Joco Opinion

In gun country, a call for Kansas legislators to remember Virginia Tech

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/Kansas City Star

Considering its timeliness, this story deserves an encore or update. The morning of April 16th, 2007, my sister and her husband were locked in their offices in the English department on the Virginia Tech campus, while a young shooter with assault weapons killed whoever he could, a few buildings away.

Before you imagine yourself in one of those classrooms, fingering the trigger on your “good guy” gun, allow me to give you a true, not alternative, fact. Even if you carried your concealed, loaded gun to class every single day, your chances of being a hero are pretty slim.

Why? Because you would probably be shot, either by the shooter or by a trained security guard coming upon the scene, unsure of who is good, and who is not. So let’s just get that out of the way. Basically, unless you’re an armed marshal working a commercial flight, you are more in the way than you are any help.

I am aware that I live in a Gun Country, surrounded by Gun Culture, and can never solve the Gun Problem. You can own a thousand guns, or one: I’ll never understand why. But I know that no matter how many guns you can get, and lose, you can always replace them.

No matter how rare, or how special, or how whatever, you can find another one. You can get them illegally and legally. You can get them online. You can get them at a gun show. You can get them in a gun shop. You can get them in a robbery.

I, however, cannot replace my sister, had she been standing in a classroom at that moment on April 16th, 2007, instead of preparing for her class later that day. I cannot replace any of the first graders who were murdered in Sandy Hook before Christmas in 2012. I cannot replace students or bystanders of any age. I cannot replace anyone who is killed by gunshot. If it’s by accident, intentional, collateral, it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve been shot and killed, you’re gone. The gun is still there.

Last week, Kansas House Bill 2150 ended up in an 11-11 tie, with the chair abstaining. It is intended to extend an exemption from an earlier bill, making it legal to carry concealed guns on campuses, in hospitals and mental health centers.

The tie indicates that some of our Kansas elected officials are at least discussing this serious problem. Maybe they are finally listening to us, or they have a conscience, or they are not afraid of the NRA lobby, which attempts to own, lock, stock and barrel every elected official in this country, unless shaken off by a few independent thinkers. If this isn’t the legislature’s job, what is?

Maybe everyone doesn’t know this, but after each of these shootings—and there seems to be no limit to them—my sister and her colleagues at Virginia Tech sometimes scour the staff and faculty lists of the currently affected campus, searching for a name to connect with, to reach out to. There is a sister- and brotherhood of support, wherein targeted campuses become eligible for induction into a group to which no one wants to belong.

I recently met a new neighbor, a history professor who was on the Northern Illinois campus in 2008 when it became the site of another shooting. When I mentioned that my sister was in Blacksburg the year before, she said that someone from Virginia Tech sent them homemade cookies, as in the ultimate comfort food, after the shooting on their campus. Sleepover snacks sent from one grownup survivor of a murderous attack to another.

Just typing that makes me sad. I sometimes bring brownies to the KU class I audit, in which everyone but the professor and me, is 20-something. Knowing that a professor somewhere sent treats to an anonymous person who escaped being shot one day at work compels me to urge the Kansas legislature to do its job. Please don’t wait until they send us cookies.

Ellen Murphy; murphysister04@gmail.com.

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