I could not run home fast enough this past Friday after hearing what happened at the Sandyhook Elementary School in Connecticut. I felt like crying every time I stopped to think about it. But I contained my emotions. I wanted to hug my kids so much, and so tight. And then, when my two kids, my wife and I were having dinner, my 2 year old joked about something, we all laughed, and then I could not hold my tears back any longer. I cried. I cried like a baby. In front of my kids. And my wife had to plead with me to stop because my kids were confused and getting scared. There were 20 parents and 6 other families that night that also cried. And none of us can even imagine their pain and sorrow.
It’s taken me an entire weekend playing with the kids, and celebrating an early holiday gift opening, to recover and to be able to digest my own feelings about guns in our society.
I did not grow up in this country, but I know the gun culture better than an average American because I grew up in a city that has seen more than any city’s fair share of gun violence and death.
I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan in the 80’s, right after the Afghan civil war erupted next door, and the city got inundated with guns and klashnikovs. Where I grew up, guns were like marijuana – you knew where to find one easily if you wanted one. In some ways my innocence was taken away early in school as I remember hunkering down under the benches in my class while members of the rival political parties shot AK-47s and TT revolvers at each other in our play yard. Yeah I am not joking. Go look up Karachi violence in the 80s and early 90s. The society I grew up in had become so immune to guns that when a fellow high schooler dropped a semi-automatic gun on the class floor, the kid sitting in front of him just picked it up and handed it back before the teacher could see it. No questions asked.
So I have seen what an abundance of guns does to a city and to a people. Dozens of people are killed in that city every day now in gun violence. Yes, every day. Karachiites live in fear, and those who have the heaviest weapons and armed guards, live in the worst state of panic. Young girls are gunned down for speaking about wanting to attend school, and businessmen are routinely killed if they don’t close their businesses when a strike is called. Robbers showed my brother a gun at a traffic stop to snatch his phone and wallet, and one of his friend’s got arrested recently because he was found carrying a gun that had been gifted to him by his political party leadership.
So when I read arguments from the pro-gun lobby in the USA, esp in the light of this Friday’s massacre, I am not only angered, but also deeply deeply saddened. I have seen this story played out and the end is not fun. The high school I attended in Karachi now has armed guards at its entrance gates, the mosque I prayed all my childhood now has snipers posted on the roof, and many relatives and friends can now travel outside their fortified residences only when accompanied by armed guards. And it’s not just due to criminal and terrorist plots. I have seen a sub-machine gun pulled out even when some rich bastard’s luxury car got into an accident with a poor guy’s taxi and the argument got over-heated.
Guns kill people. They are built to do that and the only reason they are manufactured now. And those people killed mercilessly can be young children and teachers too, like those in that school in CT, whose lives were taken for no fault of theirs. Those who died are now gone, and as someone who has seen plenty of people die on the streets in Karachi, let me tell you…it’s not those who die that hurt. They likely go to a paradise unknown to the rest of us. But it is their loved ones who are left with an empty bed, memories and a sorrow that would never go away. They hurt for the rest of their lives.
I can’t even imagine what parents of those 20 kids went through. But I know I would be a destroyed man if I was one of them. I have not done enough in the past to jump into the gun debate, but that changed this Friday. I won’t stay quiet or disengaged. My 2 year old, my 4 year old, and all other kids expect and deserve better from me. I pledge to fight NRA, politicians and anybody else who supports easy access to guns in our society. Join me, listen to your conscience, and do what’s right for our society.