Dawn Hochsprung and her daughter AnneTo carry a gun or not, to arm teachers or not, to ban semi-automatic rifles or not -- for most of us these questions about gun rights and gun control are mostly theoretical. They're something you ponder or read about or notice popping up in a zealous friend’s Facebook feed -- but it's not something you FEEL to the core of your being when you think about it. Probably not anyway. Unless you've been directly affected by a crime, especially a crime of gun violence, like the daughters of Dawn Hochsprung, the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who lost her life in that December tragedy.
The organization One Million Moms for Gun Control is trying to change how we think about guns in a really powerful way. They’re making it personal by creating a space for the people affected by gun violence to share their stories. People like Anne, Amy, and Beth, the three grieving stepdaughters of Principal Hochsprung.
These young women lost so much more than an abstract concept on at that inexplicably violent day at Sandy Hook; they lost their beloved stepmom, the woman who shared her heart with them, the woman their father shared his life with, and the woman their own children called Grandma. When you read the simple, powerful stories they share, this abstract issue suddenly becomes painfully personal.
On my fridge there is a photo of my sisters and me with our dad; our faces filled with joy and smiles. For ten years, Dawn made my dad so incredibly happy. She put a smile on his face and, albeit cheesy, the spring in his step. I find myself looking at that picture daily and willing that smile to come back to my dad’s face. His life has been turned upside down, his well-laid plans for the future are now in pieces and the sparkle in his eyes has gone out. All because of one word: Gun.
Can’t you just picture that photograph? One of those pictures you stick on the refrigerator, and over time it kind of becomes invisible, background, just one of the many mementos of a happy day that you don’t even take time to notice as you open the door to grab the milk or butter. And now, it means so much more. Now it’s a reminder not only of a happy moment, but of all that has been lost.
Amy starts out her piece by writing, “I’m embarrassed to say that before December 14, 2012, I hadn’t ever really given a lot of thought to gun control.” And I can so relate to that -- because it’s always been the same for me. If I’d been polled, I would surely have supported the vague idea of “stronger gun control laws,” but it wasn’t something that really touched me. But of course, after that terrible day, Anne’s perspective changed forever. She writes:
Now, I feel the word “gun” in the pit of my stomach. It is no longer an abstract concept; instead, it has weight and heft to it. It has become tangible. And ugly. I find myself lingering over the concrete details of Dawn’s death. How many times was she shot, when she ran out of the office? Where was she shot? Did she have time to think, and feel fear, and then pain? Now the word gun makes me sick.
It’s making me sick, too. Something like this is hard to read, but it’s so important because it’s easy to get lost in the rhetoric when it comes to gun control. It’s easy to, as Dawn’s daughter Beth writes, “see both sides of the story” -- something Beth shares she often does with big issues, something she USED to do with gun control. Not any more:
For what it’s worth, I can no longer see both sides of the story or remain open-minded about this issue. ... I may incur the wrath and disapproval of neighbors and friends who feel differently, but I, as an individual, need to get off the fence and be part of the dialogue. I owe it to my children to “be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi). I owe it to Dawn.
We all owe it to Dawn to really think about the human face of this “issue” when we talk about gun control, when we decide whether or not to get involved, or how to cast our votes. Before you make up your mind about a proposed assault weapons ban, or stronger gun regulations, take it out of the abstract, look at the faces, and let it get personal. We owe that much to Dawn, to the murdered children of Sandy Hook, and to every SINGLE person who, thanks to somebody armed with a gun, has been left with nothing but memories, photographs, and a broken heart.
Did the tragedy of Sandy Hook change how you feel about gun control? Does reading those stories?
Image via OneMillionMomsforGunControl.org