After the Attack on the Capitol, My Husband Wants to Buy a Gun
News of the attack on the US Capitol building has weighed heavily on my family, particularly my typically even-keeled husband. He’s been glued to his phone, tracking updates on the situation. He started complaining about an ache in his jaw — a muscle that seems permanently tensed. He’d been carrying this weight in silence, not wanting to talk about it. When he finally opened up, our conversation disturbed me.
Last night in bed, he turned to me and said, “I have something I want to discuss with you.” His tone was so serious I was instantly alarmed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I think we should get a gun.”
“I need to protect our family. What if there’s a civil war? What if the right-wing extremists attack our house? I have a brown wife and a brown child. I need to keep you both safe.”
I was conflicted. Part of me thought, What kind of white guy nonsense is this? Why do you have to feel so insecure that you turn everything into an arms race? Another part of me thought, I know it’s because you love us so much and are scared of losing us. The “this is nonsense” voice was louder.
“No. Absolutely not. If an armed militia were to attack our house, a measly handgun would do nothing. I don’t feel safe having it in the house. I feel like it would do more harm than good.”
He seemed so distraught, I felt the need to lighten the mood with a comedy reference. “We watched the Jim Jefferies gun control sketch together! How can you suggest getting a gun as an answer?”
“We don’t know if the police will protect us if things get bad.”
“Of course they will. It’s our local police, remember? The ones that hand out stickers at the school registration fair and cruise around our neighborhood on Halloween, giving out free candy. You don’t think they would help us?”
“I would feel better if we had one in the house.”
Maybe I’m too Pollyanna-ish, and he’s too much of a conspiracy theorist? I wondered momentarily.
“I’d feel worse. Do you think they’d really care about shooting up a dinky Midwestern suburb? They’re extremists — there are not that many of them. They’re going to target capitol buildings and places where they can make an impact. We’re not important. What would they want to do with us?”
“Ok. I’ll let go of the idea for now.”
The day after our conversation, I’m still shaken. It’s not because I discovered my husband and I are on different pages when it comes to gun ownership, although it was a surprise. It’s seeing my level-headed, rational, strong-minded husband reduced by fear. It’s seeing him suffering and unsure of the future. He’s lost his peace of mind. We’ve both lost our sense of security, however privileged, misguided, and delusional we were to have it in the first place.
Although, for now, the conversation between us is over, I know it will continue. Because if the past couple of months are any indication, American democracy is not impervious to threats. Even if the breach was “a goofball charade,” as one writer has called it (no), it decimated the tiniest shred of faith we had left in politics as usual. For us, a storming of the US capitol building happens in a bad Independence Day sequel; it doesn’t happen in real life. Yet, reality keeps testing our assumptions and our credulity.
We’ve both lost our sense of security, however privileged, misguided, and delusional we were to have it in the first place.
Other writers say the incident marks the beginning of a new era of violence in the country — that we’re “doomed for a downward spiral of terrorist violence.” With armchair experts either catastrophizing or downplaying the seriousness of each new event, I worry our family will continue to ping-pong between extremes. My husband will continue to feel threatened, and I will continue to preach faith over fear.
Whatever the future holds, I must have faith in the honest and difficult conversations I’ll have with my husband. Yes, he still thinks things will get worse. I still believe things will get better. I’m hoping our opposing perspectives will shed greater light on the challenges we’ll face. I know we’re not the only ones having these conversations. I find that both heartening and, like many recent events in our country, heartbreaking.