Thursday, June 15, 2017

When you bring a gun into the library

Shots were fired last Sunday afternoon inside of the Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio. 

Columbus Main Library 

A shooting incident occurred while people of all ages were inside of the facility. One person was injured and the shooter is in custody. This is my condensed version of the incident. Bare boned facts that were extracted from the news reports about this event.

I was shopping for terrarium plants when my youngest son called to check up on me and my whereabouts. My family and friends know that going to the library on Sunday afternoon is a routine activity for me. In fact, it was on my agenda to swing by there and pick up three books that I had requested. 

Hearing that there had been a shooting incident there caught me completely off guard. Even in a climate where gun violence is extremely high, it never crossed my mind that this type of incident would occur in that space.

Why was it necessary to bring a gun into the library?

This is a question that spun around inside of my thoughts for the remainder of the day. My thoughts about a library run along the lines of being a space where life is supported and sustained through accessing materials. The instances of violence that are present in that space can be found in specific media content on the shelves, not acted out in reality.

The shooting occurred on the second floor of the facility. That's where I usually start my browsing when time allow me to hang out. If I had not been so determined to purchase the plants first, I would have been present in that moment. 

Three shots were fired by a Black man at a Black man. Only one of the bullets struck the victim. Fortunately, the other two did not strike anyone else. This could have ended up being another senseless tragedy due to mindless usage of a gun.

It is not difficult for me to imagine that there are folks who would suggest that no space occupied by people is totally safe. I would have to agree due to the numerous incidents that have occurred in schools, workplaces, social settings, and even in faith-based communities. It is a part of our American way of life. A gun related incident inside of the library should not have the power to make me angry.

But it has really hit a nerve with me.

This shooting incident over bad manners and fragile male ego has completely disrupted the image of the library that I have had for decades. This is a natural chill out space It's a space where people go to consume various forms of information. It is a space where my children, grandchildren, and preschool classes have come to spend time. I have been present when an occasional verbal argument has broken out and it has been quickly ended by security personnel. That is rarer than usual among the mix of patrons who use the facility. It just never crossed my mind that anyone who came through the doors would be carrying a gun. I am urban born and bred, yet this thought never crossed my mind.

What the shooter does not know about his gun-slinging ways is the mental wounds that he inflicted on patrons. I was not present when things went down, but my sense of feeling secure in that space is now altered. I actually have a valid reason to feel uneasy about going to the library. A reason that was non-existent until this past Sunday.

I find it difficult to just accept this as a fact without being mindful of the fact that our enslaved ancestors were prohibited from touching books or learning how to read. Our elders were not allowed access to libraries due to white supremacy policies about race. We have full access to this particular community resource and a Black man manages to sully it with an act of violence that could have resulted in death. This is a mentality that I cannot support or tolerate because a lot of work and blood was shed to gain us access. 

The shooting required the facility to close early for the day. It remained closed until Monday afternoon. I went to pick up the books and to browse as usual. It was not as heavily populated as usual, People were engaged in the usual activities, there was also a unspoken sense of uneasiness in the atmosphere. Even though the Columbus Police had cleared the scene and assured the community at large that there was no cause for concern, it's difficult to just brush aside what happened.

On my way home, I realized that the sense of uneasiness is not going away any time soon. Even though it was a first time incident within the system, it has scarred patrons levels of confidence about being safe inside of the facility. I am hoping that time will eventually smooth that over. 

If you are interested in becoming involved in advocating for gun laws in the state of Ohio, please take a moment to visit these sites for information:

Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence 

Every Town for Gun Safety

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