Journal of Writing & Environment

Web Rove: Weighing in on Gun Violence

by: Chris Wiewiora

This week I’m back in school, like many students—pre-K, elementary, middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate. I’ve climbed each step of public school and am at the final floor. Along the way gun violence has marked almost every level of my educational years, except elementary school.

Not only is this week the week I’m back in school, but this week also marks one month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Twenty students aren’t back in school, will never be back. I’ve been thinking about them and the gun violence that has come close to me in my life: my middle school friend Bret died from a potentially self-inflected gunshot wound, my high school friend Adam’s step-father pulled a handgun on me as I opened their house’s unlocked front door at night, in college my grade-school crush Sheena walked by the Virginia Tech shooter the day of the massacre, and at the end of college a car’s driver passed my motorcycle on one lane road and then shot at me.

Again, though, never in elementary school. Those were the grades I knew the opening songs of Saturday cartoons better than Bible verses from Sunday School. My mother required me to raise my hand over my head for truckers to see me as I crossed the street and I yanked my hand down and up again during recess to signal for truckers to blare their horns. I threw Frisbees over my family’s backyard pool to my brother with our first dog barking at us to toss one to him.

I don’t want the memories, the stories, and the conversation about kids to be over. This week I’m steering us back. This week I’m continuing, even though there’s twenty who won’t be back, ever.

Guns by Readers (from The Sun magazine)
Readers Write that sometimes gun ownership starts out as a simple rifle for protection, but then leads to slaughter—albeit pig slaughter. One person was the last casualty of WWI, in 1969. They question whether it’s hypocritical to be a twelve-gauge shotgun toting Buddhist. A jealous sibling of a friend aims a parent’s handgun at them and thankfully they don’t get a chance to shoot.

“Anywhere But Here” by Liz Clift (from the Nervous Breakdown)
A former editor of Flyway Clift culls through her memories of the well-known massacres of Columbine and Virginia Tech with where she was, whom she was with, and what their response was. It’s automatic to agree with Clift’s headshaking and unanswerable, Why? It’s necessary to go on and ask, Whatnow?

“Sam at the Gun Show” by Greg Bottoms (from Brevity)
The narrator takes an investigative look into a gun expo. There, he meets a young boy Sam whose enthusiasm for weapons is forecasted into a future nightmare. The essay reveals the reality of legal adult buyers illegally purchasing guns for children.

“Seed” by Ed Bull (from Redivider)
This first person plural narrative sifts through the witnessing and the aftermath of Charles Whitman’s 1966 clocktower shooting in Texas. Bull zooms in terrifyingly like Whitman’s scope on the victims. The piece puts into focus American society’s complacency as consumers of violence and the negative feedback loop of violence rolled back into culture for forgettable entertainment.

“Smoke in Your Eyes” a comic by MariNaomi (from theRumpus)
So, maybe you’ve wondered what the weight of holding, let alone shooting, a gun feels like? This comic follows a curious woman to the gun range with a friend and the surface-level fun they have shooting. Then, the thrill transitions to the realization that the target they’re piercing with bullets is an outline of a human that if hit in real life would be a corpse. One more tally to the body count.