Penny For Your Thoughts // Rachel Grace Almeida

When I was eight years old, my friend and next-door neighbor Jonathan accidentally shot himself in the chest. On that day, I saw him find the gun and immediately froze –– I knew it was the real thing. So, I called my dad – who was no less than 100 feet away from me next door – and asked him to pick me up. A few moments later, we heard a shot go off. Jonathan’s father held a legal permit to a concealed weapon that he kept in his study that frequently doubled as our playroom.

Jonathan’s death was one that caused silent hysteria in our small, South Florida neighborhood. People were absolutely horrified that this could happen, yet most of them continued to possess guns in their homes “just in case”. In all of my infantile confusion, I was terrified, paranoid and devastated, as was everyone around me. There were a lot of empty prayers and contrived candle-lighting ceremonies, but there was no action. Everyone floated around in gun limbo, waiting for the next inevitable casualty –– a position we’re still in, sixteen years later. I didn’t understand why my friend died. I didn’t understand guns. I still don’t.

Unfortunately, uncommon tragedies like the ones we’ve been facing recently always serve as a trigger to a traumatic event in my life that refuses to stay in the past. Living in England, it’s usually the first question people ask me about back home. Do you have a gun? Do your friends have guns? The answer is obviously no, but it’s something that we as Americans have to keep in our consciousness every day, because that moment could come at the turn of a corner. I don’t confront people on the street for doing something wrong; I don’t honk my horn if I’ve been cut off in traffic. I adjust my personality entirely because the paralysing fear of being shot over a banality is something that hangs over my head, like a stray hair that refuses to stay in place.

Ultimately, Americans love guns because it feeds their entitlement. This isn’t about protection, it’s about arrogance; it’s not about constitutional rights; it’s about the justification of the violence living inside of people. Time and time again, I’ve seen hometown friends belittle my stance on gun control by simply reducing it to being an “opinion”. At least my opinion doesn’t have death tolls.