Four months ago, my husband and I relocated to the US after five years of living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Our decision was, in part, based on wanting to start a family, assuming we are able to do so. It seemed for us like common sense. Navigating the uncharted (and terrifying) territory of having our first child felt like it would be slightly more manageable if we were living in one of our home countries — I’m American and my husband is British.
Recently, however, I’ve found myself questioning the implication of this decision in a country that feels more unsafe as each day progresses.
So far in 2017, approximately 307 mass shootings have occurred, resulting in the death of more than 200 people from the point that we moved to California to the point of writing this. The most recent tragedy took place only last Sunday at a church in Sunderland Springs, Texas, where Devin Kelley walked in during a sermon and opened fire into a crowd of church goers. Kelley took the lives of nearly 26 men, women and children, including one unborn child. Earlier in the same week, two more incidents took place; one at a Starbucks in Chicago, and another at a Walmart in Thornton, Colorado.
“This infatuation and inability to compromise has forced many of us to adopt a kind of numb resignation over the years.”
The issue of gun control is nothing new. America’s relationships with guns is as imbedded in our national identity as blue jeans and baseball. We literally have legislation written into our constitution which offers civilians the right to own firearms. And though the syntax and applicability of this law in 2017 is often up for debate, point blank, we as a nation are obsessed with guns and maintaining our right to own them.
Yet this infatuation and inability to compromise has led to devastating results – one that has forced many of us to adopt a kind of numb resignation over the years. Where once those pushing for stronger gun control would spend weeks mourning over the dead following a shooting, in recent times, those not directly affected have found it easier to meet each tragedy with a sort of exhausted acceptance. That’s not to say that we don’t care. On the contrary, it’s a coping mechanism of knowing that, despite all the phone calls to officials, protests, donations and rallies, nothing seems to bring about surmountable change. We passed that moment of ‘drawing our line’ in the sand years ago.
“The moment our politicians decided not to take action following the murder of 20 children was the point we crossed into a place we could come back from.”
For countries like the UK and Australia, their defining moment — Dunblane and Port Arthur respectively — paved the way towards real and effective gun reforms. For America, however, that moment has long passed. Our turning point could have been Sandy Hook, a tragedy so heinous it’s been dubbed one of the deadliest mass shootings carried out by a single person in US history.
Most hoping for gun reform will concede that the moment our politicians decided not to take action following the murder of 20 children between the ages of six and seven was the point we crossed into a place we could come back from. It was at that moment that those elected to serve the American people proved that money received by interest groups, like the NRA, superseded the safety and wellbeing of American citizens. Instead they directed the narrative towards the need for better services for those with mental illness. This argument would be rolled out for nearly every mass shooting thereafter, left in the mainstream dialogue for only as long as the cameras are rolling and the spotlight taken off the actual issue at hand.
And this is where I now find myself. At a crossroad of wanting to bring life into this world and terrified it will be taken away because those who have the power to act refuse. Where before the feeling of powerlessness was simply part of the guns-blazing American narrative, something about the possibility of bringing a child into this mess forces the situation into the foreground in a kind of bright, overwhelming technicolour I never thought possible. My stake in the game may be an as-yet hypothetical child, but I’m finding renewed reason to keep pushing against our gun rights inertia.