Photo credit: Pixels

Today, a young man rides in a cab, holding his stomach. He’s looking out the window, pondering what he’s about to do.

He just got off an airplane because he had to travel out of state to do what he needs to do. He’ll stay in a hotel tonight alone. He knows the consequences for what he’s about to do, but he’s only 18. He has a whole future ahead of him—he wants to go to college, start his career, travel the world.

He can’t possibly be expected to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. So after weeks of careful consideration, he’s decided to brave the masses in order to protect his future. He needs to buy a gun.

The cab driver keeps looking in the rearview mirror, eyebrows raised. He knows where this address is, and he’s worried for the young man. “Brave thing you’re doing,” the driver says. “You sure you’ve thought this through?”

The young man nods. His hands are shaking, so he presses them to his jeans. “It’s the right thing for me,” he says.

The cab arrives and the driver turns, his eyes wide. “You be careful out there,” he warns. “You never know what people could do.”

The young man steps out of the cab and he’s instantly mobbed by a waiting crowd. “MURDERER!” someone screams—he can’t see who it is; there are so many people and a sea of posters surrounding him: people lying on the ground, blood surrounding them, bullet holes in their chests.

The young man squeezes his eyes shut and makes his way through the crowd, enduring the nasty insults and hardly-contained threats. “Innocent people don’t deserve to die!” a woman shouts, and a roar sweeps over the crowd. The young man is an easy target—his parents couldn’t get work off to join him, and his friends didn’t support his decision.

By the time he makes it to the shop’s doors, he’s covered in someone’s soda and his heart is pounding in his chest. Inside, he’s greeted by the shop owner with a large packet of papers and napkins, wincing sympathetically.

“So sorry about that,” the man says. “You can use our bathroom to clean up.”

Once the young man washes the soda off his arms, he sits down with the owner and looks at the paper on top of the stack.

“We need to make sure you’re ready to do this,” the owner says. He has kind and tired eyes, like he’s been lifting something heavy for years. “Once you make this decision, you can never go back.”

The young man has to read all sorts of testimonies—men who purchased guns and instantly regretted it, those who got their hands on a rifle and realized they were making a mistake.

“It’s not too late to change your mind,” the owner tells him.

The young man has to watch a movie with graphic violence—children clinging to their dead parents, a 30-second clip of a mass shooting.

“Do you have your paperwork?” the owner asks, and the young man pulls them out of his backpack. He had to get his parents’ approval and a character reference from a community member, which was embarrassing and shameful. He wanted a gun to protect himself, but everyone saw it as a threat to the people around him. The young man didn’t want to hurt anyone. Why couldn’t anyone see that?

After the young man has signed the papers and watched the videos, he’s got a lump in his throat and his hands are shaking again.

“If you’re sure,” the owner says, “we’ll get you on our list.”

“I’m sure,” the young man says. Except he doesn’t feel sure anymore.

“As you know, we have a 48-hour waiting list. We can’t just give a gun to anyone who walks through our door. We’ll conduct a background check tonight, and if everything goes through, we’ll give you a call tomorrow with the time of your appointment.”

The young man stands. The owner is walking away, back to his office to sort through the hoards of other men who want guns. The gun shop is underfunded and overcrowded because it’s the only one within 500 miles. People are traveling from different states and paying for hotels and consultations because insurance doesn’t cover gun purchases. The young man will be working overtime for the next few weeks, but it’s worth it because he’s protecting his future.

He faces the door, and the crowd watches him approach. They raise their posters and their faces turn purple. The young man isn’t sure he’ll even make it to the cab, but he can’t hide here forever. He takes a deep breath and counts to five. He opens the door.

Actually, the young man arrives at the gun shop with no paperwork, no background check (Utah doesn’t require them—in fact, most states don’t) and without guardian approval. He’s 18, which means he can’t rent a car or go on a cruise, but he can legally own a semiautomatic weapon.

In July, he has to renew his car registration, and in September, he’ll renew his license because it’s unsafe to operate a machine that could kill people without proper safety checks. But he can simply walk out of Walmart with a rifle in his hands.

It’s always interesting to me, after a mass shooting like Parkland or Vegas, that Democrats inevitably call for tighter gun control and Republicans inevitably cling to the Second Amendment. After the Parkland shooting, a tweet went viral asking why Democrats wanted gun control yet supported abortion.

“You want to protect these children,” the tweet said, “but you murder thousands of innocent children each year.”

And of course, hundreds of tweets were written in response countering this point: “You want to protect children, but only until they’re born,” one tweet said.

For the woman that decide to have an abortion, their story will not be unlike the young man here. Many women have to travel out of state and pay for several nights in hotels because clinics usually have a 48-hour waiting period.

Insurance often doesn’t cover abortion, and girls under the age of 18 need a doctor’s note and guardian permission. There are often protests outside of clinics, meant to change the minds of the women approaching, some of whom are teenagers.

Yet I could walk into a gun shop today and walk out with a semiautomatic rifle. I’ve never had any training, but I could carry it with me everywhere I go. I could keep it in my purse and go to my brother’s choir concert.

That’s my legal right because this is America.

We want our food fried and our guns loaded. We want to carry because we can because the Founding Fathers were looking out for us.

They wanted every American to have a AR-15 with accessories to make it fully automatic, and they wanted children to walk under metal detectors to get to school.

It’s our constitutional right to bear arms, so we’re going to bear them all the way to our graves. America has twice as many guns as we do people, and every year, those numbers swing farther and farther apart.

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