The culture of tolerating gun violence

Something has been happening at work recently that is, shall we say, very upsetting to many people.

A person I work with (same department, same shift) threatened another coworker. They had gotten into a fight. The person who is the subject of this post then threatened to retrieve his gun from his car.

This incident happened three weeks ago. We have an HR department, but their only response was to slightly alter Gun Guy’s schedule so that his shift didn’t overlap with the other person’s. In the time since then, Gun Guy was caught stealing a piece of equipment belonging to another person in our department. Although the theft was caught on a workplace security camera, he categorically denied any involvement, and once again, nothing was done.

some comic relief before things get REAL real

Perhaps this is finally the time to talk about my job. I’m a security officer at an art museum, as are all the people involved in this story so far.

I’ve always been bothered by the pro-gun rhetoric within my department. As security officers, we do not carry firearms, unlike many security officers working at other places. Our museum has a policy against firearms and I’m glad that our department is no exception to that rule. Long before I started working here, the security officers did carry firearms. If it is ever decided that we’ll begin carrying again, I will quit.

Back to the story: Gun Guy was a no-call no-show for one of his shifts recently. Finally, we thought, this could be the event that leads to him being let go. I came into work the next day so full of relief that this guy would be gone for good. Security had even disabled his employee badge so he wouldn’t be able to get back into the museum.

He showed up for work that day. He was promptly escorted downstairs to the HR office. My boss and my immediate supervisor were with him. I don’t know what happened in the course of this meeting, but my boss went to it with the intention of firing him.

They came back upstairs not long afterward. Gun Guy left the building. Everyone assumed this was it for him. He was done. I don’t normally root for team Fire That Employee, but I was very much in that camp this time.

Except he wasn’t let go. HR blocked the move. Gun Guy only left because he decided to take a PTO day to “cool off.” He would be back as scheduled the next day.

I don’t know what more has to happen before we start taking gun violence seriously. This includes threats. We’re always told to look for the warning signs. What are they, then, if this doesn’t qualify?

I want to be able to enjoy or at least be content with being at work. It can be difficult even with just the normal everyday conflicts that arise in any workplace. I thought I was reaching a point where I almost felt at peace with my job. Things were looking up, and it’s because I tried working on the way I saw things and interpreted them. I was trying to make an “inner change” because the outward change I was hoping for wasn’t happening.

My stance on guns, “gun rights,” and gun culture at large is one that I doubt will change at any time in the future. I base my views on collected evidence and my personal sense of right vs. wrong. In terms of collected evidence, I will point to some resources with information that I consider to be highly disturbing.

Police Family Violence Fact Sheet

Statistic on Guns in the Home & Safe Storage

Gun Violence in America

A few years ago, I was attacked on the street by a man who then stole my phone. I had just left a friend’s art show at around 9 p.m. and I was walking to my car which was parked up the block. It was so close that it never occurred to me to be concerned for my safety. I’m lucky that the man did not have a gun, given that I learned afterward he was most likely on drugs. The perpetrator was later apprehended in a drug house after a string of similar reported incidents. The day the cops came to my house to have me identify him in a photo lineup was the same day I interviewed for the job I currently have. That’s the last time I was told anything relating to my “case,” as it were.

The attack involved him putting his hand over my face and beating my head against the brick wall of a building. It lasted only a few seconds–he did this three times until he was able to grab my phone out of my hand. I had been on the phone with my mom at the time it happened.

I’m very lucky to have escaped with only the most minor of injuries, totally invisible to everyone but myself. Honestly, my nose hurt worse than my head did. Since it was the back of my head that made contact with the bricks, and I was rocking a pretty fly ponytail at the time, I figure it helped soften the impact.

Not everyone responds to these situations in the same way. I was angry at first, but the anger subsided pretty quickly and was replaced by fear. I was terrified of walking alone at night. This had a considerable impact on my participation in the kind of normal activities people in their mid-twenties typically participate in. I remember a couple of weeks after the incident, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party, which was fine at first, but the planned events for the night involved driving around the city to multiple different locations for food and drinks and dessert. At one point in the night I was going to have to drive to yet another place, this one being pretty popular for ice cream and drinks. It was a weekend night on a strip that is usually pretty crowded at night. I was unable to find any place to park that wasn’t multiple blocks from the location. After driving around and around, hoping that a spot would become available, I gave up and drove home. I texted my friend that I was sorry, but I couldn’t find a nearby parking spot and I wasn’t comfortable walking alone. She was less than pleased. For a number of reasons, we are no longer friends, but the coldness of her response during a time that I could have used some amount of understanding hurt me pretty badly, especially given that I had made the effort to attend all the other events she had planned that evening despite my reservations.

By this point, only weeks after the incident, I felt almost no anger toward the person who attacked me. I couldn’t work up the energy to hate someone who I didn’t even know and who didn’t know me either. It was a random attack and I just happened to be a convenient target. After all was said and done, the only thing I really hated about it was how it made me scared to do normal things.

At the time, I was working at a different art museum on the campus of a Top-20 university. I was a pretty low-level employee at the museum, which meant that I didn’t have access to the closer parking lots reserved for students with parking passes or higher-level employees with their parking passes. The closest parking available was on the street, blocks away from the museum. Walking to my car at night after work was something I just had to deal with. My heart would start racing every time and I dreamt of getting a different job even though I loved that job.

Do you want to know what was more hurtful than the attack and more hurtful than my friend’s lack of understanding? Because the most hurtful thing, without a doubt, was something that first occurred months after the attack. A friend of my parents’, someone I’ve known my entire life and who is one of their closest friends, told me in an accusing, victim-blaming way: “I bet you wish you’d had a gun, huh?”

No, I don’t wish. I didn’t wish then and I certainly don’t wish now. If you’re the type of person who thinks a mugging is sufficient cause to shoot someone, you can stop reading right here, because I promise it won’t get any better for you. 

Not only do I not wish I’d been able to shoot the guy–far from it–I do not wish any harm on him whatsoever. I don’t even know if I think he should be in jail. He needs, or needed, a lot more help than any prison could provide. Whether he deserves to be in prison is another question I’m unqualified to answer. It does not make me happy thinking that he might be in prison right now. Why would that make me happy? Besides, these days I hardly ever think of what happened, and I’m only thinking about it now because what I’m actually pissed about is this fawning, taint-licking attitude toward guns and gun culture that I feel immersed in and unable to escape from due to the nature of my job and the people it puts me in close contact with. 

The comment my parents’ friend made was only the first of many similar comments I was supposed to just sit there and take. None of these people were speaking from their own experience as victims of violent attacks. It’s easy for them to project their insecurities onto me, because they all live safely away from the city and in very well-to-do communities.

Here’s my wish: that the person who mugged me is living his best life. I harbor no ill feelings toward him. Part of me is glad that I never learned his name because it would cause me a lot of pain if I ever searched for him online and found out he was still in trouble in some way. I hope that none of the incidents he involved himself in were any worse than my own. If you get to the point in your life where you’re attacking people and stealing stuff for drug money, I automatically assume you’re doing it out of desperation. Drugs make people do crazy things. I hope he’s clean now and I hope he has a support system. The alternative is too depressing to think about.

Here’s my other wish: that we stop acting like guns are a solution to any problem, real or perceived. I was watching a movie a few months ago, and I guess because it was of Indian origin and production, they go about their ratings/warnings system in a different way than in the U.S. Throughout the film, the main character is shown smoking cigarettes. Any time this occurred, a warning appeared on the bottom of the screen that read “Tobacco/Smoking Kills.” This was the first time I’d experienced in-movie warnings, and while it did “take me out of the movie” so to speak, it got me thinking: I would cut off my pinkie finger right here and right now (to satisfy their bloodlust) if the American film industry was forced to do this, but with guns. I would love to see the glorification of gun violence in film come to an end. No director would want their movie to have warnings contained within their film, so it would force their hand in respect to the message they’re attempting to send about gun violence. Any movie that has a script that condescends to its audience in such a way to make them believe that the use of a gun was a good thing rather than a bad thing would be slapped with an in-movie warning.

Here’s my other other wish: that my coworker gets fired sooner rather than later, and hopefully not “too late.”

Suck on that, NRA.

P.S. The film I watched was Crossing Bridges, directed by Sange Dorjee Thongdok and starring Phuntsu Khrime. Available for free on Amazon Prime.

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