Saturday, July 25, 2015

Portrait of the Artist as a Gun Nut

"Do you love guns? (I don't, but apparently Chris Holm does.) You'll meet all kinds of guns here and find out all sorts of things about them."
That quote came from an Amazon Vine review for my upcoming novel, THE KILLING KIND. It was a lovely review—five-star, in fact—and its author included it as part of a list she was inspired to write about the Top Ten Things That Are Great About THE KILLING KIND.

My intention in this post isn't to criticize the author of that review. I'm delighted that she enjoyed THE KILLING KIND, and doubly delighted she found my firearm details convincing and educational, because I worked hard to get them right. But the fact is, I don't love guns, and given the staggering numbers of gun deaths in America every year, I wonder why so many do.

It's not that I don't understand their appeal. My father and his family are hunters. My mother's family, cops. I was raised to respect firearms, and I've shot my share of them. I don't just believe responsible gun ownership is possible, I've seen it. And yet. And yet.

I write violent stories about violent people doing violent things, and for that I don't apologize. The world is a scary place, and my fiction reflects that. And while I hope that, first and foremost, my books are entertaining, I'd like to think they also handle violence thoughtfully, and with due heft. I'm not writing this post due to some crisis of conscience. I don't believe crime fiction leads to increased crime any more than I believe heavy metal leads to Satanism—and even if I'm wrong, I'm not widely enough read to move the needle.

But personally, I'm saddened that we're greeted almost daily with story after story of mass shootings, yet we—I—do nothing. So today, I wrote my senators and congresswoman an email, which you can read below:
To Senator Collins, Senator King, and Representative Pingree: 
I am writing to express, in the strongest possible terms, my desire for meaningful gun control legislation at the federal level. 
I'm not sure why I'm moved to write you today, as opposed to last week, last month, or last year. There is nothing special or significant about the most recent mass shooting (in Louisiana as of this writing; I mention that because by the time you read this, there will likely have been another). But perhaps that's exactly what prompted me to write. There's nothing special or significant about the most recent mass shooting. They've become commonplace. So commonplace, in fact, we've become inured to them. Apathetic. We're so certain our representatives will fail to act that we say nothing, do nothing, and by our inaction, become complicit in these endless cycles of gun violence. 
Every shooting, the conversation is the same. We need better mental health care in this country. We need to stamp out extremism in all its forms. We need better communication between state and local law enforcement so that people who aren't supposed to obtain weapons truly cannot. We rally to take down racist symbols, we fortify our schools, we preach vigilance, pray for victims, parse motives, make celebrities of murderers. 
But we do nothing about the glut of guns that allow these acts to be perpetrated in the first place. 
I am well aware of our Second Amendment rights. I'm from a hunting family. A law-enforcement family. I was raised around firearms. But you know as well as I there are steps that could be taken that would not significantly impact law-abiding gun owners, while curbing sales to the violent and disturbed. There are steps that can be taken to prevent firearms from easily entering the gray and black markets. There are steps that can be taken, but no one takes them. No one dares. 
I'm asking you to dare. 
Dare to stand up to a gun lobby that increasingly sounds like a lunatic fringe, and does a disservice to law-abiding gun owners. Dare to stand up for the estimated 33,000 people who will die as a result of gun violence in the US this year (source: Bloomberg). Do something. Do anything. Because if you don't—if you allow this to continue unabated—you are culpable, as are we all. 
Regards,
Chris Holm
If you'd like to do the same, this website makes it easy; just type in your zip code to get your representatives' contact information. If not, that's fine, too. There's no saying you have to agree with me politically to like my books. Heck, the woman who wrote that Top Ten list was pretty sure our views on guns were miles apart, and she liked my book just fine.