I woke up Friday morning with the plan of purchasing a shotgun.
I have never been a gun person. Raised in the suburbs of Las Vegas with parents that didn’t own any weapons, I never had any contact with guns with the exception of a Boy Scout excursion. Guns scare me. The sheer power of guns to discharge propellants capable of killing something was enough to make me never want to handle one.
It wasn’t until I went shooting with my buddy Scott Croft in Logan, did I start thinking that I wanted to own a shotgun. We went trap-shooting but instead of clay pigeons, we threw emptied Miller Lite cans filled with gravel. It was fantastic. We were at a gun range and shot boxes of shells. We challenged each other to shooting contests and laughed throughout it all. Never once did we act irresponsible and never once did I feel as if I was in danger.
Even though we handled weapons capable of killing a man, we never treated the guns like anything but what they were—guns.
It was liberating and exciting. I decided that I was going to buy a shotgun and take it shooting in the west desert and do my best to down as many clay pigeons as possible. It was cheap to get my hands on a shotgun and the availability of shells was easy. I thought it would be a great excuse to slip out of the house and go shooting.
Instead, all of this crashed to halt when I heard about the attacks in Connecticut.
27 people were slaughtered by a madman. Some lunatic decided that instead of just killing himself that he would open fire on a crowded classroom. This is the very definition of a coward. While the facts surrounding the case haven’t all come in, this animal decided to slaughter women and children for some reason that we will never understand. Sitting in my truck getting ready to buy a weapon and listening to KCPW before I head to Scheels, I tried to compose myself while I heard the most disturbing news one could ever hear.
We’re not taught how to grieve for those we don’t know.
But I was grieving. I was sicken to hear what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary and wished with all of my heart that it wasn’t true. 27 people were killed—20 children under the age of 10 and 7 adults. Some madman carrying an assault rifle opened fire and decimated a classroom of kids with no hesitation. It is moments like this that I wished I believed in God and there was a higher power working. Unfortunately, there was no cosmic design for what happened. It was simply the act of a brutal individual against people he should never have grievance with.
I am sickened that 2012 will be the year of the murdering gun spree. I will never forget that when I heard of the attack in the movie theater and my heart sank thinking the midnight killing in Aurora Colorado was here in Salt Lake where my friends Bill Oram, Kyle Good and Jack Wang were seeing the movie. I will never forget feeling guilty that the attack happened outside of Utah and my friends were safe while 12 people were assassinated and countless injured. The attack at the mosque in Wisconsin was unthinkable. The shooting at the Empire State Building or the recent attack in Oregon is enough for you to want to hide in your home forever.
The scariest thought is that every day at every minute, there is an act of gun violence in this country.
Five years ago, while walking our dog, Samson, Erin and I were trying to decide to where to eat. As night was falling, we settled on cooking at home for the evening but we were leaning towards going to Trolley Square to have dinner at the Desert Edge Brewery. By the time we made it back to our home, we learned on the television that some asshole had killed 5 people at Trolley Square and had been killed. This is not survivor’s guilt but our world became equal larger and smaller in thinking that an attack of this magnitude could occur at some place we frequented. The 6-degrees of separation of gun violence were cut in half.
I don’t know what I would have done if we decided to head that direction. Hopefully, we would have been spared but living a life of hoping bad things don’t happen to you is not a life. It is a sad and pathetic agenda.
On Thursday, my youngest brother, Patrick, and his wife, Annie, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named John Fredrick Raskin—their first and my third nephew. It’s a new chapter in Pat and Annie’s life with the responsibility of raising this boy who bears the name of our mother’s brother and our father’s father. Years from now, when Jack is old enough to read a history book I guarantee he’ll discover the horrible events in Newtown Connecticut and he’ll have hard questions for my brother.
There will be no answer. Mental illness and access to guns gave this madman the power to snuff life recklessly and with no remorse. Kids barely older than my new nephew were killed and Jack will probably want to know why. If placed in Patrick’s position, I can’t imagine what answer he could muster simply because there isn’t one.
Americans are violent and destructive people. What make us strong and formidable are the same descriptions of what make us violent and unpredictable. We have a capacity to do unselfish goodness for others and the power to kill, destroy and eradicate.
I make it a matter of pride that I don’t live in fear. I know that every moment of my life is precarious but I don’t think I could lift the covers off my face in the morning if I focused on the dreadful “what ifs?” There is so much random violence in this world that I choose to take care of my family and try to do as much good as I can in this world. It’s a simple equation—take care of those you love and try to eliminate as much collateral damage from those outside of your inner-circle. It might be a selfish way to approach life but I don’t any other.
My heart hurts. It hurts for the victims of the violent attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary. It hurts for the parents of children that were slaughtered. It hurts for the families of the adults killed in defending the students. It hurts for the community of Newtown. It hurts for the people that read or watched the violence and were sickened and defeated. Mostly, it hurts that another example of innocents lost was thrust in our face and we don’t live in a safe and rational society.
There will never be a satisfying enough answer to why this madman did what he did. There will never be a sufficient reason for why he killed innocent children and their teachers that will give a modicum of relief to the bloodshed on the morning of December 14th in a quiet suburban town in Connecticut. Reason and morality are thrown to the wayside and the only hope we can have is that this tragedy will be used to finally bring some sanity to gun ownership in this country. Nothing short of a complete overhaul of the America’s approach to gun ownership will be the final insult to the 27 people killed.
I still want to buy my shotgun. I still have visions of trap-shooting at the western deserts of Utah and learning to handle a weapon but I am left with an incredibly bitter taste in my mouth that I want to join the ranks of gun owners in this country. Trying to find justification to own a killing tool and want guns taken out of the hands of other people is a taxing mental exercise and one that I don’t have the right answer. Mostly, it makes me disgusted that I want to own a shotgun.
In the end, I find myself trying to have the strength to address that we live in a random and often scary place. Bad things seem to happen at an alarming rate and there seems to be no stop to these mass murder sprees. The randomness of it all is what will keep me awake tonight and keep myself in constant vigilance against the next inevitable attack.
In reality, what will keep me awake tonight is that 27 families are forever changed and damaged. No manner of grieving will bring back their love ones and to this point, I am eternally saddened. Until everyone shares my outrage and disappointment this violent attack occurred, I don’t think there will ever be safety in this country. As a nation, we’ve worked collectively to build a society that defends and strengthens our citizenery. The fact that innocent people can be slaughtered for no reason needs to be the collective question will need to always be striving to answer.
Until that day, there will never be safety or security.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. He hosts the SLC PubCast. There is no way to describe how upset he is over the killing at Sandy Hook.