Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where The Guns Are

The gunshots have been getting louder and closer over the last few years. I’ve also tried to be more careful to get home before dark, although I’ve been working too much to make that a reality.

I went to bed early last night and was lying there at about 9pm, when a fusillade of shots went off outside. I idly wondered whether I’d hear sirens or not and rolled over.

I’ve gotten used to the background of violence. I hear loud explosions all the time, and other than trying to estimate caliber and firearm, I pretty much dismiss them. According to the distinct lack of followup sirens, everybody else does the same. I live on an intersection, and have learned how to gauge the severity of a car accident by the sound of the impact. 98% of them I don’t even bother to lift a shade to check out the scene.

Let’s be clear, here, I am a medical assistant in training. I have no requirement to render medical aid, I don’t have a current CPR cert, and frankly most of my triage skills were learned from decades of reruns of M*A*S*H. You want a flu shot? I’m your girl. You want to decompress a pneumothorax with a razor blade and some bike pump tubing? You’re on your own, there, Dr. Hackenslash.

I don’t know how to control an accident scene, and the only tapes I have readily available are Scotch, duct, and old bootlegs of the Grateful Dead, not “yellow crime scene”.

Then I heard, very clearly, a man talking calmly into his cellphone. “Yes, a man was just shot here. I’m at the corner of MLK and 34th.” I can also hear, even more quietly, someone saying, “Ah, ah.”

The guy on the phone is standing over the victim, and they are both literally under my window.

I can actually hear the ambulance siren start, at the hospital, five blocks away. A few seconds later, red and blue police flashes light my apartment like a morbid Independence day. I hear the firetruck siren down the block wind itself up and move closer.

I don’t go to gawk. I don’t really want to witness Oakland’s eleventy-fifth murder of the year, if that’s how badly the man is hurt.

This is part of my gun dilemma. I want to own the guns I want to have. I consider myself a responsible gun person. I’m willing to register, take classes, earn the privilege.

But when people think about guns and Oakland, they’re not thinking about me, they’re thinking about whoever shot the guy bleeding onto the sidewalk outside my house.

That gun is most likely unregistered and illegal in California. So, gun laws don’t work, and the lack of gun laws don’t work. Excellent, so what do we do now?

What do I do? Had I a gun last night, would I have grabbed it and headed for the door at the first shot, hoping to get the shooter? Would I have gotten shot? Would innocent bystanders or drivers get caught up in the crossfire? Would there have been eight or nine people going to the ER, instead of just one?

Where is the national conversation on the reality of gun violence in this country? I listened to Prairie Home Companion yesterday and chuckled as Garrison Keillor talked about how hunting season is where we send drunken guys with guns out into the woods and hope for the best, which has its truth.

The inner city seems to be where we allow [insert prejudice here] people to have guns, and hope for the worst. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “Let ‘em kill each other off, then.” Great, except that I live here, too. Nurses, doctors, students, stockbrokers, musicians, all kinds of people make up Oakland. Do they deserve to be “killed off”? Is that truth?

Who is saying the hard thing? “We need a sensible, enforceable middle ground. We need to re-examine our priorities as a society and make different choices. If it means we have to rescind previous choices, then so be it.”

Nobody’s saying it, that I’ve heard. But this is why when my OR and ID family go off about how everyone should have the right to own guns, I let them bloviate. They don’t have to listen to gunshot after siren after gunshot, night after night. There’s no one lying outside their window without even the strength to swear at the pain, much less recite the 2nd Amendment. He can’t even say “Please help me”, he can only say, “Ah.”

Who speaks for him?

2 Comments:

Anonymous WordyGrrl said...

White grrl question: Would the real Martin Luther King, Jr be whirling in his grave if he knew about all the thousands (if not more) streets named after his peace-loving, peace-making self that are generally smack in the middle of every city's gun prime violence zone? Just askin about what's wrong with this picture....

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make many good points, but what are the solutions? Love ya! From your brother.

9:55 AM  

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