2012-2013 High school essay contest: Honorable mention

On page 169 of Kyle Cassidy’s Armed America, a photography book filled with Americans proudly displaying firearms, Paul and Beth—no last name given—sit with their two children and three guns on a living room sofa. Smiling, they appear to be a picturesque family, and the deadliness of Paul’s Bersa .380, held only inches away from his infant son Gavin, fazes no one. In the photo’s caption, Beth responds to the photographer’s question, “Why do you own a gun?” stating that she “was raised to never rely on anyone else to protect [her] or watch [her] back.” It is obvious that Paul and Beth’s guns give them a feeling of security.

Like many Americans, Paul and Beth’s firearms are essentially members of their family, protecting their vulnerable children from outside forces much like guard dogs. It is no wonder, then, that so many citizens become immediately defensive upon mention of gun control. Terrified of what others may do to them, they clamor for protection. Americans certainly have a problem with firearms, but it is clear that the true problem is the fear that necessitates those weapons…

As followers of Christ, what are we to do in a world that fears instead of loves? The road to recovering from this social disease will be long, but it must start with the renewal of trust from person to person. Our actions do not have to be revolutionary: instead of locking our doors and keeping others out, we can take time to learn about our neighbors and invite people from our communities into our homes. We can choose to believe that trusting others is not naïve, but necessary to our collective social health.

– Excerpted from “The deadliest American family member” by Lea Graber, Freeman Academy (Freeman, South Dakota), Grade 12.

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