When Guns Make Bad Things Worse

She was born in the neighborhood, and grew up in the neighborhood. She raised her children in the neighborhood. Her family and friends are in the neighborhood. She still gets medical care in the neighborhood.

But she no longer lives in the neighborhood.

Not after she was shoved to the ground and raped at gunpoint in the alleyway near her home when she was taking out her trash at night.

From the corner of the exam room, she frowns, and her teeth are missing.

“It was the gun,” she says, sadly. “He shoved the barrel in my mouth and knocked out all my teeth.”

She misses her smile. She misses her neighborhood. She would want to move back, but she can’t. It’s too hard, psychologically.

She’s angry at him. She’s angry at the gun. “He had the gun. I couldn’t fight back.”

She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder–a psychological state caused by witnessing or feeling threatened with death while feeling powerless to stop it. The gun made her feel powerless to fight back. The gun made her suffering worse.

Her story made me think about the saying: “guns don’t hurt people. People hurt people.”

The people holding the guns pull the trigger and cause gun injuries. But the immediate threat of death is from the guns in their hands, separate from the person holding them. Guns make dangerous situations deadly.

Back when I lived in the South Shore neighborhood (in a gorgeous apartment with an amazing lake view that gave me infinite amounts of happiness when I opened my eyes each morning to a view of the Rothko blue on blue horizon), a stranger came up from behind and grabbed my purse on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building. It wasn’t even my purse, it was my “KoKo” lunch bag (that looked like a mini-version of my Coach purse). I loved that $15 Costco lunch bag. KoKo! It was like it was monogrammed for me. I didn’t want to let go.  I held on to it, even as the man pulled. I could have pulled back, and with effort, could have screamed and fought and kept the bag. But then a voice spoke in my head–“he might have a gun”–and I immediately let it go. I would miss that lunch bag. But I valued my life more. It wasn’t the man, or the threat of robbery, that scared me. It was the threat of death from a gun.

Crimes threaten lives and cause PTSD when a gun or the threat of a gun is involved.

She misses her neighborhood. I miss my view. Guns chased us away from our homes.

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