My Letter To America

It’s pretty clear to me that readers of my blog from United States outnumber all other countries by leaps and bounds, and because of that it’s important for me to say that I know what I am about to say might not fit too comfortably with those readers.  I know my country of New Zealand and yours, are quite different.  It is over twenty years now since I visited your country and I know how different what I saw then was from where I live.  Even though we might look the same, or similar, I think it is fair to say that our culture and society is quite different.  This post, which is basically about the use of guns, is not my attempt to sway your opinions on gun laws but rather I want to acknowledge that your environment is different to mine but clearly both have some issues to address in terms of guns.

In the past few days, New Zealand has been rocked by the news of the murder of two children, aged six and nine, (by their father) followed by the suicide of their father in Dunedin, one of New Zealand’s four largest cities.  It was not a mass shooting.  It is 24 years since we had a mass shooting in New Zealand (Aramoana, 1990).

The father shot dead the children in their beds, before turning on gun on himself.  Those children come from a school now in mourning, and while I hate to say it, I suspect this type of incident happens every day in your country.  In my country though, it is not common, thank God.  The mother of the children, the man’s ex-wife, had run next door to get help.  It’s hard to begin to imagine the hell she must be going through now.

The man apparently had a mental illness and was on medication for it.  To his family’s knowledge he did not have a firearms licence, necessary in New Zealand to own a gun.  It’s hard to imagine how he would have held a licence with a string of breach of protection orders in the past year.  Questions that are all being asked now.

Personally I am very glad that it is not easy to obtain a gun in my country.  I won’t pretend to be anything other than anti-guns, although as I said already I recognise that my society and yours are quite different.  But I will always stand up for more control on gun ownership.  I have no desire to live in a world where owning a gun is necessary, or even desirable.

I was 15 years old when my ex-boyfriend J loaded a rifle, gave it to me and told me to kill him.  He didn’t want to live if I wouldn’t be his girlfriend.  He owned a gun (he was 18 at the time) for hunting but I strongly believed both then and now that he should not have access to one.  Why?  He was too impulsive.  I knew he could shoot himself, or me for that matter, without too much thought.  The thought would come later, when it was too late.  And that is the problem I have with guns.  Act now, think and get the facts later.

I can still remember thinking how easily it would be to pull the trigger.  By then J had been creating a lot of problem for me by stalking.  Fear thankfully got the better of me, aside from the fact that I’m not the sort of person who could fire a bullet at anything, anyone. Harming anything is difficult for me.  I just wouldn’t do it.  Instead I dropped the gun and fled, running about three miles home.  He followed me on his motorbike.  Who knows where the gun was by then.  I didn’t stop to ask.

In spite of the fact that I would have arrived home hot, sweaty and out of breath I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.  My family was all home, it was Saturday night, and no one knew a thing.  It was many years before I ever let that burden go by telling my family (when I wrote my book).  The trauma of that night was something I carried with me from then on.  I didn’t tell anyone because I thought it must be my fault.  What’s more I had been told I must show Christian compassion to J, and frankly that seemed so unfair.  It still seems unfair and totally wrong to me.  I hate the thought of people being guilted into this Christian compassion.

That night was over 30 years ago now and, in spite of a lot of therapy, I still carry it with me when I see things like the Dunedin shooting reported.

It’s too easy to pull a trigger.  From what that man had with him, he had apparently gone there to burn the house down.  Who knows whether the shootings were part of the deal.  Maybe it was simply too easy.  I don’t know, and I guess no one will ever know.

I don’t want to get into a gun lobby debate but when this story hit me I needed to say that while I hate that those children have died, and I hate that their mother is now alone, I am very glad that guns are not common in New Zealand.  Tragedies like this happen but not often.  Thankfully.  Frankly I wish it was harder still to get our hands on guns here.  I simply don’t believe there is a need, although I accept that maybe your country is different.

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” 

― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

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21 thoughts on “My Letter To America

  1. Well, I’m an American who totally agrees with you. There are a lot of us who do, really. It’s just that the rabid Second Amendment people are a lot more vocal–or perhaps they get more media attention because they’re so extreme. Probably some of both.

    I spent the fall and winter working at a political organizing fellowship, and one of our major platform issues was better gun control laws. Since the Columbine shootings, we’ve had 17 school shootings with no major changes in our gun control laws, which is ridiculous. FWIW, the President and a bunch of Congressional Democrats have been trying hard, but the Republicans won’t let any of it pass in the House. I hope we (Democrats) can take back the House in November and pass some more sensible gun control laws, but it’s going to be one hell of an uphill battle.

    1. I really hope that you can take it back. You know when I was writing my posting I had to stop myself from thinking that two children being dead was nothing. I was thinking it was nothing compared to the mass shootings you have, but then I stopped myself because for the family of those two children, they were everything. I really hope that when your politicians fight it out they will remember the individuals lost and not just the crowds. Maybe I’m raving now 🙂 and obviously preaching to the converted but gosh, don’t we owe it to all the children who have died, both in your country and in mine. Thanks Hope.

      1. Any child being dead is huge. Any person being dead is huge and terrible, and if we can prevent it, we should.

        About a month ago, I was in Boston for a service on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. They had a candle for each child who died, and I was asked to light one. I was crying through the whole thing. This whole table full of candles. We can stop this, and we aren’t. It makes me sick.

        Things like this are why I work on political campaigns. Somebody needs to change things.

  2. John Richardson

    I believe it the second amendment to our constitution but I also believe in reasonable legislation to at least make sure that those who have guns are not criminals or psychotic. I don’t carry a gun because I’m afraid I might use it. Having a gun in your hand or in your pocket changes things. It can cause people to act in ways that can lead to tragedy. Anger is a problem that many of us have from time to time, especially men, and there would be nothing worse than to wake up from a burning rage to realize that you’ve changed your life and the lives of others, forever. Also, over the years we have had many people killed, especially children, as a result of “unloaded” guns going off. Mark Twain even wrote a story about one. Fortunately, in the story the gun was one of the few guns in American that was really, fictionally really, unloaded. The fact that Twain wrote it at all is a testament to the number of kids that were being killed accidently in America by guns even a hundred years ago. Also, you’re right, guns and impulsive behavior don’t mix. As for the countries who are able to severely restrict the use of guns and still maintain their liberty i say, God Bless you! And Cate, I’m glad you ran when you did.

    1. Hi John. I know you have constitutional rights to carry weapons but you know, from my part of the world that seems so weird and so unnecessary. I guess I wonder how we will ever achieve peace in this world when people have the right to carry guns. But that’s just my perspective.

  3. Cate:
    I think it is wonderful that New Zealand has much less of this going on than the United States, and I had a friend, years ago from New Zealand. His family had a 4,000 acre sheep farm. I always want to visit!!!

    That said, I do not own a gun now, but I have when I lived in Los Angeles in my twenties, and I think it was a wise move then.

    Also, as I become more and more educated in the ways of my Cherokee mother’s line, I cannot help but think how things might have been different if the Tsalagi had stopped negotiating with lying white European bastards who had no intention of keeping their treaties. They did the worst to us any way, so we all should have stuck with Dragging Canoe when he split from the people and took a band with him…he told the people the whites could not be trusted and drastic and deadly measures needed to be taken to preserve our motherlands. He was right. Sadly, he was 100% right. So, that said, I believe things will get worse and worse here in the United States, and being able to defend oneself, or at least go out fighting, is a right we need to preserve.

    I am very sorry for the family’s loss and the grief it has brought to your peaceful and, from the descriptions of it, absolutely gorgeous country! I hope your nation is honoring their indigenous people, as well. They are a treasure to be honored, no displaced, slaughtered and disrespected.

    I love your blogs and I hope you feel better very soon!


    Velvet2014 ❤

    1. Thanks Rita, and by the way, I love your new name 🙂 It’s great you’ve got the lady home again. I admit I don’t know much about indigenous America but certainly I know the white people have a lot to answer for. Here too. I just like peace. What’s wrong with peace? I guess I’m simplistic in that I wish they’d just put the guns down and learn to live together. That said, I know that is a big ask when they is so much hate in the world. 😦

  4. I am also an American who agrees with you. After the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook, I was sure things would change quickly. How could they not, after a massacre of innocent children? But no. Nothing. I have no answers, and it troubles me deeply. One of the many things that keep me up at night……….

  5. Firearms aren’t the only means of insurrection, which is the right that the 2nd amendment is intended to preserve. The devil’s advocates argue that if the populace is unarmed and the government is, who’s to stop Big Brother? Well, how about the nonviolent actions of the Civil Rights movement: there are other ways to achieve change.

    I agree, there should be far fewer gun owners, though I’d grant an exception for those living in remote rural areas where wildlife can pose a genuine safety risk. I often look at Canada with great envy; they are so similar to us, but so different.

  6. Well, I had a reply going that was getting lengthy, but then saw Claudia’s comment and realized how anything I was saying was meaningless. But, know that, aside from your story and whole being from New Zealand thing, I could very well have written this post, Cate. Just not as well.

  7. I think that guns are a lot like fire: if not used with the most extreme caution, bad things will happen. Unlike fire, guns are not necessary for, well, for anything, really. There are other terrifying things out there, beyond number and description, whose only purpose is to cause mayhem or, purportedly, defend from it. Being a citizen of a Middle Eastern country, I have seen a lot of things on a daily basis that I never saw in America, and I certainly hope it never comes to that. It would be a great thing if someone invented an “anti-weapon weapon.” Kind of like a neutron bomb, you know, **poof** all the people are fine, all the weapons are gone, let’s have lunch.

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