I went to a die-in at the State Capitol on Wednesday, marking the anniversary of last year's slaughter at Virginia Tech, where a deranged kid killed 32.
I brought my Glock.
I didn't really. It would have been weird and crazy to take a gun to an event marking a massacre, especially the very kind of gun used in the massacre. But then again, this country is weird and crazy about guns.
I went to a local gun store Wednesday (I have a permit) and found I could get a nifty Glock 19 -- the 9-millimeter semiautomatic model that Cho Seung-Hui used on April 16, 2007 -- for less than what Cho spent.
He bought his Glock for $571 at a Roanoke, Va., gun store. I could have purchased one Wednesday for $550.
It was on sale! Who says Americans don't celebrate history?
The die-in (it was called a lie-in, actually) was organized by Protect Minnesota, an umbrella group representing five gun-control organizations pushing for tighter rules on sales and universal background checks on buyers. Thirty-two people wore black T-shirts that said, "Minnesotans Against Being Shot" as well as ribbons of maroon and orange (Virginia Tech's colors) made by families of the victims. One by one, to the solemn beat of a drum, they went down on the Capitol steps and remained motionless, as if asleep.
It was like the state Senate, but without the pompous speeches.
OK, it was one of those media events that is easy to mock and, indeed, it was mocked by a few underemployed members of the gun-rights lobby who couldn't resist the temptation to spoil a somber moment by holding up frat boy signs to the effect that a teacher or student packing heat could have stopped the carnage, which is the kind of thing I wonder about when a cop gets shot.
Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. And sometimes people with guns kill other people with guns. It's as complicated as our feelings, and nobody's come up with a convincing response to slaughters such as Virginia Tech, especially proposals to let college kids carry guns on campus. Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican from Good Thunder, introduced one such obscenely timed proposal Wednesday. Are you kidding, Cornish? Have you ever been to a kegger at Mankato or St. Cloud or the U of M and thought, "Cool! I hope these dudes have guns!"
The die-in folks had a spot of trouble with choreography. At first, they began prostrating themselves from the west end of a line of "victims," but that was wrong. They regrouped, helped the first few victims back to their feet and resumed falling down from the other end of the line as planned. You ever have one of those days?
As silly as it was, it produced an emotional response. Some of the folks falling down were real-life parents of gun victims in the Twin Cities, and it is hard to see 32 people on the ground (I could only count 31, despite several tries) without a twinge of horror at the senselessness of the violence in the world.
One of the real-life victims' moms was Doris Thomas, whose 15-year-old son, Tony, was gunned down in north Minneapolis two years ago.
"It was very serene," said Thomas of her time lying on the steps, "dead." "I didn't have any strong thoughts or a vision. I just thought about my son and how there was truth to the words we are saying."
The Virginia Tech killer shouldn't have gotten a gun, because he should have been in a psychiatric ward. Virginia closed that loophole two weeks after the 32 died. But there remain many loopholes to shut, including in Minnesota, where some unlicensed sellers can still sell guns to unknown buyers without background checks. To tighten those laws is not anti-gun. It is pro-safety.
"It's harder to transfer title to my fishing boat than a gun," said St. Paul City Council Member Lee Helgen, who was displaying a gun shot map showing that the area north of the Capitol was well-sprayed with gunfire last month.
"Something is broken."
"I don't know why everybody has to shoot somebody every time there's a misunderstanding," said 70-year-old bus driver Barb Sjerven, who was drawn to the steps by all the commotion while waiting for her Osakis, Minn., sixth-graders to finish touring the Capitol. "I mean, it's OK to have guns," Sjerven said. "But it seems like everybody has guns. So I can't blame [the die-in people] for being concerned. There's way too much shooting going on. And there's something wrong with us. There really is."
You don't have to be on the side of anything more than common sense to agree with Barb Sjerven from Osakis.
There's too much shooting.
Glocks are on sale all month.
Nick Coleman • firstname.lastname@example.org