The need for gun control is never quite so apparent as when you’re face to face with the dire consequences that come from its current lax legislation. The process of purchasing a weapon is one that takes minutes; the gun passes from one side of the counter to the other as a few bills do the same.
“That’s why I’m a Democrat,” my brother said after telling me the story of how his best friend almost killed himself. “That’s why I believe in gun control.”
Many occurences that aren’t normal seem completely unquestionable to children, which probably explains why my brother returning home from JMU in the middle of his senior year — something that drew concern from every adult in his life — only made me feel lucky. After all, my brother had come home and suddenly had all the time in the world to spend with me, playing video games, going to the movies and grabbing lunch together. I had no idea that part of the reason my brother had a sudden desire to hang out with his 11-year-old sister was because he’d come close to losing someone else he was close to, nor that in between rounds of Rayman and Guacamelee, my brother was fighting a sudden slew of mental health issues.
“It was [in] a plastic bag,” he told me, recalling that day nearly a decade ago — something that occurred just minutes from campus. “I took it from him — it was heavy.” His friend had purchased it from a gun shop, the computer running an automatic background check while he signed a few forms.
What’s crazy is that this could’ve been anyone — any student struggling with depression, any student with just enough money in their pocket to make the transaction and the decision to kill themselves.
“He was drunk,” my brother continued. “How can a drunk person buy a gun?”
On the receipt, the employee had written, ‘thank you!’ They’d handed over a pistol to an inebriated college student who only planned to use it once — and thanked him for it.
That day, my brother woke up at 9 a.m., unaware that his friend had already made that fateful trip to the store. Still drunk from the night before, his friend had grabbed his keys for the second time that morning, so my brother had taken them from him.
“Let’s go to Jack Browns,” my brother had said, wanting to distract him. He told me he’d been filled with unease for reasons he couldn’t quite place — a feeling that had only grown when his friend refused the outing. Without his keys, he’d left the building anyway, but my brother was convinced this was fine since he wouldn’t be able to get a DUI if he couldn’t drive.
“But then I thought, ‘What if he does something worse?’” he recounted.
It was at that time that he’d left his apartment, finding his friend’s car unlocked. When he turned around, his friend was six houses down, the plastic bag retrieved from the car and now dangling from his hand. My brother chased him down the street and took the bag, shocked at how heavy it was. He’d opened it and pulled out a pistol.
“Is this a gun?” he’d asked. “Is this a gun?”
My brother had never seen a gun that wasn’t of the Nerf variety in real life before, much less held one. Needless to say, he hadn’t given the weapon back to his friend. Instead, he’d hidden it in his own room.
That week hadn’t been a good one for my brother. Finals were upon him and for some reason, he just felt apathetic. He simply didn’t care about going to class, didn’t care what getting zeros on all his finals would do to his GPA. In the grand scheme of things, it just didn’t seem to matter. His best friend was suicidal and he himself had a gun hidden in his room — he was the only reason his friend was even alive that week. So he didn’t go to his classes and he didn’t take his finals.
To put it simply, he was depressed.
It shouldn’t have been that easy for his friend to buy a gun. People shouldn’t be able to buy weapons on a whim — shouldn’t be able to set foot into a store and leave with the capacity to kill.
At the very least, there should be a lengthy process: a mental health evaluation, a waiting period, an inconvenient amount of papers to fill out — something more than just 18 years of life and a valid ID. Had that day been slightly different, my brother wouldn’t have his friend anymore. Were our laws just slightly different, his friend would’ve have been able to purchase that weapon in the first place.
To me, to my brother, to anyone who’s faced any sort of frightening situation involving a gun, it’s readily apparent that something in this country needs to change. It’s obvious that lives are at stake, that people are in danger. Sure, guns may not kill people, but the people easily obtaining them do.
Jillian Carey is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at email@example.com.