In my 25 years in the classroom, I’ve experienced many tragic events with my students. I previously wrote about my reaction to the day when two of my students in Cleveland were shot. As an English teacher, it often falls on me to help students begin to process their experiences, generally through writing.
I’m not sure I ever made a conscious decision that shootings were an inescapable fact of American school life, or I just didn’t care to dig in to consider and research the problem. But I don’t remember that shooting or any subsequent ones having much of an affect on me.
The Feb. 14 school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has me rattled. I’m trying to find comfort and hope in the responses from students in Florida and elsewhere. I’m trying to control the anxiety I feel at the lack of a reaction from my own students. I’m rattled, and it is this feeling that led me to Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.
Based on my limited background knowledge of Dunbar-Ortiz, I expected to read something that would confirm my own belief — that the Second Amendment was written in response to concerns about federal power encroaching on states’ rights. I was wrong. The author didn’t agree or disagree with me as much as she argued that I was taking up the wrong argument, the wrong dichotomy.
What should concern us, according to Dunbar-Ortiz, is not whether the Founders sought to protect the rights of individuals or of groups. Instead, she argues the Second Amendment was written to protect the militias formed to perpetuate our country’s two original sins: slavery, and the theft of land and murder of the indigenous population. In short, we needed groups of armed men to kill Native people and keep our slaves.
The problem is not the so-called “gun culture” or even the popular enemy, the NRA. The problem, she asserts, is the “red thread of blood [which] connects the first white settlement in North America with today and the future” (143). In 208 pages, which require 20 pages of footnotes, she makes a convincing case.
If you read the book expecting proposed solutions, you’ll be disappointed. She spends some time on Australia’s successes, but this is more a history book than a policy one. The subtitle is A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. But effective policy, I would argue (and I think I’d have the author’s support here), cannot be made without a proper understanding of the issue’s history. Dunbar-Ortiz gives us one clear and concise view of that.
I need to learn more. I have applied to be a part of this conversation. I am considering this opportunity. I would like to read more. A quick Google search yields around 30 titles. Please comment below if you have one to recommend.
Another way to expand your perspective is by attending “Approaches to Gun Violence: A Public Forum” at 6:30 p.m. March 19 at the Union Hall of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, 1771 E. 30th St. in Cleveland. Greater Cleveland NOW, along with the SEIU Local 1199, is hosting the forum featuring representatives from Ohioans for Gun Safety, the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action, Black Lives Matter Cleveland and New Voices for Reproductive Justice. You’ll learn how these groups are working to combat gun violence in Northeast Ohio and how you can become engaged.