Readers respond to gun violence. Their reactions may surprise you.

Why We Wrote This

We want to know readers’ views on the difficult issues of the day. When we asked about gun violence, we saw a range of perspectives, underscoring how views don’t always fit into neat categories.

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Americans remain divided over whether gun ownership and gun carry contribute to personal safety or impede a common defense.

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Sometimes national movements – such as pro- or anti-gun – are a powerful way to effect change. But when it comes to mass gun violence, it seems clear that Americans are also addressing the attacks on more personal and intimate terms.

Following the shooting last month at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, in which 12 people were killed, the Monitor asked readers: Have you taken any action in your own life in response to gun violence? We got more than 100 responses. From anti-gun advocates learning how to fire weapons to gun owners locking up their guns for good, they reflect deep soul-searching – and suggest that for many, the answer lies in asserting personal control and agency against the growing impacts of mass violence.

As a scourge of mass gun violence affects more and more Americans – from survivors to their families and friends to entire communities – the Monitor’s readers are digging deep for answers in response to our question: Have you taken any action in your own life in response to gun violence?

We got more than 100 responses, a number of which we’re sharing with you today. But first, some context:

From 2000 to 2017, the FBI reported 250 active-shooter incidents in the United States, resulting in 799 deaths and more than 1,400 people wounded. Among them were the 58 people killed in Las Vegas; a 2017 shooting that turned some 22,000 concertgoers into survivors. Twelve more people were killed last month at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

Sometimes the blur of bloodshed can make a solution seem like a lost cause. Americans, after all, remain divided over whether gun ownership and gun carry contribute to personal safety or impede a common defense.

Politics shadows the issue. After sales boomed during the Obama administration, out of concerns the government would confiscate guns, gun-makers are struggling with weak sales in the Trump era, as those fears recede.

At the same time, gun control advocacy has seen a rebound after the March for Our Lives movement started by survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last year. Even conservative states like Florida have contracted gun rights, if ever so slightly, to try to stem the violence. Conversely, many gun-owning Americans are less keen than ever to cede their personal safety to anyone else.

Sometimes national movements – such as pro- or anti-gun – are a powerful way to effect change. But when it comes to mass gun violence, it seems clear that Americans are also addressing the attacks on more personal and intimate terms.

Now to your answers. From anti-gun advocates learning how to fire weapons to gun owners locking up their guns for good, they reflect deep soul-searching. But they also suggest that the answer for many lies in asserting personal control and agency against the growing mental and physical impacts of mass violence. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

‘It was enough to awaken me’

“Someone I knew died at Columbine, so I responded by looking into the issue as much as I could. The more homework I did the more I transitioned from the gun-control to the gun-rights position. I’m now a member of the Liberal Gun Club.” – Nicholas Severn, via Facebook

“My brother taught me how to shoot his .22 rifle when I was a young teen. It was fun, exciting, gutsy. And I was a pretty good shot. But one day his gun exploded, sending a shard into his eye. We took him to the hospital, and before long he was well again. But I never shot a gun again. This story of violent injury is small stuff compared to what other families have suffered, but it was enough to awaken me.” – Sara Barnacle

“I joined the local San Francisco Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense after the Parkland shooting. There were so many people at the new member coffee, the organizers had to move it to a park across the street. Honestly, I’ve gone to a handful of monthly meetings and signed up for basic volunteering roles, but I’m not especially active beyond social media. I am extremely impressed with the organization and the local leadership.” – Kristin Messer, San Francisco

‘I don’t know what else I can do’

“I have a gun at home, put away, because I live in a very rural area. I would never take it out in public. I don’t know what else I can do. I have many neighbors who get all drunk and start shooting. Scary. I stay away from concerts and other public places. My grandson, who is 7, just had an active-shooter drill at school. I hate it.” Virginia Musante, Grafton, New Hampshire 

“I’m concerned about all forms of violence, and I fear that the term ‘gun violence’ often represents the fear of mass shootings. I’m an old white guy, but it distresses me to see middle-class Americans ignore the injustice and violence that plague the poor and only respond when they see victims they can identify with.” – Don Leverty, Highland Village, Texas 

“I stay in more.” – Dusty Struthers, via Facebook

‘This may sound counterintuitive ...’

“Bought better locking and storage items to keep my firearms out of the wrong hands.”  Grayson Starr, via Facebook

“I was anti-gun before they became a way of life. Never let my sons have toy guns or play war or anything with the idea of gun. They are now in their 50s, and none of the four owns a gun even though they live in Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida!” – Diana Horsky Schwarze, via Facebook

“I’ve acquired more firearms in response to gun violence.” – Tony Adams, Phoenix

“I vote for anti-gun laws and pro-regulation. I know that is probably what many people will say, but honestly it’s hard not to feel powerless against this large issue. I’ve also taken time to learn how to use a gun myself and fire it. This may sound counterintuitive, but I find that the more that I understand what I’m fighting for or against, the more able I am to make rational decisions.” – Alexandra K., Los Angeles

This article is part of our “Your Monitor” initiative. 

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