bang bang

Growing up we had guns. I remember the time my brother Scott got shot in the thigh with a BB while he, some friends and my brother Matt were goofing around with an airgun. The BB embedded itself in his skin and likely stung like hell.

When my dad took us camping, sometimes, in an open field, we’d practice shooting cans and bottles set on top of a log or hanging upside down on sticks. He kept a pistol in a felt-lined box on the top shelf of his closet. At least once, he showed me how to load the clip full of bullets into the butt of the gun, how to cock it, sending the bullet into the chamber, and how to release the clip for safe storage. It’s weight surprised me and, as if it were made of solid gold, it strained my skinny wrist if I held it outstretched in one hand.

One weekend when I was fourteen, not long after some jerk had exposed himself to me at the top of our street, my parents went out of town for a night, perhaps to bring one of my siblings off to college, though I don’t rightly recall. I asked my friend Wendy to stay over and, because I felt somehow safer sleeping in my parents bed, Wendy slept in the bottom bunk in the room across the hall.

Around midnight the phone rang. In a daze, I answered and heard a man panting on the other end. Immediately, I hung up thinking it was just a prank. I was about to doze off when the phone rang again. This time, my mind began racing, thinking he was looking at my address there in his phone book, knew where I lived and might come to get me. The hair at the back of my neck pricked with heat and sweat. Without a second thought, I reached up into my dad’s closet and grabbed the felt-lined box, fished out the gun, loaded it and kept it in my grasp. After a long time, the phone stopped ringing, and I laid awake in the dark as long as I could, waiting and afraid.

So many Americans believe the myth that we are safer if we own a gun. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The presence of a gun makes it five times more likely domestic violence will result in murder. And if guns are loaded and kept nearby for self defense, children find them and shoot their parents, their siblings, their friends, themselves. Guns discharge accidentally in stores, parking lots and homes, and kill or maim innocent folks. Guns kept close at hand are easily triggered by an impulsive finger when their owners—or their owners' relatives—are provoked, angry, afraid or suicidal.

Some argue that it is our inalienable right to own a gun when perhaps it should be thought of more as a privilege, one in which we must earn the right, like driving a car; they're simply too dangerous. The second amendment, after all—believe it or not—was crafted to suppress southern states’ slave revolts, not to allow unfettered access to assault rifles and automatic Glocks.

The modern obsession with guns in this so-called great nation of ours is nothing short of sick, particularly when, due to mass shootings, suicides, homicides and accidental deaths, someone dies from a bullet every sixteen minutes. Guns have been fetishized to such an extent that men—and perhaps a handful of women—strap them on like some phallic accessory and swagger around in public as if to say, “I'm potent!” Makes me wonder.

When I discuss reasonable gun control measures with others, I often hear the defense that law-abiding citizens should have the right to own a gun. And while I think most of us should consider getting rid of our guns (I like the idea of a government buy-back program—melt 'em all down!) I don’t necessarily disagree. The problem is that most gun-toting citizens are law abiding ... until they aren’t. Think of the guy who shoots his girlfriend during a domestic dispute, or the curmudgeon who fires at a car full of kids because they are playing their music too loud, or the barroom brawl that goes south and ends with a bullet in someones head, or the man who mistakenly shoots his son thinking he is an intruder. Besides, things like universal background checks, thirty-day waiting periods and the implementation of a terrorist no-gun list, do not deny most of us the right to own a gun if we want. But the NRA and its lobbyists, with their fearmongering tactics and stranglehold on politicians from both parties, though mostly republican, have many Americans scared shitless and believing in debunked myths.

Presidential candidate Ben Carson said after the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” I imagine if that body belonged to his wife or child, he’d relent. Other politicians have responded only by encouraging prayer. And while prayer is fine and restorative and good, if there is a God, it doesn't appear as if She's listening; we've had at least one mass murder every day in this country and 33,000 people have died from gunshots in a year.

You might ask, why am I writing about this on this blog? I write because I don't want Calvin or my husband, or any other person for that matter, to be another sad statistic.

Nothing happened that night when I was fourteen, but I shudder to think what I might have done if my friend Wendy had startled me by entering the dark room. Might I have shot her thinking she was the creep who had been breathing into the phone? I can never know. Odds are, though, in some town, perhaps today, things like this are bound to occur as long as we remain idle and silent, watching the clock tick until the next sorry incident involving a gun.

Holly Ballard Martz
bang bang (I cannot second your amendment)
cast wax, encaustic, mixed media


  1. You present a very balanced, level-headed and persuasive argument.

  2. Having grown up in Europe, I was never able to comprehend the level of obsession that americans have for guns; in the UK, even the police do not seem to need them. (by the way, did you see the video of the recent execution that the brave police force -a.k.a. Gestapo - just perpetrated in San Francisco, where they gunned down a wobbly - obviously black - man who may or may not have been holding a knife).
    There is NO justification for ANYONE to have a gun (except for target practice, perhaps?).
    Guns are made for one reason only: TO KILL. Everything else is utter nonsense.
    The part that is even harder to understand is that there are in fact other places where guns are popular - just look north across the border, Canadians also own MANY; however, they do not seem to suffer from the same insanity that hits the US on such a regular basis to have become the norm. These insane shootings make the headlines if/when they are out of whack even for the US, and especially if they can be used to scare people even more against 'the terrorists'.
    Sadly, a Country that was born and built on violence can hardly be expected to be civilized enough to stop the madness, BAN the killing instruments and stop the bullshit of 'constitutional rights' once and for all.
    If it is wrong, it is wrong.

  3. As a fellow parent of an epileptic child (a 25 y/o daughter who functions at the level of a 6-month-old, can't walk, talk, ripped with seizures, etc), I have enjoyed reading many of your stories about living with epilepsy. This has nothing to do with your stated purpose.

    I am not on the side of anyone who does not believe in personal freedom. If you don't believe in someone having the right to defend themselves, especially against the government, then you do not believe in freedom. There are plenty of places in the world for people who hate freedom. Let us have one.

    Unsubscribed. Good luck!

    1. dear james,

      i am glad that, up until now, you have enjoyed reading my blog. it saddens me whenever i hear of another parent with a disabled child who also has epilepsy. i am very sorry.

      with regard to your comments about freedom and your strong implication that i am a freedom hater, if you read my post more carefully you will see that nowhere did i say that i was against personal freedom, nor did i say that people should not have the right to own guns or defend themselves. regrettably, you misread.

      as for freedoms, there are all kinds: freedom to practice one's own religion; freedom to write what one wants to in their personal blog; freedom to evolve; freedom to express one's opinion about guns; freedom over one's own body; freedom to move about in public spaces without fear of being shot by a stray bullet; i'd say most americans are for freedoms until they feel theirs are being impinged upon.

      what i do state in this post is my belief that many people are mislead into thinking that guns make us safer. the vast majority of the studies i have read from a variety of sources debunk that myth and, in fact, make good cases that guns pose more of a threat than a protection.

      as for the right to use guns to defend against the government, this is not a fear of mine. but that might be in large part because i am not african american, latino or muslim. my white privilege allows me more freedoms that other americans.

      perhaps this clears things up, james, though i have my doubts.

  4. Oh, I forgot to mention, what if someone had broken in? On top of that, sounds like your dad is the one to blame for the whole situation, leaving you two alone when you obviously weren't ready for it AND leaving the gun where you could easily grab it. I grew up with a shotgun standing in the corner of my closet. There are no memories in my life where I might have killed someone who came into the room unannounced because I knew that if you don't know what your target is you don't shoot. You weren't trained correctly or ready for it.

    BTW, I don't remember if you've tried medical marijuana, but, if not, you need to... unless you also go along with whatever the government tells you to believe about that, too.


    1. dear james,

      thanks for telling me i "need" to try medical marijuana. i won't assume what you are trying to imply here. first, it appears you think i'm a freedom hater. now what insult are you trying to hurl? why are you making things so personal? and to insult my (dead) father, too? sad.

      in case you were wondering, i do wear a seat belt in cars, not so much because it is the law, but because i know it makes me safer.

      so long. good riddance.

  5. WOW, just wow! I didn't think I'd have to come back to your political platform to clarify something that should have been so clear.

    You know, not everything in the world is about you. I was talking about medical marijuana for your son. My daughter is a medical marijuana patient.

    Also, if you think your "white privilege" is going to save you from anything, then you're walking around with your eyes closed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...

    ...and "insult(ed) (your)... father"????? GTFO. You seem to be able to read an insult into anything. Good luck with that. You're going to have a good time now that you're turning your blog about your son's epileptic condition, and living with it, into a personal political platform about topics that have nothing to do with it.

    1. dear james,

      i regret that i misunderstood your point about medical marijuana. i did so, in part, because i incorrectly assumed that in your reading of my blog you might have come across an entry or two from nearly two years of frequent posts about treating calvin with homemade THCA and CBD cannabis oils during a wicked and protracted benzodiazepine withdrawal. i was wrong.

      as for your continued presumptions about me, they are superfluous. you don't even know me.


    2. james,

      if you are out there, upon reflection, i think it is funny that i thought you meant that I should try medicinal cannabis. glad i could have a good laugh after all. I probably need to lighten it up a bit.


  6. I actually told my wife that I didn't understand why anyone would consider that an insult, anyway, because I would be like, "are you offering?".

    Side note: I've only read three or four of your articles. So, didn't know one way or the other, but if you're only doing THCa & CBD, you should consider THC.


  7. i know, right? peace to you as well, james. (smile)