Last week Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman wrote a guest commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled “Let’s Talk About Guns.” Fed up with ongoing massacres such as those that have occurred at Columbine, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Aurora, Rep. Newman described the influence of the NRA in Jefferson City and called for sensible gun control legislation, which she has worked for since the Million Mom March in 2000.
Her commentary was posted in the online version of the Post Dispatch. As is customary these days, people posted their comments on the piece. The first comment was supportive of Rep. Newman’s efforts and mentioned that the vague language of the second amendment made it difficult for us to understand what our Founding Fathers would have wanted in the 21st century.
I have made it a practice to never, ever, comment on stories posted online. But this time, caution and common sense deserted me. I posted a couple of sentences relating to the comment about the Founding Fathers. “They didn’t know about assault weapons,” I wrote. “They had no idea about the incredible array of weapons we would develop in order to kill each other.”
And then came the comment directed toward me.
“You need to be silenced, Barbara Finch,” one of the Post’s “top commenters” wrote.
I must admit that a frisson of fear crawled up my spine when I read these words. Was this a threat? Or was the writer attempting to be clever with a play on words…silencing opposing thoughts in the manner of gun silencers?
First came the fear, and then came the fury. As one of the founders of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, I have spent the past seven years speaking out on issues that concern me. I have encouraged other women to stand up and speak out. We will not be silenced….not by bigots, or lobbyists, or corporate movers and shakers, and certainly not by a “top commenter” at the local newspaper.
Women’s Voices has a position paper on guns. It is a thoughtful, sensitive commentary that reflects on the need for guns in our society and balances that with the need for common-sense control. No one could accuse us of wanting to wrest guns out of anyone’s “cold, dead hands.” What we would like is to inject some common sense into thinking and legislating about these deadly weapons.
And speaking of common sense (sometimes known as intelligence), here is the rest of the posting from the top commenter, after his line about silencing me: …”our founding fathers didn’t know about iPhones and computers and the incredible array of communications devices we would develop in order to participate in free speech.”
Huh? Have you ever heard of an iPhone or a computer killing anyone?
Me neither. But iPhones and computers will help us from being silenced. Please join me by refusing to shut up.
ADDENDUM: At my request, the Post-Dispatch removed the offensive posting from the comment thread.
Barbara L. Finch is a writer and former public relations practitioner. In 2005 she and three friends founded Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice, an organization of progressive women now numbering more than 500 members and friends.