Yes, It is About Guns

The other morning while I was working out on the elliptical  machine at the gym, I suddenly remembered something from 1979.  I recalled that  not long after the suicide of my 28 year old brother Tommy, our father said  that Tom had asked him where he could buy a gun and Dad said he told him that he could not, that it was illegal. I wrote this conversation down in one of my journals way back then, so I know I did not just imagine it due to current events.  I knew then that Tom, most likely, could have purchased a gun and that Dad told him otherwise to stop him from doing so.  There were no guns of any kind in our home, so Tommy’s desire to have one was thwarted.  What I do not know is when this conversation between father and son took place. Was it during the last months of his life, when he was in the throes of full blown suicidal depression?  Was Daddy trying to keep his son from blowing his brains out?  Or maybe it was earlier. Maybe Tom wanted a gun after he was fired from his job at Le Blond Machine & Tool, a job that only lasted a few weeks. Dad had gotten Tom on at the factory where he worked for over 35 years in an effort to help Tom, who had been washing dishes at a local restaurant since high school. Tom was fired from this new job due to an altercation with another worker. It seems he was unable to tolerate or understand the razing by coworkers that all newbies must endure in the hard scrabble world of blue collar shops.  Dad said that he came out to the parking lot after finishing his shift to find Tommy huddled and hiding behind the locked car.   (How very sad I feel holding that image in my heart.)  Or maybe the gun question was posed when Tom was still in high school.  He may have felt a gun would be a good way to enact revenge on the place where his severe acne put him at an extreme disadvantage in the social pecking order, a place where he was traumatized daily with bullying and where he never fit in. If Tommy had a gun, would he have, could he have, went into his alma mater and shot indiscriminately at teachers and students alike?  Would I be the sister of the perpetuator of one of the first school shootings in this country?

I am not just engaging in empty speculation here. I  know that my brother had these kinds of murderous thoughts, because I read some of what he wrote during his short adult life.  After our parents died, I came in possession of reams of yellowed type-written pages cranked out by my deceased brother. And since I knew that he had written some very good poems when he was younger I wanted to try to go through the papers and salvage anything worth keeping.  I tried to read some of his short stories, but soon found they were not fit for human consumption. His deranged mind and fantasies about revenge were on full display.  As I skimmed through several of his works, I found a common theme. The protagonist is the underdog, whose love is unrequited and who is mercilessly bullied, beaten and degraded right up until the end, at which point the hero exacts his bloody revenge and miraculously the girl loves him for it.  There was one page I read that stands out in my mind. It had been separated from its predecessors, so I only had the ending to read.  In this story the protagonist, whose name just happens to be Tom, goes into Rinks (the Wal-Mart of 1970s Bellevue, Ky) and proceeds to slash every person he comes in contact with using a butcher knife.  So, yes,  my brother had the makings of a mass murderer, sans the gun.

I thank God that Tom was not born in 1981, the year my son was born. He would have been a senior in high school when  Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris  came into Columbine High School spraying bullets at students with a TEC-9 semi automatic, a 12 gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm carbine.  This incident may have caused Tom to feel that acquiring a gun (or two) and going on a shooting spree may also be the solution to his problems.  I seriously doubt in today’s climate that Tom would have lasted until his 28th birthday, without obtaining a gun or hurting someone.

I apologize to my family for bringing up painful memories and for any perceived smear on our family’s good name, but I truly feel that we have to talk, we have to be honest and we are not in this alone.  There are many mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who are broken weeping and ashamed because their son/brother has caused so much pain and death.  We have always had those who suffer with mental illness in this world, it is a fact that cannot be hidden or ignored.  And the glaring truth is that the percentage of mental illness in the US is comparable to other countries, like Canada, UK, and  most European countries.  Yet the US leads all these countries in mass shootings.  Why?  The guns, that’s why.  I know that we cannot sit on our hands and cry “What can we do?” any longer.  I  know that if all gun sales in the U.S. stopped immediately there would still be a problem, because this country is overflowing with weapons of mass destruction. And I also know that we are a culture of violence and death; we still execute those we deem most guilty, our children play video games that reward killing, and entertainment  glorifies violence. Just go to the movies. Almost every action hit cranked out by Hollywood ends with a spray of gun fire and blood, as the heroes/good guys destroy their foe, the bad guys.  To paraphrase  Ken Overberg, S.J.,  we as a society believe that violence  saves. And those who are the most vulnerable will continue to manifest our nightmare as they take up the weapons of mass destruction that are too readily available to them.

And the answer is not to arm our teachers, as our President suggested. More guns in more places can only mean more death.  I have two daughters who teach high school and neither of them has ever owned a gun, and probably never fired one.  They both are adamant that having a firearm in their classrooms would only increase the chances of a student acquiring said weapon and doing more harm. In no way would they, or most teachers for that matter, want to add to their responsibilities,  the job of being classroom cop,  willing to engage a shooter who is wheeling an AR-15 semi automatic weapon. I do have hope, though. After  seeing the survivors of school shootings and their parents, confronting President Trump and Vice President Pence in the White House yesterday I know our country is not doomed to continue on this path of death and violence.  I am sorry that this generation will have to clean up the mess we left them.  But I will stand with them. I will be joining  any local school walk outs planned for March 14th and April 20th, – the 19th  anniversary  of the Columbine massacre –  and I will not be quiet. “Never Again!”   I’d like to end here with my favorite poem written by my brother, Thomas Lukens in 1969:

Tom Lukens 1976

Benjamin’s Boots
Lost roads  that once were led by cold soldiers
Jungle sparrow flown from northside seas
Hanging feet stick bent from sinner’s door
Benjamin’s boots are lost in  scattered leaves.

Powdered landscapes simmers a chilly bone
Blank roof of white dullness folds neatly on some forgotten knee
Hanging feet stick bent from sinners’ door
Benjamin’s boots are lost in scattered leaves.

What happened to long forgotten green
Kid’s hat falls down on his knees
Trace a poor sunset from society
Hanging  feet stick bent from sinner’s door
Benjamin’ s boots are lost in scattered leaves.

One thought on “Yes, It is About Guns

  1. Very beautiful Ginger. I am with you in the knowing that more guns are not the answer. Something is wrong with our country. Why are our men so fearful and that fear then transfers to women and children?
    Arming teachers and having additional gun carrying guards patrolling schools makes me think we are headed for a military state. Have our men become so emasculated that they need guns to feel whole? Do we fear armies marching into our country to wage war? Are we preparing for a country following a nuclear war where we will need guns to kill off those who are trying to survive by taking things we aren’t willing to share? The answer to violence is not to provide more weapons of violence.


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