We are five million strong.
We are only a small part of a larger whole. We are brothers in arms, more than 300 million. You cannot destroy all of us. You have taken us into your lives. You cradle us in your arms. Yet we feel nothing. How we are used is all the same to us. Flesh of deer, fabric of target, blood and bone of man, woman and child, it carries no weight. We leave conscience to you. We leave hatred to you. We leave joy to you. We leave murder and sport to you.
Ours is a love that kills. Ours is a life that is obedient to you. We are five million strong. We are the AR-15, semi-automatic rifle. We are the most popular rifle in America. We are the weapon of choice for slaughter.
We are light, easy to handle, easy to fire. We disintegrate bone, we leave large, gaping holes.
We are light, easy to handle, easy to fire. Our bullets are faster than those from a handgun. We disintegrate bone, we leave large, gaping holes. We started life with the military, but now live outside the army. Last week, a 19-year-old boy, Nikolas Cruz, used one of us to shoot dead 17 people, mainly students, at his former school Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. He bought one of us from a gun shop, like it was the most natural thing in the world to do, which it is in Florida. He took our brother home, where the family with whom he was living after his mother had died, allowed the purchase albeit a little anxiously, as long as he kept it in a locked box. This is gun control. Which is where AR-15 stayed until Cruz decided to use it.
In the past six years, we have been used at Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. 26+14+58+26. Dead. Many, many maimed.
We are not proud of our work. We are not sad. We are your instruments. We are the object of your desires. We are not illegal. If you did not want us, ipso facto, we would not exist. As it is with our brothers. Sometimes, we are banned and then the ban is reversed. We are protected in the American Constitution. You in the gun lobby call us “modern sporting rifles”. If we could laugh, we would. We cannot do anything but what you intend. You could control us. You could destroy us, as other countries have done with assault rifles. But you do not. If we could thank you, we would. But we cannot.
There have been 1624 mass shootings (involving four or more victims) in about five years in America. Some might call this insane, some might call it normal. Some might shrug it off as collateral damage from the National Rifle Association’s bolstering through millions of dollars of politicians’ ambitions to power.
“Should a first-grade teacher keep an assault rifle in her desk, next to the crayons and gold stickers, and whip it out when a shooter bursts into the room?” – Roseanne Cash.
There are dissenting voices. Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator, said: “Let me just note once again for my colleagues: this happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting, it only happens here. Not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
On a parallel line, songwriter and author Roseanne Cash pleaded this: “No citizen should be able to own an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters. How is it possible that a disturbed 19 year old, who cannot even buy alcohol legally, can walk into a store and buy this weapon, designed only to inflict the maximum toll on human life, with total ease? What kind of country allows this? Only the United States. The Second Amendment does not guarantee your right to own your own military-style arsenal. We have a gun murder rate 25 times higher than peer nations. I am sick of hearing ‘if the teachers had been armed’. Please. Shall we all be forced to become individual paramilitary forces? What about my right NOT to own a gun? Should a first-grade teacher keep an assault rifle in her desk, next to the crayons and gold stickers, and whip it out when a shooter bursts into the room? What kind of fantasy world is that? A nightmare.”
Cameron Kasky, a student at Parkland, said: “People say it’s too early to talk about it. If you ask me, it’s way too late.”
We take heart from that, and from the words of Kit Cope, marketing director of a Florida-based gun manufacturer: “It’s how people use it. It’s also a great hunting weapon, home defence weapon and a great sporting rifle.”
As to Nikolas Cruz, his wish was: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
He was only partly right. His career is over.
As to the US President Donald Trump: “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
And that’s why we look forward to more brothers coming into service. We can live with prayers and condolences unto eternity. It seems too self-evident to say, but nevertheless we say it: We could not live, we could render death, if we did not exist.