I distinctly remember our first date. I had a few disclaimers to get out-of-the-way.
Me: There are a few things you should know about me. I am a Pro-choice Feminist, a Socialist and not Christian. Also, I am a vegetarian. I just don’t want to waste your time if any of these things is a deal breaker for you.
Him: What about guns?
Me: What about them? I mean…of course, I am for gun control.
Him: I am somewhat of a firearms enthusiast…
Boy, was that an understatement. I remember thinking that this wasn’t a deal breaker. That I needed to learn more before I judged. That gun ownership didn’t automatically mean scary Republican. I actually had a great time joining him at the range and learning how to shoot. It was my way of challenging my previously held views about guns and gun owners. Trying to reconcile my fears about guns and my love for him.
Later, when we had our first child, I had clear expectations for the conditions under which I would allow him to keep firearms in our home. He fought me on a variety of issues – I demanded that all guns be unloaded, have gun locks and be in a locked cabinet at all times. But, how would he access a gun if someone invaded our home? As if this was likely in the small Midwestern city where we lived. We compromised (I thought), and guns were to be kept unloaded, in a high, out of reach cabinet.
He fought me on the need to own assault rifles. He wanted many. I questioned the need. In my pro-gun control mind, the only purpose for assault rifles was to kill people. He wanted shotguns and more handguns. He wasn’t a hunter. We didn’t live in an unsafe community. Zombie apocalypse was not imminent. I had seen Bowling for Columbine – more guns meant more people dying. Why did he need so many guns? His response – guns were fun.
We were at a point in our marriage when we were saving for a home and to grow our family. He was in school full-time, I was the breadwinner, and money was tight. Yet, he seemed deeply concerned about his need to buy more guns. It was something we fought about constantly. I was the bad guy. The wet blanket. The controlling wife who wouldn’t ‘let’ him buy more.
His wish list sounded like something you would read on a military base or in an article about Waco – AR-15, AK-47, Mossburg Bolt Action…names I had to Google. Pictures that brought back memories of research on child soldiers I had done in college.
Whenever I liked a friend’s gun control post or linked to an article about gun control on Facebook, I knew I would come home and face a fight. He said my anti-gun stance made him feel bad, like a gun nut, like he was to blame for school shootings and accidental deaths.
I tried to appeal to logic, provide statistics, and share stories – like my friend from college who was accidentally shot by his brother when he was a young child. Fewer guns meant fewer risks, fewer opportunities for kids to die. He accused me of being hyperbolic. When it comes to gun control, I honestly don’t feel that it’s hyperbolic to mention dead kids.
Last year, he told me he wanted to start a side business buying and selling parts for assault rifles and building guns from kits to sell on the internet. I vetoed this idea. We have two young children. We both had stable, good-paying jobs. Most importantly, I was uncomfortable with the number of guns already in our home. I had no interest in having more guns, in having gun buyers have our address and in having my husband spend more time on this dangerous hobby. Little did I know that despite my veto, he went ahead with this plan. He started it anyway, with our money and had friends provide a cover for this side business.
In the aftermath of his departure from our home, I was shocked to find several guns in our home, including assault rifles, handguns and shotguns. Many, many more than I knew existed. And boxes of gun parts and kits for making guns. Not just in the high up cabinets in his basement workshop that we agreed upon, but in ground level cupboards, on the counter (hidden beneath covers or in boxes), in drawers and even one handgun and loaded clip in his bedroom closet on a shelf just four feet off the ground. For me, it was like a scene from Red State or a documentary about terrorism. Not an upper middle class home in a nice neighborhood. Not my home. Not only was I devastated to learn about one more example of his deceit and lack of respect for me, but I was angry because he put our family in danger. All for a hobby. I was also scared. Learning that I didn’t really know my husband and how unstable he was.
If you don’t believe me about the need for gun control, the need to change our culture, let me share some statistics:
- According to a new study just released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who live in homes with firearms are two to three times more likely to die from either murder or suicide than those who don’t have access to guns at home.
- Simply having a firearm in the household is correlated with an increased risk of accidental shooting death. In a 2003 study in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, the risk was found to be more than three times as high for one gun, and almost four times as high for more than one gun.
- Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
- According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in the United States, every day, eight children and teens die from gun violence: five are murdered; two kill themselves. Every day, 42 children and teens are shot and survive: 33 shot in an assault; one survives a suicide attempt; nine are shot accidentally.
- Thirty-three percent of U.S. households have a gun, and half of gun-owning households do not lock up their guns, including 40 percent of households with kids under age 18 (Brady Campaign).
- Studies show that teaching children to stay away from guns doesn’t work. A 2001 study published in the journal Pediatrics, put 8-12 year old boys in the same room with an unloaded disabled handgun, three-quarters of the 64 children found the gun, two-thirds handled it, and one-third actually pulled the trigger. Just one child went to tell an adult about the gun, and he was teased by the other boys when he did. More than 90 percent of the boys said they had had some gun safety instruction.
- A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11 times more likely), a criminal assault or homicide (seven times more likely), or unintentional shooting death or injury (four times more likely) than in a self-defense shooting (Brady Campaign).
- In domestic violence situations, the risk of homicide for women increased eightfold when the abuser had access to firearms, according to a 2003 study published in The American Journal of Public Health.
I am lucky. Soon, I will no longer be married to a gun nut. And now, for me, guns are a deal breaker. Something that I will not compromise on and if I ever date again, on my list of first date disclosures.
I will never again have firearms in my home. Unless zombie apocalypse happens, but then I will have bigger problems.
Featured image: Steph, all rights reserved.
Image credit: One Million Moms and Dads against Gun Violence