“You squat, Mom, and balance on the toilet seat, then be as quiet as a mouse.
“That way the shooter might not find you.”
So many things upset me about this conversation, including that my little boy used the word “shooter”.
My son – we call him the middle one – was nine years old at the time, when he came home from his third week at an American elementary school and burst in the door.
He had made new friends, they had asked him if he knew David Beckham and why he pronounced “water” strangely.
A British Army family, we had been posted at the last moment to Kansas, in the mid-west of the United States, from a small village in Wiltshire.
There, the primary school had around 100 children, was opposite the church and also functioned as a village hall, yoga and book club.
Here, the school was on the military base of Fort Leavenworth. There were 1,000 students, fleets of yellow school buses, an early morning pledge of allegiance and, on the way home, the national anthem played from loudspeakers on street corners. People stopped mowing their lawns to prepare.
My kids had grown up in an army family, they knew about guns, but here it was suddenly in a very different context.
In Kansas, unlicensed “open carry” is allowed. And in the few gun-free areas like the base food court, people had to be reminded via large signs on the doors – like no-entry signs – that had images of handguns on the inside. middle, that they weren’t allowed.
Before we checked in for our first doctor’s appointment, the receptionist made sure we had “left all the guns in the car”.
“People always forget,” he smiles apologetically.
Twice a term, the children did “solo shooting drills” at school.
In the cinema before the film started, a short animation featuring the Minions appeared to remind children to check the nearest exits in case of an “emergency”.
I remember being at Walmart once and hearing screaming in the parking lot. My very first reaction was to push my boys into the back seat of the car.
They were teenagers having fun, but at the time I feared something much worse.
A handgun on the fridge
But that was seven years ago. The boys are older now – tall, handsome, 6ft teenagers – and they’re at a high school near Washington DC.
And what I’m about to say is as shocking as it is sad: we don’t think much about guns and gunshots. It’s just a part of life.
Our British family and friends assume that it consumes me as a mother, that I have to worry about it. But I don’t.
And that’s the thing that will never really be understood outside of America.
When I first arrived here I was very soapy – especially as a new Brit on an army base, where my children were going to sleep with families with arsenals, or at the very least, a handgun on the fridge.
From time to time, I have gently challenged new friends and neighbors about the “craziness” of having a gun in the house. They challenged me on the madness of do not have a gun in the house.
And for quite a while he did consume me. I remember lying awake the first time the boys were in a house with a gun (belonging to perfectly respectable parents, from a perfectly normal household, who probably were not same Republicans), probably eating ice cream and staying up too late. You know, do normal things.
And then at some point, it became routine.
We even visited a range a few times. American friends said, quite rightly, that I couldn’t”only“to oppose the possession of weapons without understanding the psyche, the Why, it was such a part of the fabric of America.
The range was oddly unremarkable. There was fancy coffee, hot cookies, and the oh-so-American gift shop. You could buy silk underwear with a specially sewn pouch to discreetly carry your handgun if you felt the need.
Families arrived to learn how to shoot ‘responsibly’ together, many young men came in groups bringing jokes and bravado, and once I saw a mother and daughter with matching pink guns.
Besides the deeply rooted belief that it is a to the rightwhich is enshrined in the Constitution, and apart from the fact that it stems from a real fear that the government will one day try to take control of the people, it is also a very normal thing to do here on weekends. end.
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, and about one-third of American adults report personally owning a firearm.
Every time there is a mass shooting here, social media is flooded with posts from non-Americans in other countries calling for a “ban” on guns.
After the 1996 school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which a gunman killed 16 primary school students and a teacher, the UK government banned handguns.
Here, that will not happen. It just won’t.
And while my personal objection to gun ownership has not waned in my seven years here, I to have understand why it won’t happen.
The Robb Elementary School Shooting in Texas was so horrible, so completely and utterly disgusting and there is a hope among many Americans that it will finally lead to a long-awaited movement on gun control, on licensing, on stricter regulations on ownership and background check. About half of Americans (53%) support tougher gun laws.
This will not lead to a ban.
A few months ago my cell phone alarmed, like it does for tornadoes and hurricanes. We had yet another period of bad storms, so I barely watched it until a friend texted.
Our children were expelled from school because of a “credible threat”.
Of course, my stomach knotted. Of course, I caught my breath.
I met them around the corner on my way home.
At that time, it turned out to be a hoax.
The school police and armed security patrols, which is quite normal in schools here, were convinced it was safe.
The kids all went to fast food and I went back to work.
Unfortunately, this country has reached a point where it is indeed commonplace.