Gustafson: Why wear orange on June 2?
I forget them, the little things that took place the day I attended my first funeral. I can’t recall if it was a sunny day in spring, or if it was dark and rainy the way I felt inside. I do remember that we all took a school bus up to the memorial site and that there was a big, beautiful hawk circling the crowd. But I will never forget the pain I felt in my chest, since I had never experienced so much sadness in all of my short life.
The first funeral I ever attended was for a 13-year-old friend and classmate of mine. He died in a gun-related accident, and not one of us have lived a day since when that event did not have an impact. We all lost so much with him, including our innocence, our sense of security and our blissful, youthful feelings of immortality.
It was an accident, hard to have been prevented; but it still left me permanently conflicted on issues related to guns. Since then, for me, guns have never been toys, or tools; they represent unspeakable destruction and pain. That has been my position, and few things could change my mind on the subject. However, I feel it is important to keep up an honest, intelligent dialogue about gun awareness throughout our lives, and within our community, if we hope to make this a safer world.
Many are unaware of the “Wear Orange” campaign supported by Everytown for Gun Safety (please hear me out, if you are ready to bail right here). The organization brings together gun owners and gun violence victims, acknowledging that we are a gun-owning nation but one that can be smart about how we approach this reality.
So although, yes, orange actually is my favorite color, I am planning to wear it June 2 in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and I encourage you to wear orange as well. Not because you hate guns, but because even if you are an avid gun enthusiast, most of us can agree that some smarter polices are possible to avoid gun related accidents. And whether you love or hate guns — or the color orange — the U.S., and even our small community, would be a safer place if we could put our differences aside and our heads together.
The key seems to be in finding a way to separate the pain and the passion, and in some cases past experiences, from the statistics, and then find some common ground.
I believe a good first step is to agree to disagree on some aspects; second, to acknowledge that in between the two sides there should be some sentiments in the interest of all — for example we can all likely agree that we would individually prefer not to be shot by a gun.
Even those who love to hunt, a sport enjoyed by millions and a proud tradition within our own valley, or those who believe deeply in 2nd amendment rights, can most likely agree that keeping guns away from certain people is necessary. We can all hopefully agree that some home safety precautions also make sense when guns and children are living together.
Every nine hours a child is in a firearm-related accident using a gun found from within their own home. Guns that are kept in homes often result in accidental deaths of family members; and statistically it is far more common for a family member to be killed than an intruder.
My question is why? Perhaps, it would be helpful to further educate the public instead of spending billions blocking pediatricians from talking to parents about the guns in their homes, or preventing smart gun technology that could prevent kids from using their parents’ guns.
Two-thirds of all school shootings happen using guns from parents’ homes, including the guns used in the horrifying Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Today we all have to live with a level of fear that, at any given moment, our own precious children could be gunned down at school. And I think we can all agree that is terrifying. I’m grateful that when my own kids practice “Locks, Lights, Out of Sight” at their schools, they still think they are hiding from bears and not from deranged, gun-toting killers.
I would give up my right to own a gun in return for never having the tragic experience of attending another gun-related funeral. But opening up the conversation takes individual courage. If we tone down the rhetoric we may be able to begin a much-needed dialogue and start to soften the “for or against” attitude.
So this Thursday, whether you are a proud gun owner or an anti-gun activist, wear orange, the color hunters wear to protect themselves and others, and let’s be friends and neighbors, one nation with opposing view points who can still be rational and productive.
Love them or hate them, acknowledge the power of guns and the responsibility that comes with that power. With an open mind we can find solutions so that we don’t have to continue to grieve after each senseless mass shooting, or tragic accident. If I can overcome my position, so can others.
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A six mile cross-country ski race brought 168 skiers to the trails between Snowmass and Buttermilk in 1971.