Congratulations to Lee Lynch! She won a copy of Blowback by Bev Prescott!
In Blowback, Bev takes on the incredibly difficult subject of firearms in America. It’s a polarizing issue in this country that sparks passionate debate. Kudos to Bev for tackling such a powder keg of a topic.
Also, Bev is giving away a copy of Blowback, winner’s choice between ebook or signed paperback. Just leave a comment in the space below. I’ll do the drawing and announce the winner on Friday, 9/26. Good Luck!
Let’s Talk About Guns
by Bev Prescott
Thanks to Jove Bell for allowing me the opportunity to blog at Women and Words about my latest novel, Blowback. Blowback is published by Bedazzled Ink Publishing and is available in paperback and e-book form from Amazon, Barns & Noble and Kobo.
I’m getting to an age when I pause at the top of the stairs in the morning and have to give myself some extra encouragement to step down them. My knees and back protest until they’re sufficiently lubricated enough to move freely without being achy. I dread checking the news wondering what awful things happened in the world while I slept. That’s why I love those mornings when I get to sleep in with a sweet book that has a happy ending. The reality of life though is that it’s a mix of getting to sleep in with a sweet book versus taking on the day. The subject of guns was my attempt to take on the day.
The trouble with the debate about guns in the United States is that both sides come to it from a visceral passionate place that blinds. I wanted to tell a story that put the passion and politics aside in order to explore the reality of guns moving easily among us and the fallout from it. As a result, Blowback was as difficult for me to write as readers have said it was to read.
Blowback takes place in my beloved Maine. The thing about Maine is that it’s one of those states where guns are part of the cultural fabric. The Mainers I know are salt-of-the-earth hard working decent people who’d have my back in a second when push comes to shove. They’re also gun owners. Blowback is about those kinds of decent wonderful human beings. I tried to create the kind of flawed characters that we all love and care deeply about. Brothers, sisters, parents, friends, co-workers, lovers. The collective us. The average every day hard working person just trying to make their way in a crazy, messed up beautiful world.
My goal wasn’t simply for the reader to like the characters, but to identify with them in an intimate way. To see themselves in the people on the pages so that, hopefully, the story might hit home. Not because I wanted to embroil us all in more of the same old hurt and bad news that we hear day in and day out about guns. But, because I hope we keep the conversation going about guns and violence until we find a way to talk to each productively. Until we find a way to either prevent or drastically diminish the chances of twenty innocent little children from being murdered in their classroom by a sick person who never should’ve had access to a firearm.To make sure that those who commit domestic violence don’t have access to firearms. To take hard look at the ways in which gun violence is a matter of public health as well as safety.
The idea for Blowback started percolating in the wake of what happened to those twenty little children at school in a bucolic American suburb in the weeks before Christmas. Specifically, on December 14, 2012, a young man with a history of mental illness, shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut (“Sandy Hook”). Using a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and a Glock pistol, he murdered twenty children and six adults in approximately ten minutes before taking his own life. It was one of those horrific events that gets burned into our collective conscience. We remember exactly where we were and what we were doing in the moment that we learned of the tragedy.
What makes this particular mass shooting so awful was the fact that precious defenseless little kids were the victims. It sparked yet another national debate about gun violence in the United States that seems to have gone nowhere. The conversation is stifled by passionate emotions on both sides of the gun debate issue. Instead of talking about the real problems associated with keeping guns out of the wrong hands, we’ve retreated back into the routine of vilifying each other.
I wrote Blowback in an effort to do what I could in my own small way to keep the conversation going. My journey to write Blowback began by researching the statistics about gun violence in the United States. What I learned shocked me as much as the tragedy at Sandy Hook. The following statistics come from Reducing Gun Violence in America, Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, Johns Hopkins University, January 25, 2013 (“Johns Hopkins”).
On average, thirty-one thousand people die in the United States every year by guns. 62% of are by suicides, 36% homicides and 2% are accidents. The 36% homicides per year equates to roughly thirty-three murders per day. That’s a Sandy Hook happening right under our noses each and every morning we get up and go about our business. We’re shocked by Sandy Hook, but not the everyday reality.
It reminds me of the comparison to airplane crashes and car crashes. When a plane goes down, it traumatizes us. The idea that so many innocent people die in one moment so violently is something we can barely wrap our minds around. Thankfully, airplane crashes don’t happen often. Yet, the number of people who die in auto accidents every year is approximately thirty-four thousand. That’s why we can’t just look at the Sandy Hooks. We have to pull back the veil and see what is happening every day in the United States to understand the full scope of the problem caused by guns in the wrong hands.
The problem of gun violence is far greater and more complicated than the lone gunman with a serious mental illness who manages to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction like a semi-automatic rifle or handgun. Moreover, the Johns Hopkins research shows that the United States is not any more violent than other similarly situated high income countries. Those countries have just as many burglaries, robberies, and sexual assaults as the United States.
However, the U.S. homicide rate is more than three times higher. This higher rate of homicide coincides strongly with the availability and easy access to firearms. We rarely get the opportunity to read or hear about these statistics. Instead, we get propaganda, half-truths and vitriolic arguments about how one side is more right than the other. I wanted to write a story about the truth, about the statistics. Then let the readers decide for themselves what’s best for them, and continue the conversation about what’s best for the collective us.
My intention in writing Blowback was not to tell people what to think, but rather, nudge them to think. To look at the facts with an open mind not clouded by passionate beliefs that serve only to blind. Don’t we owe it to the victims of gun violence to find a way to address the problem?
Some of my best friends are gun owners. I’m not afraid of guns, nor am I opposed to gun ownership, especially in the privacy of one’s home. Who am I to tell a person how best to protect her family? I’ve enjoyed spending time at the range with friends, engaging in recreational shooting. All I ask is that one be realistic about what it means to own a firearm. Is a firearm, on balance, really the best way to protect one’s family? Or does it serve only to create a situation that puts one’s family more at risk of an accident, crime, or suicide?
Blowback is a cautionary tale about how easily guns move among us, and the ease with which violence can result. For example, the Brady Act does not require background checks for private gun sales. Yet, according to John’s Hopkins, 40% of gun sales in the U.S. are private sales. That’s not a loophole in the law. It’s a black hole.
Gun violence isn’t a matter of bad guys and good guys. Sure, that’s part of it, but gun violence too often happens to good people at the hands of other good people. I know that Blowback isn’t an easy story to read. It wouldn’t be based on truth if it was easy. I hope you’ll give Blowback a chance and join me in continuing the conversation about how to prevent unnecessary gun violence.
Bev is an environmental attorney by day, sometimes writer and always just a short woman trying to make her way in a crazy, messed up beautiful world.