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What My Mother Taught Me About Guns




Maybe it’s time for the millions of American victims of gun violence to come out of the shadows and make real what guns are doing to our lives.

I’m one of those Americans. My white-haired, 82-year-old mother, after two hospitalizations for major depression, was able to easily purchase handguns from local Westside gun shops. The first time she let me know and, together with a female police officer, we took it away from her. The second time she used a gun to end her life.

I’ve often tried to picture the gun dealers who helped her make these purchases – standing behind the glass counter, advising this elderly woman on which gun would theoretically assure her personal safety. Never having used a gun in her life before, she went into the Santa Monica mountains to practice shooting it.

As we headed to my mom’s senior housing facility to retrieve the first gun, the policewoman assured me that women don’t use handguns on themselves – they don’t like to make a mess. But in my mother’s case the officer was dead wrong. A strong-willed refugee from Nazi Germany, my mom took advantage of the loose (or really non-existent) regulations promoted by the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun lobbies. And after we took away her first gun, she quickly bought another.

The trauma of my mother’s gun-assisted suicide radiated through my family, through Holiday Villa where she lived and through her extended community of friends and colleagues. Our government’s policies conspired to make her suicide easy to carry out and, in a sense, publicly sanctioned.

So when I heard President Obama say yesterday morning that now is the time to take action on the issue of gun access and gun proliferation in our nation, I decided that it’s time to personally come out of the shadows. Signing petitions is great and demonstrations are even better. But starting to share our painful personal stories about how close each of us is to the damage and destruction caused by guns may help to finally drown out the voices on the other side.

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