Omar Mateen, the man who carried out the worst mass shooting is U.S. history, bought the assault rifles he used in the attack just days before the incident. Yep, it was that fast and easy. According to reports, Mateen bought the weapons at a gun shop called St. Lucie Shooting Center near where he lived. How very convenient for him.
This man — who was known to be violent, abusive, anti-gay, and racist — effortlessly passed the background check the gun store was required to perform. All of this, despite the fact that he had previously been investigated by the FBI for possible links to terrorist organizations. Why? Because the senate voted down a bill last December that would have blocked terrorists from buying guns. Genius move, guys.
When I heard all this, my jaw dropped. As I’ve watched the news unfold over the past week, I have felt heartbroken and sick. I am the mother of two young sons. There is no way I can see anything in the faces of the victims but my own children’s faces. The idea of something happening to them — something as terrifying as what happened to those young men and women in Orlando — is just not something parents should even have to consider.
I keep thinking to myself: How is it possible that someone like Omar Mateen can get a gun without even blinking, but it took me three weeks to get my freaking passport? It would be harder for me to find a well-fitting bra at Walmart than to walk into that same store and buy a semi-automatic weapon.
You may have heard the story of a news reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer who actually timed how long it would take her to buy an AR-15, the “weapon of choice” for mass shooters. It took her seven minutes to purchase the gun — seven minutes. It takes longer for me to buy diapers and gum at CVS with my kids in tow than it did for her to get that gun.
We don’t have to agree on whether or not Americans should have guns, but can we at least agree that it should not be this easy for people to get their hands on this type of weaponry? Consider just a few of the common, relatively harmless things that are harder to obtain than a gun.
1. Sudafed (Pseudoephedrine)
You used to be able to get as much of this stuff as you wanted, but it turned out people were using it to make meth, so the federal government used some freaking common sense and set severe limits on people’s ability to obtain anything with pseudoephedrine in it.
2. Lawn Darts
Yep, there’s a kind of lawn dart called Jarts, which killed two children, and were immediately banned. Because when children are killed, we are supposed to do something about it.
3. Health Insurance
A few years ago, my family and I had to apply for Medicaid because my husband became unemployed. It took endless phone calls and paperwork. Weeks and weeks for my small children to be guaranteed basic health care.
4. A Drivable Car
You can’t legally drive a car without license plates, up-to-date insurance and inspections, registration, and a license. I mean, of course. Cars are dangerous if not operated carefully and correctly. But anyone can safely handle a gun, right?
Federal law states that you must get a Federal explosives license in order to use “display fireworks.” Let’s just say that it takes way more than seven minutes to get such a license. The application is long and tedious. Fingerprinting is even involved! Anyone who sets off a bomb in the air that usually doesn’t kill anyone, but might, must be carefully vetted. Of course.
6. Birth Control Pills
It’s 2016, but you still need a prescription from a doctor for this.
7. My Kids’ Asthma Medications
Seven phone calls and two weeks was how long it took to get my kid his latest batch of asthma medication — medication so he can, you know, breathe.
8. Kinder Surprise Eggs
I had no idea, because my kid watches YouTube surprise egg videos 20 hours a day, but apparently Kinder Surprise Eggs were banned years ago because the little toys inside were deemed choking hazards. Funnily enough, they are apparently available everywhere across the world.
9. A Kitten
Ever tried to adopt a kitten? A dog? You will be scrutinized. In some cases, you will receive home visits and will need to provide references. A wee bit harder than buying an assault weapon.
10. A Good Babysitter
I have a list of people who I will allow to babysit my kids. It’s about the size of my pinky toe.
11. An Abortion
Most states require a 24 hour waiting period for this, along with counseling and an ultrasound. My body, my choice. But apparently not my time.
12. Roquefort Cheese
Certain European cheeses are illegal in the United States, and it’s not just because they’re stinky. The FDA banned them because of concerns about harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Apparently, you can get them on the “cheese black market” (yes, that exists). So yeah, certain cheeses are officially harder to get than guns.
13. Timely Cable Installation
You wait all day, and they don’t show up. You wait another day, and they still don’t. I am usually a very calm and polite person. But I have never been as ragey and impatient as I am any time I have to deal with the cable company.
14. Hamilton Tickets
15. Beer on My Sunday Morning Grocery Trip
Yep, many states still have laws prohibiting liquor sales of one form or another on Sundays. They’re called “Blue Laws” and date back to colonial times when it was abhorrent to do anything on a day of religious observance. Hmmm…maybe we should reconsider the relevance of these laws.
Honestly, if it were up to me, we would just get rid of every gun that was ever manufactured. But I get why that’s not going to happen. Still, I think any rational human can see that it shouldn’t be that fucking easy for a suspected terrorist to get his hands on a weapon — especially one that can kill a roomful of people within minutes — just no.
Really, owning a gun is a huge responsibility, and if we are going to make sure every American has the liberty to own one, we must at least make sure there are serious checks in place so that weapons don’t end up in the hands of the wrong person. We have neglected this responsibility for far too long, with devastating consequences.
You can disagree with me all you want. But as a mother — as a human — I won’t just shut up and let bullshit like this go on. Gun reform is one of the human rights issues of our time, and I hope to god something is done about it NOW. We can’t wait even one more day.