Teresa Ovalle

Welcome to Me

Gun Laws are Stupid – Peata Riley

on December 14, 2015

I enter the information hub to see Gerjan standing watch at the door. He eyes me approvingly and says, “They’re upstairs, Peata.”

“What’s with the watchdog attitude, Gerjan?” I ask. “It’s just a meeting of the minds for a couple of gun handlers.”

“Apparently,” Gerjan begins with a hushed tone, “there have been a number of gun-related incidents about a thousand miles from here. We are far from the issues, but people are still scared. They know we have more than our fair share of gun handlers in this hamlet. The people are frightened with what is happening a thousand miles away will happen here.”

Gerjan is worried. His deep wrinkles are set even tighter on his forehead and his usual worry-me-not demeanor looks slightly shaken.

“Are you worried that something could happen here,” I ask, “or are you worried that someone will see that we have five gun handlers having a meeting in the information hub?”

“I know that the gun handlers in this building are trained and reliable, Peata,” Gerjan says. “But I don’t know about anyone else. People can use guns for horrible reasons. I read about those reasons in the history books.”

Gerjan pauses.

“And?” I ask.

“And I am afraid the people of our hamlet will react out of fear and demand unwise gun laws that would hurt more than help our community,” Gerjan says.

“I see,” I say. I put a hand on his forearm and squeeze gently. “That is a concern of mine, as well, Gerjan. I believe this is why Q called us here today.”

Gerjan smiles, but his smile does reach his eyes. He is worried.

“I better get up there, Gerjan. Q hates it when we’re late.” I say.

“Very true, Peata,” Gerjan says. He peaks through the door one last time, closes it and locks us in.

I race up the stairs to the Self Help section to find the gun handlers huddled around a table, whispering in hushed tones.

Q sees me over the heads of the others and motions for me to join the group. I sit in a chair slightly pushed back form the table, but near Q at the head of the table.

They continue to talk as I look around. I know them all, if not personally, I know them by description.

Q sits at the head of the table to my right. Dallin sits next to Q. Dallin is tall and dark skinned. He is well muscled, but smaller than Q. Dallin has a young face; the gray at his temples looks out of place. Rumor has it that he and Q were childhood friends, but he has no signs of scarring that Q does. They are childhood friends with different experiences, I estimate, very different experiences.

To Dallin’s right sits Amery. Amery is a short round man. He is red headed and red faced. His red hair is askew in patches on top of his head and looks almost comical, but he is a man to be reckoned with. Amery is Q’s right-hand man when it comes to gun handling. Amery is as good as Q or better, but Q firmly stands in the leadership position.

To my left sits Edgier. He is younger than the rest of the men. Edgier is cocky, but he has the confidence to back it up. His gun handling skills are beyond reproach, but his attitude is not. The senior gun handlers will not progress him to the next level until his attitude matches his skill level. I think that’s fair. I don’t like Edgier.

Between Edgier and Amery sits Porten. He sits back slightly from the group as I do. Porten is observant and watches everyone, to include me. He is average in height and very thin. He is so thin that I wonder how his clothes stay on his frame. He is the eldest in the group. Porten is a deep thinker and is very quiet. He does not speak idly; he only speaks when he deems it important enough to do so. When Porten speaks, people listen.

I tune into the conversation.

“The only gun law on the books right now,” says Amery, “is the competency test. You cannot have a gun unless you qualify. But that’s not enough. I think we need to prepare a more strict set of gun laws.”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” says Q. “ We need to create laws that keep guns out of the hands of people with ill-intent people.”

“What do you think, Dallin?” Q asks.

“I think you’re right, Q,” begins Dallin, “but we need to be careful. Once we start going down this path, the people who abide by the law will be angry and feel that their rights are being threatened.”

“That’s a good point, Dallin” Q says. “Edgier, what are you thinking?”

“I’m keeping my opinions to myself right now, Q,” says Edgier.

Edgier is afraid to speak his mind. It figures. He is weak. But I am not.

“I think adding more gun laws than the one we currently have is stupid,” I say.

The focus turns to me. Amery’s face is more red than I’ve ever seen. Dallin and Edgier jaws dropped open and Porten has a smirk on his face.

“What?” Q snaps in question. “First, you are late and miss most of the conversation, then you think you are qualified to speak?” He is visibly angry. His face is slightly ashen and he pushes his scarred knuckles into the table to stop them from shaking.

I have never seen Q this angry. But I do not back down. I am right.

“Laws do not prevent bad people from doing bad things, Q,” I say sternly. “Everyone at this table knows that. So the fact that you are thinking of changing the current singular law into more than one law because of a few bad apples is wrong.”

“We have to trust people to do the right thing,” I continue. But before I can finish, I am confronted with finger pointing, disapproval and accusations of being too young to know better.

Each gun handler has something discouraging to say. Every one but Porten. Porten is quiet, but grins, showing his large yellow teeth. I watch him watch the others. He is enjoying this!

I look back at the angry men and smile. I don’t smile out of mockery or disrespect. I smile because I realize that Porten is about to speak.

“The girl is right,” Porten whispers above the fray.

“What?” Amery yells.

“I said the girl is right,” Porten says.

The argument abruptly stops. The gun handlers focus on Porten’s words, then the men look at me. I grin like a Cheshire cat.

“Finish your argument, Peata,” Porten says.

“The people of this country had this argument over two hundreds years ago,” I begin. “There were mass shootings across the country, but the people pulling the triggers were not the same people who were following the law.”

“The trigger pullers had mental health issues,” I say. “Some acted as rogue vigilantes. Either way, every trigger puller set out to do harm to others. Because of the few bad apples, guns were thought to be the individual’s weapon of mass death.”

“People feared guns more than ever,” I continue. “They pushed law makers to make unfounded rules that did little or no good, such as limiting the number of rounds in a magazine. Limiting the number of rounds doesn’t make a bad person shoot less, especially when the bad person has a number of loaded magazines or guns.”

“Bad people are going to do bad things regardless of how difficult it is to get a weapon to do it,” I add. “The list of objects available to do harm to others is endless. You cannot change the law for a few bad apples. You have to figure out a way to keep the weapon out of bad people’s hands. That is your challenge, gentlemen.”

“Once you figure that out, you will have room to maneuver and room to consider adding laws,” I say, “if they are needed at all. What I ask of you is to not jump, but to think through this. There are too many stubborn people who are willing to make rash judgments on a number of issues. Don’t be them. Be the group of cool heads that prevail under pressure. Guide the way, rather than forcefully leading it.”

Silence.

“Nicely said,” Porten says.

Silence.

Q is no longer angry. He is surprised. He is not nearly as attractive with his mouth hanging open.

“I still think we need better gun control laws,” says Dallin. “At the very least, we need to consider all of our options.”

“Consideration and planning are both good ideas, Dallin,” I say, “and I agree that we may need more thoughtful gun laws, but I also want to challenge you to think through every aspect of the issue before changing what we currently have.”

“Remember how our ancestors made all drugs illegal to keep them out of the hands of bad people,” I say. “Then remember how resourceful bad people were. The laws did not prevent people from getting drugs. The laws only changed how people got their drugs. We have to find the balance in allowing the good people to do what they need and to prevent the bad people from doing what they want. That is my challenge to this group.”

Silence.

“Well, gentlemen,” Porten says, “it appears that Peata gave us a lot to think about.”

“Here, here,” says Dallin.

“Right,” says Q. He looks at the group, but not at me and says, “It’s getting late, so why don’t we adjourn for the evening and meet back here tomorrow afternoon at 4.”

“Sounds like a plan,” says Amery.

Edgier says nothing, nor do I expect him too.

As the group disbands and heads to the stairs, Porten grabs my arm to hold me back.

“Wait, Peata,” he says, “I would like a word with you.”

“Yes?” I ask.

“Q speaks very highly of you, Peata,” Porten begins. “He says you have the potential to be a great gun handler and instructor, but I see more in you than just that. I want you to consider becoming a member of the Gun Handler’s Society.”

My jaw drops. I am flabbergasted. I don’t know what to say. I look at Porten in awe of what he is asking of me. I am so junior to the field of gun handling, that I am not yet allowed to call myself one.

“Do not say a word of this to anyone, Peata,” he warns. “You are not yet qualified as a gun handler, nor are you an instructor. You must be both, and then you must be voted in.”

“You will be the only women gun handler and instructor within a thousand miles, perhaps more. Your role in the Society will hinge on your acceptance of the men around you. Be safe and be smart, Peata, but above all else, shoot well.”

“Thank you for thinking so highly of me, Porten,” I say. “I am surprised and honored of your request of me. I will keep it to myself, but what do I do in these meetings? Do I continue to speak my heart or do I hold back?”

“Speak your heart, Peata,” Porten confirms, “and speak with caution, but know when to stay quiet and when to pounce as you did tonight. You will make enemies outside of this group, but you will also find many allies.”

“I will continue to monitor your progress through Q’s updates,” Porten says. “As you progress, I will suggest to Q certain challenges for you to hone your skills as both handler and as an instructor. He has to come to his own conclusion that you are a right fit for the Society, but I will help influence that.”

“What reason should I tell Q for you wanting to speak with me?” I ask.

“Tell him I was pleasantly pleased with your confrontation of the group,” Porten says with a smile, “but that you should learn to bite your tongue.”

I smile at Porten’s comments. Q will certainly agree with Porten’s assessment.

“I will do that, Porten, and thank you again,” I say.

“Do not thank me yet, Peata,” Porten says. “This is a long and challenging road. But it is one I am sure you will accomplish with vigor. Now let’s leave before Gerjan throws us out.”

I smile.

As we make our way out of the building, I think about what Porten said. I will think about it for days.

Outside of the building, Porten nods to me and turns to leave. I head in the opposite direction toward my living space. I hurry as the sun begins to dip below the horizon.

As I rush to make it home before dark, I realize that what I am feeling is pride. I am proud of myself. I may be young, but I am well educated and I am willing to stand up for what I believe.