As an activist, parent, and Ohio resident, I’ve hit my emotional bandwidth on the topic of gun control and reform.
Sitting Out The March For Our Lives
This year I skipped the March for Our Lives for gun control in Ohio. I took my oldest child on a playdate instead.
I used to volunteer with Moms Demand Action. What happened?
I’m the same age as the Columbine killers would be. In 1999 I never ever thought another school shooting would happen. Adolescent fearlessness still existed at the start of the new millennium. When I graduated in 2000, school shootings weren’t a concern of mine. By the time I was a parent at 30, things had drastically changed.
For a brief time only myself and one other woman went to Columbus Pride, to pull sign ups for the Moms chapter. A few years later, in 2019, I marched with the Moms Columbus chapter. By then, I was a mom x2, divorced x1.
Tired of Feeling Unsafe In The Absence of Gun Reform
So why am I sitting here with my thoughts, and my end-of-the-world-playlist, instead of marching for gun control? Because my body, my children, my spouse, and my community are already at risk. I’m sick of being out in public during a pandemic still, while the federal and state governments do nothing to ensure anyone’s safety.
“Mental health” has become ambiguous jargon that politicians conveniently use to sound like they care when they really have no idea the hell it can be to actually work in the field. There are real mental health professionals, and we have some words about what politicians are doing when they make broad, clueless, ableist, and almost always harmful statements about “mental health.”
Fuck marching for my life.
Every time I watch my child walk to their school bus stop in the morning, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Are they marching for their life every time I let them walk into school? Am I just normalizing this reality for them? How can I just…go along with it?
Years ago, several mom friends told me I was being “too dramatic” being concerned about gun control. They waved off my fears. Maybe it’s the mental health professional in me, but I often examine my own behavior and wonder who it serves and my reasons for doing what I do.
They’re literally writing death into the law.
Since the 2020 summer uprisings, following the murder of George Floyd, a staggering display of militant police power, control, and arms has only increased. It’s noticeable nationwide, and certainly in Ohio.
Legislation to restrict funds and access for LGBTQIA2S health care, abortion, HIV+ health care, ethical education, public health, mental health, and insurance reimbursement have been introduced in Ohio. Those most harmed by these bills are Indigenous, Black, and mixed race people across the board. There are now, in Ohio, current legislative action that will increase access to guns while simultaneously restricting access to ethical mental health and medical care.
Both Cleveland and Columbus allocate the majority of their budgets to police. This includes more militarized gear, obviously, in two cities with long, bloody and well documented histories of Black dead bodies at the hands of police. The HB 109 essentially criminalizes protesting, and is extremely close to becoming law.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I am trained, however, to see patterns. The emerging pattern is the creation of a hostile environment inside Ohio, for all people who aren’t white like me, and who aren’t cis, heterosexual, and Christian.
It’s been very obvious for years. There is no way that I’m the only one who can feel it. And I know normalizing it isn’t helping anyone. We can call it for what it is: They’re writing death into the law. They’re pulling money from life-affirming, educational, and mental-health related initiatives, and they’re rerouting funding to police.
On June 1st the City of Columbus postponed the lighting of the city council building for Gun Violence Prevention, citing a “scheduling error.” Then, unironically the city rescheduled the lighting for June 13: the day that conceal carry restrictions cease. That same day the governor is set to sign a bill relaxing restrictions for arming teachers.
While Ohio often makes a spectacle of itself out-bigotting other states, it’s no secret that nationally, armed white people, specifically, are increasingly targeting Black and Indigenous people. The gun-nuts are fueled by bigotry, white nationalist rhetoric, and legal access to lethal weapons.
The Uncomplicated Truth about Gun Control
The most important and obvious predictor of gun violence is access to a firearm. Just ask anyone else who’s ever done suicide and homicide assessments. While such assessments are a nuanced and specific skillset, it doesn’t take a degree to plainly understand that access to weapons dramatically increases potential risk to both personal and public safety. Access to firearms specifically increases lethality. That’s it. There’s no long soundbite, that’s just basic and boring, common, data.
The fact that racist hatred seems to be flush with the agenda of my state governor is despicable. A bolster to police budgets for weapons was an obvious power play, but loosening conceal carry is downright absurd. And their solution to school shootings is to arm more people in schools. Weapons inside is more likely to result in a student suicide (because a careless adult left a weapon unattended) than prevent the future slaughter of children.
There will be no heroes here.
Statistically speaking, suicidal students are more likely to be LGBTQIA2S, Indigenous, Black, or mixed race. Youth suicidal behavior and deaths are at an all time high, as is substance use (another factor which could increase the use of a firearm while suicidal), and the State of Ohio is irresponsibly moving hate speech disguised as House Bills 616, 454, and 151. These proposed laws would deny those very children most at risk for suicide their very existence.
This Sunday morning, I sat intentionally with my laptop and looked up authors I follow on Twitter.
Today, I found this wonderful piece by Hal H. Harris. It’s my job to see patterns; specifically patterns of behavior.
And I can see similar patterns of behaviors which led to gun violence in Buffalo, being enthusiastically facilitated by Ohio legislation. Codified. Legitimized. Collectively. I see these patterns always culminating in Black deaths as Black lives are those mainly taken by over-empowered and protected policemen.
Ohio is not unique. White Christian nationalists are swallowing whole communities, annihilating others, and they are led by people raised in families just like my own. They always have around here. Now, we have the exciting ability to share information and work together to stop ongoing death.
The real question is, will we?