The bullet landed in a bed frame in the college dorm. I heard about that shot at close range during my first meeting with Moms Demand Action, another one of the ways I’m stretching myself to tell my story. Like the woman telling about the dorm accident, it was my story too.
But first I had to get to that meeting. I was running late. If you know me, that probably doesn’t surprise you. I was committed to the moms’ gun safety group, but I lingered before I left the house. Instead of casually flipping through a magazine and relaxing before leaving on time, I was cramming in as many to-do items as possible. I put those dirty glasses into the dishwasher, added food to dog bowls, and watered the wilting plants. You know, the important things in life that can’t wait.
Those last-minute tasks had me driving like a crazy woman to the meeting. I zipped through stoplights that just turned red, checking Google Maps and hoping to beat the start time. Google had me arriving a few minutes late. I remained optimistic about missing nothing, though. When does a meeting ever start on time? Google Maps was right about my ETA.
I have to park on a side street, but I’m relieved when I watch another woman cross the street, also arriving late. The Brentwood Social House is a pastry cafe. The front counter that usually displays croissants, muffins, and fresh baked breads is empty. The cafe is an old converted house, and the meeting is in one of the smaller rooms up front. A cheerful volunteer directs me to the sign-in table, points to an ice chest of cold sodas, and then tells me to take a free Moms Demand Action t-shirt and a wristband, too.
Meetings like this happen in public places. After sizing up the shirts I take in a chair in the middle of the room. All around me people are talking. The lady next to me is complaining about a bad smell. “Oh, its just a toilet backed up,” says her friend. I decide to ignore it by taking an interest in the artwork on the walls. It doesn’t exactly mask the smell, but the colorful, quirky paintings for sale are a distraction.
Finally a youthful mom with dark hair and eyes, wearing the bright red Moms Demand Action t-shirt, introduces herself and welcomes everyone. She then gives an update on the progress that’s been made. I’m listen but wondering how many of these people have suffered a loss like mine—or are they here because they’re passionate about changing a gun culture?
The guest speaker is dressed in purple. I notice she’s even wearing really cute purple pumps. She’s an attorney with the Texas Council on Family Violence, and her purple is for October’s Violence Awareness Month. She talks about how she got involved, her kids, and then shares statistics. Stuff I didn’t know, like 68 percent of violence perpetrators use a firearm to murder their female partner, 77 percent of perpetrators kill their partner in the home—and in Texas last year, 183 children lost their parent.
The statistics convince me I’m just a small fish in this big ocean of guns. I think about Jon’s death, and then the children who live in fear. The horror of losing a mom killed by a dad. I understand why some people don’t want any guns in the world. The attorney in her purple pumps confesses to being a gun owner. This is a match up for me. We both believe we can live in a world with guns, so long as there’s enough safety.
Moms Demand Action works to lobby for responsible ownership of guns in places where children, no matter how old they are, might be within range. They propose control, but we all know the group’s genuine goal is safety. We all have a desire for safety in common.
Finally, there’s a Q&A. I listen, but not really, because I’m jotting down notes for this blog. Suddenly the volunteer who checked me in speaks up. She says, “Did you all know there was a recent accidentally discharge of handgun at the Texas A&M campus?”
I hear a few gasps, and then someone who has a child at the school asks for details. It didn’t make national news, just the College Station Eagle newspaper. At this university, the second-biggest in Texas, a stray bullet from a Glock was shot through a dorm room. The owner, a licensed concealed carry holder, let another student hold his gun when it accidentally discharged. It eventually lodged in the bedframe of the room next door. It’s a miracle no one was hurt.
That’s the problem. Texas has campus carry laws and the guns can float through the dorm rooms. The university spokesperson said there was “minimal property damage.” Yeah that’s what we should be concerned about. I felt my blood boil.
Afterwards, I walked straight up to the volunteer of the group’s BeSmart program and linked my story with the one I just heard. People didn’t think that A&M gun was loaded. Like in Jon’s deadly accident, the guns can sit out in rooms with students who don’t know safety measures for guns. They know movies and first-person shooter games.
The lack of safety can be a trigger for gun owners. The practices and regulations from the school administration are full of holes, like the laws. My book helps my work as a safety advocate—a label I just started using because let’s face it, it fits so well with my mission to close up the holes. Every one of those holes might kill a son like mine, a boy who had the tragic misfortune to be in a room with college kids and an unsafe gun.
I told that volunteer to call me and tell me what she wanted me to do. I am willing and ready. I don’t have much experience in this yet. All I have is a family tragedy and a desire to keep other sons and daughters safer than my Jon was in that college town. A day with your friends who own guns is around every corner for every student. When that day comes, better education and the New Talk might keep tragedy out of range.
Do you have a story like this one? Something that happened with a handgun and a college student? Tell it, on Facebook or Twitter, or reply to me and I’ll forward the message. Hagtag your story #mystorytoo, so we can tell the world how much we need more safety.