I have been anti-gun all my life. When my sons were little, I wouldn't allow them to ever own a toy gun. But events in the past few years have radically changed my views. It starts with September 11, 2001.
On September 11, my children were in school. I wondered if the teachers had turned on televisions in their classrooms. I wondered what they might be hearing. Most of all I wondered how many children in their classes were directly effected because we live close to Washington, D.C. How many of them lost parents or other relatives? I worried about how frightened my children must be. Needless to say, they were terrified. Even though we live miles from the Pentagon, we could smell the smoke. The children came home from school that day in what looked like a snow flurry except that it wasn’t snow; it was ashes. When I heard that the terrorists were not able to hit their second D.C. target, I wondered “When will they be back with another tactic?” I thought of the various possible scenarios including armed groups coming through our streets.
The following year my children were again terrorized by the “Beltway Sniper.” The sniper was shooting people in front of their own homes as well as in public places. He shot them as they walked into schools and shopping malls. He seemed to prefer areas with quick egress. One of my daughters was attending Cooper Middle School which is located less than a block from the Beltway. Because all K-12 schools in Virginia are “gun-free zones,” I knew that the only person with a gun would be the sniper. The school administration would not be able to protect the students.
My daughter talked about her school day. It is hard to understand that these conditions exist within our U.S. borders:
Day after day the story was the same. She told me that all of the windows in her school were blacked out, and she could not tell whether it was day or night. The school was locked so nobody could get in. The children were not allowed outside for any reason, and all after-school activities were cancelled. The school requested that all children be sent to school on busses. One day I said to her, “I’m glad you feel safe on the bus and in the school, but what about when you’re walking between the bus and the school?” I will never forget her answer, and neither will you. She replied, “The teachers line up between the bus and the school, and we walk between them.” I just started crying as I typed that. Those defenseless teachers had no way to protect the children other than to put their own bodies between the students and any potential bullets.
During that time I tried to stay home as much as possible. I heard that if you got out of your car, you should weave back and forth while walking so that you were a more difficult target. When I had to go to the grocery store, I ran and weaved like a madwoman as I went from my car to the store. I knew that I could not protect myself.
A year or so later, I went to a rental property owned by one of my older sons. On this day my son and I were pulling up to the house. A man ran up to my car and slammed into my window, screaming at me. I was too scared to listen to what he said, and I did not get out of the car. We restarted the car and drove off. Still shaking, I asked my son, “Why do you think he did that?” My son answered, “He was dealing drugs on the corner, Mom, and you looked at him.” I did not remember looking at anyone, but I knew that something as simple as an accidental look could put my life or my children’s lives in danger. I never went back to that neighborhood. I returned to my "safe" home.
My second daughter is very sensitive and more fearful than the others. In 2005 when she applied to colleges, she only considered those in Virginia and Maryland because she didn’t want to be too far from home. Among the best schools, she chose the one where she felt safest. She chose Virginia Tech. You know what happened there. She is still alive, although traumatized. She cried for days on end. She still cries. I remember one time in particular. She was sobbing, ”Look at what one person can do. Look at how many lives he changed–the 25,000 students at Virginia Tech, the more than 50,000 people in the surrounding community, the families, the friends. Look at what one person can do!” I said, “Yes, and conversely, look at what one person can do.” She immediately understood what I meant and said, “I have thought about that, and I wonder what I’m supposed to do with my life.”
It is well known that criminals, terrorists, and psychopaths choose victims who are likely to be unarmed. The problem with Virginia Tech is that it’s another “gun-free zone, ” which should be more correctly called a "criminal protection zone." The killer, Cho, wanted to do the most damage possible, and he reportedly was armed with 400 rounds of ammunition so that he could carry on for a long time. NOBODY could stop him. The entire campus is unarmed, so they had to wait for someone to come from the outside to stop his rampage. It was only when the police arrived that Cho realized he couldn’t go on, and he shot himself. If he knew in advance that students were likely to be armed, he may never have tried, or if he did, he would not have been able to kill as many people before someone stopped him.
Again, an unarmed teacher knew the only way he could save his students was to put his own body between them and the gunman. Professor Liviu Librescu blocked the door to his classroom so that his students could jump out the window. A survivor of the Holocaust, Librescu clearly had the will to live. He was shot several times through the door and lost his life saving his students.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech was the final straw. I was not going to be a victim anymore. My children were not going to be victims anymore.
I took my first gun safety class, and I got my first concealed carry permit. Some people may be surprized that I have changed. I am surprized that some of them haven't.