Huffington Magazine Issue 184 - Page 8

My Brother Was Murdered By A Man With A Gun

My brother was murdered by a man with a gun.

That's an easy, simple truth. It's not up for debate.

It can't be politicized, analyzed or reduced to anything other than what it is: reality. My brother is dead because of a gun. You can lump him into a statistic. You can break down the circumstances. But at the end of the day, what can I really say that will call you to action?

Is it that, "Every year more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns," or that a gun is "...a product that kills as many Americans as car accidents"? No. These are important statistics (used by President Obama) to highlight the problem. But statistics don't put you face to face with a victim. Rhetoric cannot possibly encapsulate the gruesome details of grief.

President Obama's executive order is a noble step forward by a politician in gridlock, and I sincerely hope it is a catalyst for future politicians to pull themselves from the mire of discourse into action. But in my opinion the most important thing Obama said was a very small, seemingly insignificant statement: "In this room right here, there are a lot of stories." In this room right here.

I don't know how many people he is referring to, but according to gunviolencearchive.org, there were 52,626 incidents of gun violence in the United States in 2015. Even more surprising, there have already been 697 incidents (at the time of this article's publication) in 2016, and it's only been 2016 for a week. To give you some perspective, you'd need roughly 29 days to give each of those 697 individuals an hour to talk about their experience. That's the equivalent of one episode of Netflix's Making a Murderer. They had 10 hours total and still couldn't fit in everything they needed to tell that story.

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Alex Schneps

My brother (center) and cousins

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"This has become somehow normal. An American standard. Gaze at the wildfire while drinking a bottle of water."

I've come to the conclusion that a gun exists only for one purpose – to make whatever it's pointed at vulnerable when it might otherwise be safe. This is true whether you're holding the gun or you've got one pointed at you. Firing a gun has a singular purpose whether you're a hunter or a murderer (and I apologize for putting the two in the same sentence).

The result, however, is never, ever, ever singular. Hardly. The opposite of singular. Multitudinous. Inexplicably infinite. A seismic event that shatters the windows and walls and doors of the house that held your understanding of life and liberty and freedom and justice and any other aggrandized pillar of American society. Suddenly. Forever. Obliterated. And you're left with a numb, empty canvas, a fragile shell of existence. The sympathizers and the prayer-givers quickly recede back into a world of unchangedness while you flail wildly in the deep dark waters of unfloatable change. And that's probably just day one.

So when the president of the United States began crying when talking about the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary during his speech on Tuesday, I hope you can trust that he wasn't crying over a lack of gun reform. He wasn't crying over the inaction of Congress. He wasn't crying about a loophole.

He was crying because a father, Mark Barden, of a murdered seven-year-old, Daniel, was the person to introduce him that day, and that when the public and the politicians moved on from Sandy Hook, Mark would still have to go on living with the fact that he once was a father to a boy named Daniel. Every minute of every day from then on would be informed by that loss.

Daniel's murder and the murder of 19 other children that day – Charlotte Bacon, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt – couldn't elicit any legislative progress to prevent Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Oregon College and Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and San Bernardino, not to mention every individual gun murder that occurred without receiving the acknowledgment it deserved.

This has become somehow normal. An American standard. Gaze at the wildfire while drinking a bottle of water.

"...[W]hen the public and the politicians moved on from Sandy Hook,

Mark would still have to go on living with the fact that he once was a father to

a boy named Daniel..."

"We all believe in the first amendment – the guarantee of free speech. But we accept that you can't yell 'fire' in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people."

President Obama could not have been clearer in his support of the second amendment right to bear arms. This is not "the first step in a slippery slope to mass confiscation," as he said. It is the first step, however, towards safer gun practices.

So can we agree collectively – gun reformists and advocates alike – that safety is the common goal? It's as simple as that. Our common goal is safety. The Constitution, in fact, exists to protect us and our inalienable rights, including our second amendment rights.

So can we agree that a freedom tempered is a right upheld? Justice is, after all, a balanced scale.