Guns, church, and an unreasonable moon

by Janelle Hanchett

I sat on my porch last night with my husband, Mac, and we talked about the twenty-seven people murdered during church yesterday.

“Did you hear that the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter died? Her name was Annabelle,” I said.

“No. Fuck.”

“And the dad wasn’t there. He wasn’t there to protect his child,” I said, and Mac looked away. “He wasn’t there to throw himself over his baby to take that bullet.”

His eyes brimmed with tears. I looked up at the moon with a couple fucking tears in my own eyes. Seeing him cry does me in. I suppose we were thinking of our girl about that age, fifteen, or any of our babies, really, or the eight-year-old boy who took four bullets in that church.

And being denied the chance to even try to save them.

The moon over our porch was ridiculous. An irrational brightness with barely a sliver gone, illuminating the back of a broken sheet of clouds, its face hidden in gray then bursting out between puffs of white.

Look at me, it seemed to scream. I’m the brightest shit around. 

“If you look at that moon long enough,” I said, “You can almost forget we live in a country where twenty-seven people are murdered while praying to God at church.”

You can almost forget that it happens so often we perhaps barely care anymore, that people believe the solution is to arm more people.

More guns.

Arm the grandmothers in the chapel. Arm the schoolteachers. Arm the fathers and mothers and teenagers. Get ‘em all guns.

You can almost forget the insanity of that prospect, how humans insist on methods of mass destruction even though each of us is here for 80 or 90 or 100 years at the most, if we’re lucky, and then we’re gone into the ground for the rest of the time the moon keeps shining, and still we can’t agree to try our best to let everyone live those years.

We make guns that rapid-fire so we can kill more humans. And we make shit to add to the gun to kill even more humans.

More. More. More humans.

You can almost forget that we’ve made nuclear weapons that could destroy every country on earth five or ten times over or whatever that statistic is (does it matter past once?), and this is in defense of arbitrary borders over stolen lands, stolen through the blood of people. Blood that could have run 80, 90, 100 years.

I guess we’ve always been like this.


I get it. I’m not a fucking pacifist. Maybe I’m a fucking pacifist. We need protection from the Hitlers and Mussolinis and manifest destinies. We need to protect our nation. Sure.

But really, if you pull way, way back, all the way back past the moon and into the void, it’s really fucking insane that humans can’t even agree on continued survival. We can’t even agree that nobody wants to die in mass bloodshed. We can’t even agree it’s a bad idea to create weapons that would destroy the entire planet in war, as if total annihilation is “winning.”

We aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.

I grew up around guns. People very close to me are proud gun owners. I fired a shotgun for the first time when I was about twelve, off the deck at my grandparents’ house. The kickback knocked me on my rear. My dad and uncles laughed, as did I. I felt cool, like one of the guys.

I grew up with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. I grew up with Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan. The gun owners in my life loved all four of those men.

I lean deeply toward the latter.

When I think back, and imagine it now, the gun doesn’t feel American in my hands. It doesn’t feel patriotic. It doesn’t feel like freedom. It feels like cold metal filled with other metal that shreds muscles and stops hearts and shatters bones.

It feels like metal that kills some people and earns other people astronomical amounts of money.

But I get it. I get the “culture.”

I get the mighty power an AR-15 offers, and how “cool” we feel firing weapons. So badass. So edgy. Gun culture. Whee.

Manly as fuck, you know. Real tough broad shit. The people in my life don’t act like that. They don’t flaunt their guns. They don’t post pictures of themselves on Facebook with rifles and smirks to show how tough they are.

Even still, I only “get” gun culture in theory. I understand because I’ve seen it, but it’s never felt like freedom to me, like love or life, like something to frantically protect.

A weapon for civilians that kills fellow civilians faster.



After Sandy Hook, when dozens of first graders were mowed down in their classrooms, maybe sitting on their squares on the carpet, singing a song, brushing paint across rolled up paper, or at their desks practicing the letter “B” – when dozens of first graders can huddle in a room wide-eyed and crying while teachers hush them in a last sad pathetic attempt at life, to only bleed anyway on the carpet squares beneath letters the shapes of zoo animals on the walls – when those babies can die and not a goddamn fucking thing happens, nothing will ever happen.

Mac and I talked about that too. How there’s nowhere to go from there.

Maybe we just give up.

Maybe we accept America will become some robotic zombie dystopian hell where we all carry guns and simply shoot each other at random to get our way. Like California before it was in the union, maybe.

If we take all the guns away, will it work?

Call my fucking representatives, but do they care?

I haven’t the money of the NRA.

I lived in a nation once with strict gun laws. Spain, specifically. It was lovely. I felt four-hundred-and-fifty times safer.

But maybe we have too many guns in America.

Maybe it’s too late for us.

Maybe we should try.


On my wall, I have a quote from Ursula K Le Guin that says, “We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries – the realists of a larger reality.”

I suppose she means the freedom to sing to God without dying. Freedom to dance in sweat and moonlight, to stay alive in a high school, college, or first-grade classroom.

The faces of those babies.

They say more guns.

The insanity makes my head spin.

I take to the page to remember freedom.

Maybe the moon will be less bright tonight, but it always comes back in its brilliant indifference.

It’s up to us to listen.


26 Comments | Posted in nothing to do with parenting. | November 6, 2017
  • Suzanne

    Come to NL.

    • RocketteSprockette

      NL as in Newfoundland?

      • Cheney

        New London?

    • Adam

      I’m sorry for our ignorance. I really am ashamed of my fellow citizens with too much frequency. NL is Netherlands, guys. *Sigh*

  • Margaret Sky

    I want to say something but I have nothing to say. Except you are brave for letting this all into your heart. Because about half the time, I just don’t. I just choose to block it out because it’s all too much and I’m already a therapist, so I already hear about a whole lot of sad shit (that is how I justify it to myself). The other half of the time, I am destroyed and yet left breathing and yet the moon just keeps shining in its “brilliant indifference.” Thanks for this post.

  • Melanie Murrish

    I keep writing something here, then deleting it, because nothing comes close to what I want to say. Why can’t we all just be nice to each other?

  • Heather aka HoJo

    I love everything you write. I’m at such a loss right now! Yes, everyone in Texas (and all the other recent shootings) have been in my thoughts and prayers, but that is clearly not enough. I’ve reached out to my Congressional reps. Two were somewhat encouraging, one a joke – yet here we are again. I will do my best to raise my children to be the kindest people I can imagine, and I hope others are doing the same – yet that is not enough. But what is? Until every shooting ends and there is no more pointless death, it will not be enough. 🙁

  • Michaela

    It is beyond comprehension to suggest that the answer to more guns is ‘more guns’… i watched trump spout how it could have been so much worse had there not been someone else ‘shooting in the opposite direction’… it took me a while to even compute, so insane is the absurdity… then i cried. We live in dark, dark times. Thanks for doing the work you so, janelle, it’s so very much appreciated.

  • Lizzie Lau

    A few months ago I gave up my green card. After 20+ years of being a resident and taxpayer I was finally in a position to apply for citizenship, and instead I handed back the coveted card and moved home to Canada. I weighed all the opportunities against all the risks and decided that my baby girl would go to school up here instead. She’s a California girl and still tells people that we live there, that we’re just visiting Canada. It makes me sad, until something like this happens and my daughter’s president looks at the camera and tells her, “It’s not a gun thing. It’s too soon to talk about guns.”

  • Donita

    This is the first thing I’ve allowed myself to read that outlined any details beyond the headline. I just can’t anymore. But I also know the answer isn’t to bury my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening around me.

    “The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” Jane Goodall. And I believe apathy is born from helplessness. But I truly and honestly feel helpless. WHICH mass shooting is going to be the one that is going to finally wake people up?

  • Christy Green

    Thank you for helping those of us who have the same frustrated sad feelings but don’t have the gift for articulating them so beautifully. Last week (again) my daughters school was put on a “soft” lockdown because of a possible threat. What scares me the most about these is it’s become so commonplace that she didn’t even mention it when I picked her up. I had been alerted by email. When did the threat of violence aimed at our children stop being alarming??So fucking sad…

  • Tauri

    It is heartbreaking. Even when I post on social media something to the effect of “more background checks/ smaller magazines/ no bump stocks” I get blasted with “but what about trucks or planes or fertilizer?” Like I am crazy to focus on more gun control. And I get it, people are creative with their killing and destruction…but do we just sit around because if someone can’t access a gun he will access something else? There will always be crazies, but I feel like it doesn’t honor the victims to shrug and offer continued “thoughts and prayers”. It pisses me off!

  • Wendy

    We had a mass shooting years ago in Australia and we tightened our gun laws – we haven’t had another. I don’t believe the answer is more guns – but as you say the money made off the sale of these is a whole different ballgame. Move to Aus – we have lots of great writers 🙂

  • Rebecca

    I’m so sad for Americans that are frightened living in their own country. I’m so grateful my country had one mass shooting in the 90s then shut that shit down immediately. I don’t need a gun to protect my family because I don’t fear for their lives. I don’t have a gun, yet I feel far safer than if I were armed and lived in the US.

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this time and time again 🙁

  • Penelope

    My husband grew up in the States. He applied for Australian citizenship when the current president was voted in. We can’t imagine moving to the States anymore, not with all the shootings. Australia is a deeply flawed country, but at least the guns are regulated.

  • Elaine McKechnie

    Janelle, I am absolutely sobbing. The picture you painted of those babies…Thank you.

  • Kathy S

    Guns=penis extenders. I’m as afraid of the good guys retaliating as I am of the cowards who are attacking us. I feel hopeless, knowing we’ll never be able to rid our country of all those weapons.

  • Tarah

    I don’t have the words to even respond to this. I am a Canadian and it is heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating to witness. Why is adopting a new way of thinking (with statistics and proof everywhere) so impossible for your citizens (obviously not all of them) to accept or even try for that matter. I used to dream I could move to the States one day, now I am grateful for my Country.

  • Cheney

    It turns my stomach, cause you’re right. Maybe this is it, maybe this is the best we can do. What the fuck. What the fuck do we do?

  • Renee Pedersen

    I am so tired. Every damn day, people are killed, our government lies to us and politicians don’t care. I am so tired. I feel like I talk and I talk and I talk and not a damn thing gets done. People are just as stupid, ignorant, intolerant, racist, bigoted, hateful, mentally deranged and godless as they have ever been. When is it going to change? Is it going to take some idiot dropping the “big one” on us or somewhere else to shake some sense into everyone? I didn’t bargain for this. I don’t want this for my kids and I sure as hell don’t want it for my grandkids. Janelle, this shit needs to change. What can we do? Who the hell is going to listen to a 63 year old lady that is just fed up with this bullshit? This senseless killing is because the NRA machine has bought and paid for all the politicians and the person running our country thinks mentally ill people should have the right to buy guns. So much so, that he has cut every program that we have to help the mentally ill. I am so damn tired. It seems so hopeless……..

  • Jen

    Canada ????????

  • Tracey

    Sandy Hook….????

  • Ang

    Thank you for this post.
    Keep writing to help us all remember freedom
    Keep writing to shine light on the darkness
    Keep writing to keep hope flickering

  • Diane McCurdy

    comments from various people:

    Sr. Lillian….I did teach Janelle. And I remember her thought processes. Janelle is a true Ursuline product. I am grateful you sent this to me.
    Former Chronicle Jr. Editor….No words, tears, yes, you should be proud and we should all be ……
    Former High School English teacher…..Brilliant!! Be Proud!!!
    Former High School English teacher…..Wow! I am impressed. Really impressed. Just responding as an English wonk. i love the writing. Looking at it as a vehicle which might stun and impress the reader to new considerations and with the impetus to move….do something that might help, i think it would be just as impressive without all the “fucks” and you know that fuck is my favorite word. I t is good enough to perhaps change a person who reads it and collect one more person who has had enough killing and would like to do something about it. While it is not a lecture, it is certainly conveying a position that cries out for a response….emotional, psychological, even action ….maybe even political action.

    • renegademama

      Thanks, Ms. McCurdy! This made my day. Amazing.

  • Leslie Talarico

    Oh Janelle::sigh::. Sandy Hook right? I keep thinking the same thing, if they didn’t do something after that they never will. Thinking about my children having to do shooter drills at schools breaks my heart, apparently when all the doors are locked the kindergarten kids are supposed to know to go to the bathroom and stand on a toilet and lock the door?!?. I would rather be the optimist without a gun… but I want my children to be safe, so where does that leave us? You need a license and insurance to have a car, but a gun you need virtually nothing. So sad- but there is always the moon, and Canada, and hope?