Libby and Connie sit at the kitchen table at Libby’s house. Both girls are staring at their laptop screens, reviewing notes and editing their report when Libby’s mom walks in.
“Oh, hey, Connie, this is my mom,” Libby says. “Mom, this is Connie, my partner from American History class.”
“Very nice to meet you,” Connie says.
“Nice to meet you too, Connie,” Libby’s mom says. “I don’t want to interrupt, but I’ve got to get dinner started.”
“Oh, yeah, no problem Mom,” Libby says.
Connie turns back to her laptop. Libby reaches for the snack bowl in the middle of the table.
“So, uh, just a question. Did you have a discussion about school shootings in homeroom today?” Connie asks.
“Yeah. Serious stuff. Those kids were our age. That could have been us, ya know.” Libby says.
“Yeah, I know. It’s like, how can someone just do that? My mom was saying she feels like it’s getting worse, that there have been a lot of problems, not just at schools, with people not caring about each other and, ya know, just doing awful things like that,” Connie says.
“Uh, Connie, it’s not just people, it’s the guns. That guy couldn’t have killed as many students if he had been using a knife or something. And that’s the same for any of these other mass killings. We have no control on who can have these weapons. That’s the real problem,” Libby says.
“Wait, wait, there are plenty of responsible gun owners. It’s the people who don’t use them correctly that end up killing people. And what? We should punish everyone else? Take away their right to bear arms and protect themselves? That doesn’t make any sense to me,” Connie says.
“So you think we should protect people’s hobby of gun collecting and target practice at the expense of everyone who has died from guns? I mean, it’s not just these mass shootings that make it to the news. People are killed by guns a lot. Gang violence, accidental shooting. None of that would happen if we had tighter restrictions on gun laws,” Libby says.
“Well, what about all the other ways people die in America? Car accidents is one of the highest. Should we ban cars? Maybe we should all just walk everywhere. Less chance of dying if we are forced to walk. Is that what you’re talking about? Just make sure nothing bad ever happens ever? Banning guns isn’t going to make people safer. It’s going to put them in greater danger because bad people don’t care about laws. They’re going to get their hands on weapons anyway and then we’ll all just be perfect targets with no way to protect ourselves,” Connie says.
“Urgh… Look, there are examples of how laws actually make us safer. Take Japan. I heard somewhere that Japan has almost no gun deaths at all, thanks to tighter gun regulation. They make sure the psychos can’t get guns and they don’t allow any handguns, or something. Anyway, there are examples around the world. We should learn from them,” Libby says.
“You mean like in Switzerland? Someone was telling me that they have rather flexible gun laws and a lot of people own guns. They’ve just been trained on how to use them. Maybe the problem is that most people don’t know how to use guns and if we were more educated on how to use them, we wouldn’t be afraid of them and we’d actually be safer,” Connie says.
“What?? Actually get more people using guns? Are you nuts? So… what? We should add a class at school to teach people how to use guns? That’s crazy. You’re just giving crazy kids more information on how to use guns to kill more people. That’s not going to solve anything,” Libby says.
“Just hear me out. If we had more people aware of how guns work, their limitations and how to stay safe, we wouldn’t be so paralyzed if we were ever faced with a real threat like that guy walking into the school. If we actually knew what to expect, where the safest places where and so on, we would be more in control. I mean, so many lives are saved when people are not afraid to take action. Fear is the real threat to our safety,” Connie says.
“Connie. How are you going to stop a bullet, huh? These are semi-automatic weapons or whatever that people can just buy on the street without any restrictions. No matter how much education you have, we’re talking tons of bullets all at once. I don’t care who you are, you’re going to die,” Libby says.
“Can I say something?” Libby’s mom asks, coming over to the counter to face the girls. “You two have both brought up some important points on this issue. I hope you don’t mind if I jump in for just a second.
“First, I think it’s important to remember the main goal — to stop gun violence and minimize or eliminate fatalities. You are both coming at the problem from different sides, and that’s really good.
“Libby, you’re right. Gun laws could be tightened up, reevaluated, and written in such a way so that guns are not legally finding their way into the hands of the wrong people. That might also mean looking at whether certain weapons should be made illegal too.
“Connie, you’re also right. While we work to protect each other from gun violence, we have to make sure we’re not infringing, or taking away, certain rights that need to be protected. There’s a reason for the Second Amendment. There’s a reason why it’s good to be educated and not react based on emotions alone.
“Emotions can be good for calling us to action and bringing to our attention an important problem. Emotions can also cloud our judgement.
“Connie, you used cars as an example. It’s a good one. The first cars didn’t go very fast and rules and eventually laws matched the kind of cars people used. Over time laws, education, and social norms have changed to match the kind of cars we now drive.
“Guns have changed a lot, and so have we. We need to work together to find a real solution to this serious problem.”
“Yeah,” Connie says, “but sometimes it’s just when I’m talking to Libby, it seems like she’s not listening and that she doesn’t care. It’s really hard to work together when I feel like I have to convince her that I have a valid point.”
“Mom, I see what you’re saying, but most of the time I feel like Connie just covers over the real issue and make excuses for people’s behavior. That’s not right,” Libby says.
“Libby, I can tell you without knowing Connie that she is a good person. I don’t have to know her, because I’ve learned that deep down everyone cares about the same thing. Remember that when you’re talking to each other.
Connie, as Libby’s mom I can tell you she cares deeply and passionately about these issues and the more you try to throw logic at her, the more she will feel frustrated. Her passion is a good thing and isn’t something to fear. She’s a good and loving person, even when she has strong opinions,” Libby’s mom says.
“If you two can learn how to talk to each other with kindness and respect, listening and valuing each other and your differences, I think your generation may do some amazing things. Keep at it. And don’t give up on each other.”
Libby and Connie look at each other. Libby can’t help smiling. Connie smiles back. Then they both laugh.
“Are we ever going to stop fighting and finally get this project done?” Libby asks.
“I don’t know, but somehow I don’t really care anymore,” Connie says.
“What?? You don’t care about getting good grades?” Libby teases.
“No… I don’t know. Somehow I feel like it’s all going to work out,” Connie says.
“Yeah. I think you’re right,” Libby says.