Christine and BethChristine Belford & Beth Mulford, our friends and neighbors, yesterday morning were gunned down entering our courthouse. Our city of Wilmington ground to a halt, our streets were blocked off, and the center of our city became an armed encampment for a day.
We have seen this before in other places. We see it with increasing frequency in this country. And yesterday those in our community got to see it up close.
And I can tell you it is different when this particular malice comes upon your doorstep. Because you immediately lose that comforting feeling that this will never happen near you. That warm and fuzzy you wrap yourself in thinking that this is something that happens to other people and in other places.
I suppose deep down we always knew that was an illusion. If we didn’t know that before yesterday morning, we surely know it today…
Christine’s story is known to all of us in our community. We all know her or know of her. For years she had been embroiled in a nasty divorce. Since 2006 she had been fighting a psychotic husband and his equally obsessive family. Her story gained national attention when her ex-husband and his mother kidnapped her children and took them on an eighteen month odyssey through South America.
All of this ended yesterday at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. It ended when the father of her ex-husband shot her dead. Ironically, and after all of these years of struggle and insanity, it ended when she was finally on the verge of putting all of this behind her.
There is another element to this story that is both ironic and deeply disturbing. Christine was gunned down and killed inside of our courthouse. An armed encampment if ever there was one. Arguably and supposedly one of the safest places in our community. This is the place we turn to when we seek justice, and protections and precautions exist to protect us in this place and to keep us safe.
Christine went to this supposed place of safety on this morning seeking justice. But instead of justice, Christine was served death. Despite all of the elaborate protections in place to protect her and others there with a similar purpose, none of that mattered. She was killed instantly as though none of these protections existed. For her, it was all meaningless and for naught.
Immediately after her violent death, a progression of events and responses took place. Armed responders appeared quickly and seemingly by the hundreds. Streets were blocked off, nearby schools were locked down, and urgent searches take place looking for additional threats and perpetrators. I don’t need to describe this progression of events- we’ve all seen it before. It plays itself out with increased frequency in this nation.
In what seems like an instant, the normal streets of our community became by all appearances a war zone. And they stayed that way all day. It goes beyond a police response to one that by all appearances is a military response, replete with legions of men and women in combat gear and cradling assault weapons. This was for our safety, and to insure our safety, and I understand that and can appreciate it. So the searches took place and the streets remained closed and the schools remained in lockdown all day.
Eventually, you see these armed people simply milling around. Not prepared or ready to leave, but certainly realizing there is nothing more to be done. And that goes on seemingly forever as well. And it was at that moment that I realized the sheer impotence of all of this. That all of these efforts and responses are utterly impotent and useless. It is all after the fact.
It was all useless and ineffective. She was killed instantly within this secure fortress. And equally impotent is this show of force after her death, because no amount of force and regardless of the number or responders in combat gear can right this wrong after the fact. We do everything we can and everything within our power, and it is all utterly useless. Impotent.
It is a charade. A necessary charade to be sure, but a charade nevertheless. It serves our delusion regarding gun violence in this country. Because at some point you have to accept the fact that we are indeed delusional. In the face of this insanity I suppose we have to be, and that may be the only thing we have left. We delude ourselves and feel comforted.
We feel that gun violence is something that affects others. And with proper precautions we can be safe. We tell ourselves that the person shot yesterday in our city doesn’t affect us in our world because we would never be in that position or place to begin with. With each death that affects others we tell ourselves that we are safe and immune. Never mind that tens of thousands of us die each year in our country.
And then when you least expect it all of those delusions are ******** away. If Christine and Beth can be slaughtered within the confines of what is the safest building in our community, you have to accept the fact that none of us are safe. We are not safe and we never were. No amount of security and protection could keep her safe and alive before her murder, and no amount of response in the face of this slaughter could bring them back.
In the wake of this incident, I find myself wondering about a term that I hear with increasing frequency. That term being “responsible” gun ownership. And “responsible” gun owners. I wonder what that means, and I wonder who these responsible gun owners are. We don’t know yet whether the man that killed Christine and Beth was one of these "responsible" gun owners.
We search for a way to protect ourselves, and yet at the same time protect the supposed rights of the responsible gun owners. To reach an accommodation with them and hopefully enhance our safety. And I wonder who these people are. What definition can you apply to them and this term.
Was the killer of Christine and Beth one of them? It appears he was, for he never used his guns to kill before. And what about Nancy Lanza? She was a responsible and legal gun owner, wasn’t she? At least right up to that point when her arsenal was used to slaughter children. And I recall an incident just before the holidays, and close to us in Wilmington and in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania. When a father attempting to sell his guns went to a gun shop with his seven year old child. But instead of selling his guns, he returned to his vehicle and inadvertently blew his son’s chest out in a horrific act of carelessness. And I suppose he was responsible as well- at least up to that very moment when he blew his son’s heart to smithereens.
In the end, it’s all very simple- at least to me. It’s not the gun owners, whether they be responsible or not. It’s the guns. Responsible owners or not, they all contribute to tens of thousands of deaths every year. Tens of thousands have to die in the name of this freedom and supposed right.
And I’m left wondering about Christine and Beth as we add their names to that list of deaths and statistics. I have to wonder about their rights too. Their right to live. And to me it all becomes very clear. Because their rights preempt and transcend any other right. Their rights and the tens of thousands of others that die each year transcend anyone’s right to possess these instruments of death.
It really isn’t the person who holds the gun. There are those that would have us believe this. It’s the guns…