Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why you may not like me

My name is Jessica.  I'm 35 years old, I have a four year old son.  I'm a single parent.  I live with my parents, my sister and her son, and my paternal grandmother.  We have two dogs, two cats, a lizard, and a guinea pig.  I work at a call center.  I'm an atheist.  I'm also a liberal democrat.

I voted for Obama in November 2012.  I'll probably vote for the democrat in 2016.  I believe in equal rights, gay marriage, a woman's right to choose, equal pay for equal work, going green, universal health care, and gun control.

I've never felt comfortable around guns.  They've always scared me.  I don't even like to touch them.  December 14, 1992 permanently took away any interest I had for guns.

I was in Mr. Backus's Global Studies class, in the ninth grade, at Walton Central School.  In two days, I would turn 15 years old, just a year away from getting my driver's license.  That day I wore a Christmas sweatshirt and socks and a Santa hat to school.  We were taking a quiz on the Five Pillars of Islam that I was sure I was going to fail.  I remember it being really cold in the room, it was, after all, at the end of the hall with one whole wall of windows.  It was always cold in that room.  Mr. Backus handed out the quizzes and I remember staring at the paper.  There was a loud bang in the hallway that sounded like another classroom door had been slammed shut.  A moment later, I heard, what sounded like, a bunch of kids yelling and screaming.  I distinctly remember hearing one boy yell, "Where the hell is fucking Mr. Ward?"

Mr. Backus stepped out of the room and everyone looked around nervously.  Another teacher, I don't remember who, stepped inside and told us that we needed to leave.  Everyone got up and started walking down the hallway, toward the front entrance.  I was taking my time, chatting with one of my friends, when we made the turn to the next hallway and our Spanish teacher stepped out from the ISS room and said, "You need to move!  Run!"

That's when the fear set in.

What was happening at my school?

Walton is a small town, a couple of hours northwest of New York City.  The school system is pretty small, about 100 students in each grade level.  It's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, or knows someone who does.

Finally, breathless, I found myself outside, standing in the grass, across the street from the main entrance to the school.  I could hear people around me talking about "some kid" that was shooting people in the school.  My mind immediately went to the image of "some kid" walking around the school, shooting whoever got in his way.  I was shaking.  I had NEVER heard of anything like this happening.

After standing in the cold for, what seemed like a long time, one of the teachers stepped outside and told us we could come inside but we needed to go directly to the auditorium.  The school's auditorium was set up like a theater.  There were theater seats and a stage.

From what I can remember, there were teachers standing in front of the stage and the students took seats.  One of the teachers, I can't remember who, told us that there had been a shooting and someone had been hurt.  Thankfully, no one was killed and they had the shooter in custody.  I don't remember much after that.  There's a vague memory of an older girl asking a lot of questions, but I can't remember what they were.

After a bit, they told us that we could call our parents and go home.  I remember this vividly.  I just wanted my Mom.  I knew that she had a 22 hour shift at work and I wouldn't see her until the next day.  I called my grandparents and asked them to come get me.  I stood by the front entrance and watched for my grandparents car.  I remember talking to someone and getting a hug from someone else.

After a time, I looked up and saw my Mom walking toward me!  I was so happy and relieved and scared and sad.  I ran out and hugged her.  After that, we went to pick up my sister and cousin from the middle school and went home.

I didn't know the shooter.  I had read that he came to school with a rifle, wanted to read a poem, and commit suicide.  The teacher intervened and tried to take his gun away, getting shot in the process.  There were heroes in the class; two students tackled the shooter and held him until the police came.

I was scared to go to school after that day.  I had nightmares for a long time.  The room where the shooting took place was closed for the remainder of the school year.

Every time there is a school shooting, it brings up the memories of that day.  I usually have nightmares for several days.  I've come to the realization that I'll just have to live with this.

For this reason, above all else, I don't like guns.  I will never own a gun.  I don't think all guns should be banned, however.  I think it's okay for people to have rifles for hunting.  If someone wants to carry a handgun, I'm not comfortable with it, but that's their choice. I think there should be testing and background checks to own any type of gun.  Someone with a history of mental illness needs to be seriously reconsidered when applying to purchase a gun.  There should be drug testing, too.  And that's what I think it should be, an application to purchase a gun.  Credit check, background check, drug test, mental health evaluation.

I do think there should be a ban on assault rifles.  There is no reason for average, everyday citizens to have these guns.  And the huge rounds of ammo should be banned, as well.  Armor piercing bullets should be banned.  Americans should not be able to purchase these things.

I've been reading some of the arguments online, in the wake of the Newtown, CT shootings.  Some are saying that, if we ban assault rifles, the criminals will have them anyway.  That may be true, however, we've made drugs illegal and the criminals still have them.  Should we make them legal?  What about murder?  That's illegal but people still do it, should we legalize that, too?  Stealing?  Rape?  It just doesn't make sense, to me, to have this argument.  The only reason for these types of guns to exist is to take out large numbers of people in combat.  Are you going to shoot a deer 22 times with an assault rifle?  Why does a divorced mother with children need a gun like this?  Why does a college student need a gun like this?

The argument that I see most often is that it is our second Amendment right to bear arms.  That's true, it is.  We are not living in the same time when that Amendment was written.  I do agree with the Constitution, people have the right to bear arms.  I'm not saying that we ban all guns.  Just make it so that ordinary citizens cannot own combat or assault rifles.  That's all they're made for.

I feel I've made my point.  I know some of you may not agree with me.  I know where I grew up.  There was a lot of hunting and sport shooting.  I know where I live now.  The same is true here.  I live in the Bible belt, now.  Hell, I saw a news report about one of the cities close to where I live where you can get your picture taken with Santa and your guns.  I saw this report on Saturday, just one day after the shooting in Newtown.

In closing, I'd just like to say, to the people of Newtown, I can't imagine the pain you're feeling right now.  We're all thinking about you and we're all with you.  To the first responders and the teachers who gave their lives trying to protect your students, thank you.  We'll never know how many lives were saved by your actions that day.  I know it seems like so little, but it's all I have, but thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


  1. I was there too. Mr. Dries' class. And I was friends with the shooter. It was a confusing, scary time. An unforgettable moment in high school history. The fact is, we were all safe. Then we just weren't. That's the scariest thing...and now that we are parents, its even more frightening.

  2. I'm right there with you! I was in Miss Littles class, heard the shots and another student jokingly started singing 'janies got a gun' the teacher peaked out the four as students ran past so she told us to walk to the front if the school. On the way, Mr Murdock was yelling run...run and I just pictured someone behind me shooting everyone they could see. I forever will not like places where a lot of people gather but obviously I face my fear often. Totally love you Jess!