Luke Ballmer: If I am shot and killed


Luke Ballmer

Against the backdrop of a tragedy as horrific as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many feel the appropriate urge to justify any comment related to it.

My justification is the knowledge that I, my friends, my family, or anyone I know could die next.

Being shot and killed by a gun could happen to me, and I can’t speak for what you’d want, but consider these my last words in such an event.

Until last Friday’s shooting, I had forgotten how easy it was for a tortured and lost soul to pull a trigger and kill me.

There’s an aversion to phrasing such a statement using a first-person pronoun. Often statements like these are phrased “and kill anyone,” as if it dilutes and removes the speaker’s inclusion on grounds of quantity.

Perhaps this is because it’s not pleasant to fixate on one’s own death, especially when the death of others seems so much more likely. Perhaps this is because we don’t want to encourage perceptions of paranoia or conceit. Maybe we feel that it dishonors the lives of those actually killed.

To me, nothing dishonors the lives of the those killed more than the idea that this tragedy was destined to happen only to those affected, and was so far removed from human sense and reasoning that all you can do is moan and wail, secretly relishing the fact that it didn’t happen to you.

We disrespect the loss of everyone killed in this shooting — in every shooting committed by a marginalized, lonely, confused, and mentally ill human being — by forgetting that anywhere in this glorious, gun-worshipping nation, you, perhaps with the aid of your inaction, could have been included in the dead.

The extremely safe Newtown, described as a quintessentially idyllic small town, is exactly the sort of place where the gun-related violence that has permeated our culture can be placed outside of the concerns that occupy one’s full attention.

Many towns not yet wracked with the tragic, direct consequence of mass shootings — either by one shooter on one occasion, or a heavy concentration of individual shootings — enjoy the same prolonging of the tragic reality that it could have been them.

Newtown isn’t safe. Columbine isn’t safe. Aurora isn’t safe. Eighty-seven lives a day aren’t safe. I am not safe, and you are not safe.

Though the temptation to hold a seemingly nihilistic notion is obviously there, do not live in abject horror of this knowledge. In fact, resignation only perpetuates the notion that all one can do to fight back is buy a killing-machine themselves.

If I am shot and killed, as even completely innocent and infinitely cute six-year-olds can be, I would like people to listen most to these words:

As everyone paying enough attention has long realized, gun control works. And the status quo, as it always seems to be, is unacceptable.

If I am shot and killed, as too many are, know that I died unarmed intentionally. I would rather less people around me be armed than more.

If I am shot and killed, do not call the killer evil and do not call their actions senseless. Learn about whatever ailed them, and know that we all could have prevented him from slipping through the cracks.

If I am shot and killed, do not live your life in the constant awareness that it could have been you, but in the passionate activism that graces so many of those affected by the preventable horror that visited Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

What do you think?