An image of President Barack Obama was captured last week during his announcement of executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence. It is impactful because of its intimacy. It is moving because of the tear forming in the corner of his right eye.
It is striking because it also removes the indigo blue in his suit, the cerulean blue in his tie and the brown tone of his skin. Just a simple, stark, black and white photo.
If only the issue of gun control was as simple as black and white.
President Obama took some heat for crying during his announcement. As he stood in front of the cameras, facing our country, there was a group of people standing behind him. I missed the live broadcast. So my first glimpse was through photographs. And when I noticed the faces gathered behind him, I didn’t know who these people were. Until I recognized a face. The mother of Jordan Davis. He was killed at a gas station for playing loud music. Then, I recognized a man. He was there when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot.
They are some of the survivors. The family, the friends, and bystanders who were affected by the impact of a bullet. They may or may not have been received a direct hit from a gun. But they are certainly affected by the emotional, psychological and maybe even spiritual shrapnel.
President Obama made it through most of his speech with very little emotion. Until he spoke about the children who were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. He thought about those children as surviving parents stood behind him. He stopped for a moment, the emotions came and so did the tears.
I cried too. I cried during his announcement. I cried when it happened. I was at work when a coworker sent me a text. Another mass shooting at a school. I thought it was at another college campus. Maybe some university student was upset about grades or how he was being treated by his peers. So I decided to Google it. And I read “elementary” school. It took a moment for me to process the word. But once I did, I thought about the 5, 6, and 7-year-old babies. And I got up from my desk, went into a stairwell and cried.
In light of all the mass shootings this country has experienced, there’s always talk about gun control. And those Americans who strongly support the 2nd amendment sometimes state a phrase –
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
And they are right. And those who say stricter gun laws and more gun control won’t solve the problem are also right.
Going with the aforementioned phrase, since guns can’t kill by themselves, then the other part of the problem has to be us.
If we are resistant to gun control, how or when do we control ourselves?
It’s not just the mentally unstable, the homicidal criminal or the terrorist we have to worry about. What about the suicidal student stressed about his failing grades? What about the dad who is angry about a custody decision in his ex-wife’s favor? What about the wife who catches her husband cheating? What about the boy who is tired of being bullied by a classmate and decides he’s had enough?
There’s a line most of us don’t cross. Someone can do something that stirs the anger within us. We may even say, “I could just kill him.” But we don’t. We know there’s a cost to pay if we put action behind those words. So we temper our emotions and we stay on this side of the line.
A line. Some say President Obama crossed the line with his executive action. Some say he crossed the line by showing emotion as a leader. For me, accusations the President hid an onion in the podium to cause his eyes to water crosses the line. I know I don’t need a sliced onion to weep over all of the lives lost through violent acts.
But the line I’m most concerned about is the one between life and death.