party. One attendee pulled out a handgun and held it up to his head; the guy who was shot said, “do it” as sort of a dare and the killer did. I recognize the victim as someone I went to high school with who was a year after me. His name was Thomas and he was extremely popular and well liked. His father was a cop.
It is December 14th, 2012. I am on Twitter and notice news about another school shooting, this time at an elementary school. What would later be known as the Sandy Hook shooting results in the death of twenty young students and six adults.
I am living in Washington DC and am walking to the metro after attending church on Sunday evening. I find a man slumped over, with his face covered in blood. He has been mugged and his jaw has been broken. He cannot remember what happened and the people who robbed him have run away. I wait with him until the police arrive. That evening I post a status about witnessing a random act of violence and the comment section quickly devolves into a pro-gun feed. Friends and siblings are quick to comment on whether it would have happened if the victim had a gun, or why its important to be armed. I am frustrated by what I perceive has general ignorance and delete the post.