On an afternoon in February nearly 17 years ago, I was in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time.
Stepping into Union National Bank on Route 309 in Montgomery Township, Pa. — after waiting for a longer-than-usual time at the drive-through — a man in a ski mask grabbed my arm and shoved a gun into my ribs in one swift motion and told me to be quiet.
Then, he pushed me from behind, sending me tripping toward another masked man who forced me at gunpoint into a walk-in vault. A bunch of other people were already in there, bank employees and customers, and everyone was on their knees with their heads down. I can still feel my cheeks, wet with tears, against the tile floor.
My boyfriend at the time, who was waiting in the car, got worried and came in to see what was taking me so long. The robbers were on their way out, and as they fled, they held a gun on him and forced him to the floor at in the bank lobby.
The FBI showed up and everyone was interviewed. After a few hours, we were allowed to leave the bank, but the trauma from that day so long ago was something I’ve never been able to leave behind.
This is why I hate guns.
Actually, I’ve always been afraid of them. My family got HBO when I was nine and I was left unattended a lot, so I saw my share of violent movies, which freaked me out and gave me nightmares. As I got ready for bed one night, I asked my dad if he had any guns and, if he did, could he get rid of them? He told me he didn’t believe in guns, which was a relief and a comfort. And he wasn’t telling me that to appease me — it was the truth. He even wrote op-eds for our local newspaper expressing his anti-gun views.
His arguments were always analytical, never personal. I suspect he began to form his opinion on guns while serving in the U.S. Army. He was drafted and served in Korea, and I’m sure being forced to use a gun was traumatizing to him. But he never brought his personal experience into the discussion.
I am, though. I’m looking at the matter differently from someone who has never had a gun pointed at them in a threatening manner. I think anyone in my shoes would have the same reaction. After I walked out of the bank that day, I didn’t enter a bank again for five years.
So, my blood began to boil when I saw this in my Facebook news feed:
The more I thought about, the more annoyed I became.
The National Rifle Association’s old trope, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is a fallacy. The marketing machine behind the NRA crafted this brilliant and easy-to-remember seven-word retort to “pinko libtards” who don’t support gun ownership. But have the people who are quick to recite it even thought through what it means?
Guns exist to kill people and animals, and to kill quickly, efficiently and at a distance. This can be said of any form of weaponry — by definition, a weapon is an instrument of attack.
But, spoons, pencils and cars were not designed with the purpose of making people fat, bad at spelling, or drunk drivers.
Looking at it another way, would a someone who supports the use of nuclear weapons be taken seriously if they said, “Nukes don’t kill people, people kill people”?
Not only that, hundreds of people die every year as a result of unintentional firearm injuries, either from the gun malfunctioning or as the result of an accident. To paraphrase this report, stats from the Centers for Disease Control show that 606 people were killed by unintentional firearm injuries in 2010. (In contrast, knives and other sharp objects, the second highest category for unintentional weapon deaths that year, was 105. Obviously, more knives exist than guns, yet guns are linked to five times as many accidents.)
So, even when the person has no intention of killing, guns still kill.
I’m not saying the Second Amendment should be repealed. (Although the spirit in which it was written doesn’t apply to how guns are now being used, but that’s another argument for another day.) I’m not interested in seeing guns confiscated from people.
Guns kill, and they were created to kill. And that’s why they’re still being made, and why people are still acquiring them. But Americans have bought into a social norm that blames everything that’s not a gun when these deaths occur.
A few years ago, my friend had a roommate who lived in the bedroom directly above hers. The roommate bought a gun, and my friend was afraid of it accidentally going off and sending a bullet through the floor and through her ceiling. She made the roommate move out.
Because guns kill people.