Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Spencer Rendahl: Living Among Guns

(Host) The December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,Connecticut, sparked a national conversation about our current gun laws and culture. Writer and commentator Suzanne Spencer Rendahl reflected on that debate from her own experience with guns in her rural New Hampshire town.

(Spencer Rendahl) Last summer, a suburban Boston friend asked me if she should let herson attend a neighborhood friend's birthday party featuring Nerf guns.

I empathized and refrained from mentioning that as residents of rural northern New England, my family is surrounded by neighbors with real guns.

I know this because during different seasons of the year, I can hear them firing, sometimes dozens of shots an hour.

I see them around town, too: a truck parked on the side of the road, sometimes a dog or two standing nearby, and camo-clad hunters holding shotguns. When I take my dog hiking in the woods near my house during certain months,I always wear my bright red wind-breaker to announce that I'm not a target.

A few years ago a pack of coyotes killed a newborn calf in the field next to our house.Now we know another calf has been born when we see the farmer standing guard with his shotgun.

I've even fired agun. An Army Reserve commander once offered to let me try shooting his M-16 while I covered his unit's training as a reporter in the 1990s. Why not? I replied. I kneeled, braced myself, and pulled the trigger. I had a dozen or two bullets scattered nowhere near their target and a sore shoulder to show for it.

Much has been written in the past few months about how to prevent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, a school much like my second-grader's. While I peacefully coexist with guns, I also live in a community that has been shaken by gun violence. And I believe we need reform now.

Banning semi-automatic assault rifles like the one Adam Lanza used in Newtown would be a good start. We did it before with the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, and we can do it again.

But as New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a recent interview, there is no magic bullet. He went on to suggest there is no single solution, for stemming our epidemic of gun violence. Banning scary-looking rifles may cut down on some violence and make people feel safer. But the inconvenient fact remains that only three percent of people who commit homicides with guns do so with rifles. The bigger problem we face comes from handguns, which are involved inmost of America's 30,000 annual gun deaths.

Recent Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Second Amendment have made it clear that handguns aren't going away. But we can better enforce gun laws and close loopholes so that they aren't so easy to get. Commissioner Kelly said six million guns a year are sold privately without screening.

The National Sheriffs' Association, which represents more than 3,000 county sheriffs across the country, has supported what it calls for common-sense steps like the ones President Obama has proposed, including universal background checks.

Can these measures prevent another Sandy Hook? Maybe not. But if they can help lower overall gun deaths - which have totaled over 2,000 since Newtown -they're worth a try.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
Latest Stories