Yesterday was kind of a rough day for me. Most of you don’t know and don’t care about my personal life, and that’s fine. I’m just some guy who writes about gun rights on the internet. You don’t need to know anything about me.
But this time, you might find my personal life a little interesting. It relates to why I get so damn furious when anti-gunners claim we somehow want to see people die in mass shootings, that we somehow don’t care.
For me, mass shootings aren’t just a thing that happens. They’re a little personal. It’s why a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher absolutely infuriated me with this tweet.
After the mass shooting at Douglas there is no good reason to post this photo holding the weapon period, waa done in poor taste to generate a reaction period. You are entitled to your opinion but probably don’t live in Parkland so it is just another shooting somewhere else
— Greg Pittman (@GregPittman1957) April 25, 2018
You see, six years ago yesterday, I lost a dear friend in a mass shooting.
The place was a coffee shop in Seattle, Washington called the Cafe Racer. I’ve never been there, though it’s on the list of places to visit if I get the chance. I have no idea if the coffee is any good or not, and I really don’t care.
What I care about is that it was a place where a woman named Kimberly Lynn Layfield enjoyed spending time at.
Kim and I met in 8th grade. I’d just transferred into a new school, this one a private school that was created for more working-class families. Because of how so many teachers like to seat people according to the alphabet, I got seated right by Kim.
She was gorgeous, an absolute stunner. She had the kind of looks that let so many girls get away with being total snobs; only Kim wasn’t. She was exceptionally friendly to the new kid and became one of my first friends at the new school. She preferred to hang out with the kids who weren’t the popular ones necessarily. She didn’t like the mean girl schtick, after all, and we were a lot more genuine.
Throughout high school, Kim was there. She was special. Always friendly and eager to meet anyone special in my life. She was smart, funny, and down-to-earth, the kind of person anyone would want to hang out with.
After we graduated and I went into the Navy, I lost touch with her until our fifth-year reunion (yes, we did that). She came in and plopped down right next to me to catch up. She was living in Chicago at the moment, and she was really living. Then we lost touch again until I came across an independent film she’d been in. I emailed the director and asked him to pass my email to Kim.
I heard from her the next day, and we started catching up again.
Because of the time delay between Seattle, where she was living, and Georgia, we didn’t talk all that much. But social media let us stay abreast of what was going on in each other’s lives.
Until six years ago today.
That was when I logged into Facebook and saw activity in the group set aside for people who had graduated from our school. It was there that I learned that one of the fatalities in the Seattle coffee shop shooting the day before was none other than Kim.
At the time, I was the editor and owner of a small local news site. I had the news, no one else did. My journalistic instinct said to run the story. I just couldn’t, though. I wanted verification. Someone had to confirm it. Part of it was wanting to be very professional. The other part was praying that the news was wrong, that Kim was fine and it was a misunderstanding.
I’m going to be honest here. For a moment, shortly after I pulled my bawling butt up off of the floor under my desk where I’d collapsed upon hearing the news, I began to rethink my position on the Second Amendment. Could I have been wrong?
A moment later, I remembered that my position included the fact that sometimes jackwagons were going to be jackwagons and I wasn’t about to stop them. No law I could think of, except for possibly an outright ban on all firearms, would have saved Kim’s life. Even a ban might not have done the trick.
In other words, the Second Amendment and lawful gun owners weren’t to blame for Kim’s death. It was a pathetic maniac who couldn’t deal with the fact that the coffee shop didn’t want him in there anymore. That was it.
I don’t know that most of Kim’s circle of friends from back in the day feel the same way. I don’t know either way. I don’t know how her parents feel on the subject of guns, either. I haven’t asked them and, frankly, I don’t want to.
But what I do know is that I get livid when people act like I don’t care about those affected by mass shootings, that I somehow like this kind of thing. It’s bad enough when it’s someone else who has been impacted but imagine how it feels when it’s from someone who has only seen these things on the news?
Contrary to what they might think, violence affects people of all political ideologies. Further, being touched by it doesn’t necessarily transform you into a raging anti-gun zealot.
People on this side of the debate have been touched by violence as well. We simply have a different approach to the problem and pretending we somehow are ambivalent or worse, supportive of such violence, doesn’t help anyone. Instead, it makes it harder and harder to be civil in public debate.
I have no issue that people disagree with me. In truth, I don’t actually think they’re bad people because they disagree with me. I just think they’re wrong.
Meanwhile, they apparently think that I’m evil, all because I refuse to change my mind simply because of feelings, even when that feeling is loss and pain from one of the best people I’ve ever known being stolen from the world.