Stop. Drop. And Play Dead.

The other day (okay, a few weeks ago), I was working out at the gym, taking a break between sets during an intense leg workout. Well, let’s be honest. It was a leg workout, made intense by the fact that it involved work.

I don’t know what triggered the thought, but as I finished taking a sip from my water bottle, I remember thinking to myself,

“If a shooter were to walk in right now and start shooting up this place, would I have anywhere to hide? Where is the emergency exit? Do I know how to play dead?”

Not so bizarre. Not anymore.

I find myself thinking about those things more and more these days. I don’t think it’s hubris – I’ve never been one to be paranoid about protecting my life. I will jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, go on the most daredevil, heart-pounding roller-coaster and can go on a passionate carbohydrate binge that would have me banned from South Beach forever.

When I was in elementary school, we did fire and safety drills all the time. Every year, the firemen would come in and reiterate the same message about how the real dangers of fire were not in the flames, initially, but in the fumes.

“Stop! Drop! And ROLL!” We were taught and we would have to demonstrate one by one that we knew how to do the roll.

“Roll away from the smoke!” The firemen would indicate where the fake smoke was coming from.

And we would have to get on the floor and roll down the hallway or the pavement, with our arms pressed against our sides.

And now I wonder if I am supposed to be teaching my children how to play, “Stop. Drop. And play dead” instead.

Reality Check.

I watched the news the day of the Newtown shooting from my office. When I first saw word of the gun shooting online, it had estimated two dead. When I was leaving the office to grab lunch and passed by the TV, my heart dropped when I saw the revised numbers.

A few of my colleagues were standing with me and one of them said, “Yeah, just watch the gun control freaks have a field day with this one.”

My idea of field day is quite different than anything I saw in the news that day or in the following weeks about what happened in Newtown. See, having a field day involves doing things like a 50 yard dash or playing tug of war. Jumping towards a finish line in a potato sack.

It doesn’t involve children being slaughtered to death.

“It’s not guns that kill people!” my co-worker explained. “People kill people.”

Yeah. No shit, Sherlock. People kill people. Usually with guns.

Of course there are other weapons and other means to kill. But that doesn’t mean that anything has the power of an assault weapon of the caliber used in Newtown.

So call me a freak. But first call me an American.

I am an American. Born and raised on this soil, I am proud of my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country. Like most things I love, like my husband, my children, my family, my friends and even myself – I love my country, not with the false belief that it is perfect. I am under no illusions that my country is perfect.

A blind love is never a healthy love, you see.

Being a patriot to this country is not just in honoring those who fight in the name of this country. It’s not standing with a hand on my heart during the pledge or even the fact that I often cry during the National Anthem.

Being a patriot to this country also means acknowledging the imperfections that tarnish the soil that we love. It means acknowledging that what was done to the Native Americans in a quest to drive them away from their homes was a travesty. It means acknowledging the stains of our own intolerance in the Japanese internment camps that were a part of this land.

“This lands was made for you and me.” It’s a beautiful song. But it’s hardly one that we have always sung together.

Being an American patriot means acknowledging that slavery existed in this country even while the Founding Fathers were writing a document that we immortalize with reverence.  There was a time when American fought against American in this land because of the difference in opinion that we could “own” the bodies of other men and women. Our fellow brothers and sisters. It means recognizing that segregation in this country existed until just a few decades ago.

So I’m an American. I love this country but I won’t ignore the flaws of our past and look at anything in our history or any document in our history as beyond questioning.  As unquestionable or perfect in any way.

The Founding Fathers. They were mortals. They wrote the Constitution under the crushing pressure of trying to obtain freedom from England.

They were people who made mistakes. They were people who did not have a crystal ball. They were Renaissance men, the lot of them, yet they had no concept of things like the Industrial Revolution. They never imagined cars. They didn’t ever foresee large vessels that could fly across oceans in the air or do the same things in the deepest recesses of our oceans.

They never saw a television. They never saw a man walk on the moon. They never imagined the mass production and unethical means in which we would harvest our animals. They never had the internet. Or a phone. Or electricity.

They owned muskets. They had harpoons.

Muskets, people.

They never imagined gang wars. They never saw the technology that could create guns that could kill so many people so quickly. They never saw an AK-47 blow someone’s head off. They never imagined the number of civilian deaths, that would take place and grow each year on American soil

I will tell you one thing. They never imagined Columbine. They never imagined Newtown.

“Don’t take away my Second Amendment freedoms!”

Settle down. First of all, let’s stop looking at this as religious scripture. And stop attacking anyone who asks if guns should not be better regulated in this country. Well, if the laws we have are not enforced, then we don’t need more laws. We need enforcement and we need laws that make sense.

I feel like we are sitting at a critical juncture as a country. There will be another shooting. There might be another Newtown. There is just a sense of when, how, where? that I feel smothers us like a blanket.

I just want to know why I feel like the moment I question better regulation, people feel like their rights to own guns are being threatened? Hey, nobody’s saying you can’t hunt. Nobody’s saying you can’t own guns for self-defense. Heck, keep your arsenal for your hypothetical militia.

We have a problem here. An epidemic, if you will. Why is proper licensing of guns not considered acceptable? Why are more stringent licensing practices not being issued?

I keep hearing, “Well people will get guns without licenses!”

Probably. But it will be illegal and they should be penalized under the law. A person cannot legally drive in this country without getting a license. It doesn’t mean that people aren’t driving illegally every day. But that’s no excuse to stop overseeing it.

And why do we do that? Why do we require driver’s licenses? Because we like waiting online at the DMV? Because we like the way we look in the pictures? Does anyone actually like to go through the process of car inspections, vehicle registrations and wasting half a day at the DMV. Every stupid year? For every vehicle you own?

No. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass is what it is. But you do it. And it makes sense.

We do it because we know the power we hold behind the wheel. We know that we can kill, we can destroy, we can maim if we don’t know what we’re doing.

So why then? Why, why would we allow people to own guns without the appropriate training? Without appropriate documentation of what guns are where? And if it’s because we are going to talk about the people needing a way to raise a militia against the government, the people who are raging about wanting to have a right to raise a militia are usually the people I would NEVER want to see raise a militia.

That’s right. You people scare me.

I don’t know what will happen if I am at that gym in a middle of a workout and a gunman comes in raging. I haven’t thought through that yet. But I know that I think about my children every day. And my friends’ children. And my neighbors’ children.

And I’m not ready to teach them to stop, drop and play dead.

Something needs to change.

25 Responses to Stop. Drop. And Play Dead.

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    What you said.
    I’m so incredibly grateful that owning a gun in Malaysia, is near impossible for most ordinary people.
    Well, not impossible, just pretty hard.
    It goes into a whole other ballgame of political corruption, which I won’t go into.
    It makes me sad, all these shootings, people (children!) dying.
    Alison recently posted…7 Deadly Sins Of BloggingMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Alison,

      It’s incredibly sad. And it’s incredibly sad to watch how people will prioritize and justify more guns, more people armed and more training for teachers and children as “the answer.”

      We don’t live in a war zone. I feel like they want to make it one to protect their guns, the NRA and the gun lobby. It’s scary.

  • LisaAR
    Twitter:
    says:

    You make some excellent points and analogies. And where there is money and lobbying, there is power. In talking about drivers’ licenses, I just learned that Florida–a state with millions of senior drivers–has a SIX YEAR renewal term for licensing once you are over 80…Here in Illinois, it’s a 2-year renewal for years 81-86, and 1-year for 87 and after. I’m thinking that Florida is the way it is because of the power of the lobbyists who advocate for senior issues…I agree it’s not just about *more* laws but better–and better enforced–laws…Yet for the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would need a gun where you can hold the trigger down and numerous bullets spray out in a matter of seconds. Don’t. Get. It. We just had a 15yo girl killed in Chicago two days ago because she was standing under a park shelter to get out of the rain and the local gang felt they needed to “reclaim” their territory. She had just been at the Inauguration days ago…Another bright and shining star gone…for standing in the wrong place. Something’s gotta change.
    LisaAR recently posted…A Hairy DecisionMy Profile

    • masalachica says:

      I heard about the young girl in Chicago, Lisa. I guess she got dismissed early because they were taking exams and she and her friends went down to the park, something they don’t usually do. It’s just so tragic.

    • Jaime says:

      Just an FYI an assault rifle CANNOT “spray” bullets. It is a SEMI-AUTOMATIC which means one trigger pull, one bullet (same as a handgun, but most handguns actually have BIGGER more DAMAGING bullets than an assault rifle). Even in the military, STANDARD ISSUE rifles CANNOT SPRAY BULLETS. They are either on SEMI-AUTO (one pull, one bullet) or can be set to 3-round burst (one pull, 3 bullets) but these are NOT available to the public. FULL AUTO weapons (one triger pull, LOTS of bullets or SPRAY) have been banned for YEARS (maybe even decades).

      Regardless, I too, am SICKENED by the violence and death caused by these psychopaths and agree, something needs to be done. I live in California and we have some of the strictest gun control laws and I am in TOTAL AGREEMENT with them and can’t believe we have states that make it so easy to get guns. (No, in CA we cant just buy a gun off the internet and it is delivered to our house, it goes to a gun dealer who keeps it until the paperwork is filled out, the waiting period is over and the background check is passed, same thing at a gun show)

      I am also OUTRAGED by the politicians who are using an “assault rifle ban” to appear like they are actually doing something that will prevent these tragedies. It wont do a damn thing, it serves no other purpose than to appease the uneducated public and get their votes and THEY KNOW THIS. I ask, no I BEG those that are so against assault rifles to PLEASE educate yourself, and you will find that for the most part, the difference between an assault rifle and a hunting rifle and handgun is PURELY COSMETIC, as in it SERVES NO FUNCTIONING PURPOSE EXCEPT TO LOOK COOL. Assault rifles SOUND scary and LOOK scary but they are NO MORE DEADLY OR DANGEROUS than the other firearms we are allowed to legally own. The politicians are trying to appease the public by banning something for a PURELY COSMETIC reason. Are you really ok with this?!?! I don’t know about you, but this infuriates me. How about they make the HARD CHOICES and do things that would ACTUALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE (let me point out that these are ALREADY LAWS IN CA): background checks and waiting periods, limits on how many guns you can purchase at one time and how often, hold gun owners more accountable/responsible for HOW they store their firearms in their homes, (maybe THIS law ALONE could have prevented Sandy Hook tragedy), making it illegal to own ANY firearms if you have committed certain crimes (felonies, for example) and I could go on. It is also critical to make these laws on a FEDERAL LEVEL. It makes no sense that we have such strict laws in CA but I can go to nearby states with looser laws and obtain firearms that I would otherwise be denied in CA. As we all know, criminals don’t obey the laws and they will ALWAYS find a way to get guns. Lets make it harder for them to do that, but without taking away the rights and liberties of LAW ABIDING CITIZENS. Banning assault rifles WILL NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE, more damage could be done with a handgun which might I point out, are a heck of a lot easier to conceal and are more deadly and damaging at close range.

      • LisaAR
        Twitter:
        says:

        Since you are using the word “spray,” Jaime, I think you are directing part of your comment at me. Maybe not, but just in case, I did not use the term “assault rifle,” but gun. That being said, I believe there to be a distinction between fully automatic/semi-automatic, and so on, so I decided to look into “assault rifle.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assault_rifle. From what my eyes can gather, seeing “fully automatic fire refers to an ability for a rifle to fire continuously until the magazine is empty and no rounds remain” does seem to = “spray” to me.

        But I realize that gun laws alone don’t solve the problem. And I also realize that Adam Lanza used an AR-15–a *semi*-automatic–to shoot his victims up to 11 times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/us/lanza-used-a-popular-ar-15-style-rifle-in-newtown.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 )…so it’s not just about being able to “spray.” Lanza had to keep pulling the trigger with every bullet that entered into the 20 tiny and 6 adult lives he ended.

        Sorry, Jaime, but you and I will have to disagree about “assault rifles,” whether there is “spraying” involved or not.

        I know there is no simple answer, and I’m not looking for a 2nd amendment fight, but I think it is reasonable to say that *something* needs to change.
        LisaAR recently posted…A Hairy DecisionMy Profile

  • Jennifer says:

    I’m a huge proponent of responsible gun ownership, and I agree with everything you wrote. I think it is time for responsible gun owners to admit that licensing and registration is the right thing to do, and that NO one need automatic assault weapons.
    Jennifer recently posted…Reclaming the PMy Profile

  • Doctor G
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m going to say what I say so often on so many topics, and it’s actually my Mom who says it: “Everything in moderation.” We are gun owners. We keep those guns, none of which can fire these number of rounds, locked separate from their ammunition, in a safe. I believe individuals should be allowed to own small weapons, enough to hunt, to protect property and life. I do NOT believe that we should have the “right” to have assault weapons, or magazines with so many rounds. Everything in moderation.

    • Yes indeed! Everything in moderation. That has got to be the key to this whole thing. If I see one more person posting photos of the Revolutionary War, I am going to scream. It is not the same world. They are not the same weapons.
      Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) recently posted…Wait for meMy Profile

  • Laura
    Twitter:
    says:

    Excellent post! You hit the nail on the head!
    Laura recently posted…Let’s Start at the Beginning: How to Pre-Wash Cloth DiapersMy Profile

  • Arminda
    Twitter:
    says:

    I appreciate your beautiful post, Kiran. I feel the same. Especially the part about wondering if I have an escape route. I feel like as a nation we’re all walking around with PTSD. Actually, I’ve been feeling that way since 9/11. Every time a plane comes in for a landing or is taking off and I happen to be driving underneath I wonder if I’m far enough away. Just in case. During the Christmas holiday I was in a mall, shopping with a friend, tucked away near the changing rooms in the back of a store when a mob of people ran screaming past the storefront and shouts of “Somebody’s got a gun!” found their way to our ears. My heart pounding in my throat, all I could think of was my daughter safely far away, but I was trapped. Gratefully, all ended well, and we were fine, but the recent Newtown terror is yet one more tragedy I hope will be enough to bring us all to the table in peace so that the right solutions can be identified. Because there are solutions. The biggest guns don’t need to have the loudest voice.
    Arminda recently posted…Breathe: Cover from “In the Heights”My Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Arminda,

      I couldn’t agree more. And I feel like there are some of us who want to talk about it and there are others who don’t want to believe that there is anything wrong with us not recovering from what we’ve gone through in a way. And it festers and builds and something else happens that adds to the trauma, the social anxiety and again, just like a doc would prescribe more meds, I feel like the prescription we are often told will work is more guns. And you can’t say anything about it, because everyone looks at you like the kid who is crazy. Because you just want to figure out how to solve the problem. Not put more guns out there.

      I can’t imagine what you felt in that moment at the mall. And yes. All I would be grateful for in that moment is to have my kids somewhere safe.

      You have a beautiful writing voice. I look forward to reading more of it.
      Kiran

  • Julia says:

    I whole heartedly agree with every word of this. I don’t understand why gun owners can’t be held to the same rights and responsibilites as drivers. I worry all the time when we are out at the mall what I would do if a shooter showed up and I don’t know.
    Julia recently posted…Good EnoughMy Profile

  • Anne says:

    Great, thoughtful piece, Kiran. I’m hopeful that as a country we will begin to look at gun ownership as a privilege that comes with responsibility of registration and training, much like a car as you mention. In Finland where they had a massacre several years ago, you need 2 neighbors/friends to vouch for your sound state of mind. That would really make a difference, in my opinion. Keep up the great writing!

  • Kristin says:

    Excellent, excellent, excellent post, Kiran. You’ve articulated so well exactly how I feel, from reexamining the 2nd Amendment to the reform that I feel needs to occur in this nation w/r/t guns and gun ownership. And I would add that some serious changes need to be made to our nation’s mental health system. And while we’re at it, how about curbing the mass production of violent video games – or at least not letting our kids park themselves in front of a screen for hours on end playing with them. This is the unfortunate trifecta that’s plaguing our culture today and we, as a society, are neck-deep in it. How we go about getting ourselves out, I have no idea. But I’m not ready to teach my child to stop, drop, and play dead, either.
    Kristin recently posted…This Could Get HairyMy Profile

  • Elaine A.
    Twitter:
    says:

    I agree with Jennifer’s comment. But I want to add that I this is a very thoughtful post and I think you did a good job of putting your opinion out there in a a non-accusatory way. Feel good about it. xo
    Elaine A. recently posted…Life Shotz – A ReviewMy Profile

  • Arnebya
    Twitter:
    says:

    I don’t want to remove anyone’s ability to own a gun to protect him/herself, family, or home. But, I simply can’t understand why anyone whose purpose is not to kill multiple people at once would need a weapon that does such. In war, it’s understandable. Are we at war? I feel like we are. Chicago is definitely a war zone. And like you, I find myself wondering on random trips to Target if I know where to hide, what to do, to make it out safely should someone decide to shoot it up. My elementary school daughter had an impromptu, mock emergency exit in the case of an active shooter on the grounds the other day. It made me sad. I want our children prepared in such cases, but…it made me sad that it’s becoming so necessary and more scarily, normal.
    Arnebya recently posted…I Quit You. For Now.My Profile

  • Mary
    Twitter:
    says:

    Such an important, well thought out post, Kiran. Thank you. I agree with you wholeheartedly and also am not ready to teach my kids to play dead. Though that may be a pragmatic lesson, I’m not willing to surrender their innocence to protect our country’s ineffectual (and in my opinion, warped) status quo on assault weapons. Thank you for the push on this issue. I share your outrage and determination for change and will share your message. xo
    Mary recently posted…Not For the Faint of HeartMy Profile

  • Galit Breen
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m so freaking proud of you, and to call you a friend. xo
    Galit Breen recently posted…About Letting Them Fall, on MoonfryeMy Profile

  • AJ Collins says:

    Kiran, I loved this post. I was recently talking to a conservative friend about this exact thing! “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people… yeah… with GUNS.” I am pretty appreciative of the fact that it would be really difficult for another country to come in and invade the US. I’ve read that it is estimated that there are about 270 million firearms in the US (it’s estimated because we are one of the only countries in the world that does not require every gun to be registered)… that’s nearly 90 guns per 100 people in our population… so, in theory, we are pretty safe? But with that many guns we should all be required to take a class on gun use and safety… maybe at age 16?? Compare that to 254 million registered cars… and there seems to be an irony unfolding…

    I really couldn’t have said it better myself. I am so glad to be one of your “bloggy friends” ;)

  • Betty Austin says:

    Well said.
    Why is the origin of the second amendment not publicized? Gun control advocates could arm themselves
    with the truth.
    Its purpose was to arm a militia of vigilantes to hunt down runaway slaves, evil then and evil now. How is it not clear that freedom at the time the constitution was written was for those who were already free, i.e.
    not enslaved.
    There have been a couple of Op Ed pieces lately on the subject which I’ve posted to my Facebook page.
    It’s encouraging to read the feedback from your essay on this site, but we’re preaching to the choir and
    need to spread some truth.

    It’s is rumored that illegal ownership is possible because young other-than-white men are most likely to get them and kill each other.
    It seems like the only defense the gun lobby has is guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and actually guns don’t kill people, bullets do.
    A gun by any name is used to kill. What other use does it have?

    • masalachica says:

      Betty,

      I understand what you mean about preaching to the choir. Sadly, I feel like my sentiment was not even that strong – it was fairly tempered and I believe that it’s within the rights of Americans to feel that they live in a civilized, non-military state. To see some of the wrath that still emerges is pretty shocking. I fear there is very little “middle of the road” about this.

      Kiran

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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