Thanksgiving is upon us once again. In most years past, it was a time of gratitude and reflection for me while spending time with friends and family. That will happen again this year, but it’s going to be different now.
On Thanksgiving night 2017, a woman who I formerly dated in 2016 was tragically shot and killed by her stepfather while visiting her family for the holiday. Not only was she murdered, but so was her then-boyfriend and her mother. Her stepfather snapped, out of the blue. There were a few warning signs, but not enough to take legal action.
I’m an extremely mild-mannered man. I rarely get angry; I don’t shout; I’m always the first person to try to de-escalate fight situations. It’s just who I am.
However, the night I learned about Candice’s death, an absolute rage came over me that I’ve never felt before. I remember telling friends that it felt like the killer was mocking and taunting me. I felt like he took something from me. I remember wanting to strangle him. I wanted to feel him struggling with my hands around his throat.
Having thoughts like this horrified me and I immediately told friends about it because it was a new experience for me. Of course I took no action toward others and thankfully those thoughts went away after a couple of days. While I’m confident that even if given the chance, I wouldn’t have retaliated against him, I can’t guarantee it. That’s how angry I felt. I learned firsthand that the boundaries of anger can shift for individuals. And maybe if I would have felt warranted, perhaps I would have gone out and purchased a gun to get revenge on that man. I later learned that those feelings of revenge are a very similar phenomena that gun violence victims experience.
This year I’m grateful that Washington state voted to pass initiative Initiative 1639 into law. One component of the measure is a 10-day waiting period after purchasing a semi-automatic assault rifle. This is known as a “cooling-off period” and studies have shown it is extremely effective in reducing gun violence. I “cooled off” about two or three days after the incident, and I am confident that if I ever did have a desire to purchase a gun in retaliation, a component like the 10-day waiting period included in I-1639 would have been effective.
Opponents of stronger gun legislation often say tougher gun laws will not completely prevent gun violence and criminals will still get their hands on guns. I agree with that. But what I-1639 will do is REDUCE gun violence. Just as seatbelt laws did not completely eradicate all deaths in car accidents, they reduced deaths and saved lives.
I think everyone agrees that we have a gun violence problem in America, but we can’t seem to agree on the cause. People who blame the guns say that it’s too easy to get them and we have too many guns. Others say it’s a mental health problem. But why aren’t we focusing more on anger management issues and that connection? I think all three are factors.
This year I hope that people who have not been affected by gun violence have a feeling of gratitude about that. I also hope they will reflect on what efforts they have personally made to battle this issue, which kills over 12,000 people annually in America and over 21,000 additional by suicide. I hope that people will choose to take real actions instead of just arguing on social media.
I’m not always confident that politicians will make big changes toward this issue and that those results will trickle down to us. Instead, I believe in taking action from the ground level and letting that build upward. While I miss Candice dearly, this year I feel grateful that I’ve taken action to help measures like I-1639 pass, and I have many more plans and ideas to try to reduce gun violence in America. If more actions are not taken, then statistically, you or someone you know will likely be affected by gun violence in the future.
If you choose to do nothing, ask yourself who you’re willing to lose in exchange.
Mackenzie McAninch is a Seattle resident.
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