A New Year’s Wish for Bravery

by Nicole Plyler Fisk

Each New Year, I look forward to Natalie Leppard’s Facebook status update, because she shares Neil Gaiman’s annual New Year’s wish. I’ve only read Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, but I enjoyed it very much and am open to other recommendations (hint, hint). I could visit Neil Gaiman’s online journal and read his wish myself, but waiting for Natalie to post it is part of my New Year’s tradition.

Like the rest of America, Gaiman seems to have had the Sandy Hook Massacre in mind, when he wrote the following:

“It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.

So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.

And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.

So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.”

Tonight, Sandy Hook Elementary School is having an open house in its new location, a refurbished old school that had been closed two years prior. Tomorrow, parents across America — but especially Sandy Hook parents — will be brave and drop off their kids at school. They’ll do this, despite the fact that — unlike Australia, a country that had implemented stricter gun regulation 12 days after its last mass shooting in 1996 — America has done nothing.

Part of the reason that America has done nothing, of course, is that there are still opponents for any change in gun laws, a la NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. Granted, the majority of NRA members support stricter gun regulation. But others are advocating Wayne LaPierre’s “more guns” position and are attacking the argument that we should go the way of other countries, such as Australia, Britain, Japan or South Africa.

The latest forwarded post that came across my facebook newsfeed argues against using Britain, specifically, as an example, because of the 1999 murder (which was later reduced to manslaughter) charge against Tony Martin.

The forwarded post claims that the misunderstood Tony Martin is now serving a life sentence for murder, because he defended his home against two intruders with an illegally owned firearm. It fails to mention the following complicating facts of the case:

(1) Fred Barras, the boy murdered, was 16 years old.

(2) Tony Martin’s pump action shotgun was only illegal, because he did not legally apply for and receive a firearms certificate. Of course, he wouldn’t have gotten it, because he had legally applied for and received a shotgun certificate, but it was revoked when he shot a hole in the window of a vehicle whose owner had stopped to pick an apple in his neighboring orchard. Martin shot instead of getting the vehicle information and giving it to the police like a normal person. Or, explaining that the apples were off limits. Or, letting him have a damn apple.

(3) Forensics evidence revealed that Tony Martin lied to the authorities about the details of the shooting. It was not possible for him to have shot at the intruders from the top of his stairs, as he claimed. Rather the bullet holes suggested he had been lying in wait. The 16-year old victim was shot in the back, as he was trying to climb out the window.

(4) Tony Martin was prejudiced against Gypsies. He was known to fantasize about “putting Gypsies in the middle of a field, surrounding it with barbed wire and machine gunning them.” Fred Barras was Gypsy.

(5) Martin is a free man, having been released 28 July 2003, serving three years of his five-year (not life) sentence.

So, no, gun lovers. Tony Martin is not proof than Britain should not have responded to the Dunblane , Scotland massacre with stricter gun regulation. Not even a little bit. Twenty children died not even a month ago, and you’re more concerned with the Tony Martin’s who may be affected by the one measure (gun control) that has been proven effective.

My husband and I were talking over the holidays. We remembered that, when we were young, we wondered why people who lived in violence-ridden countries, like Israel and Palestine, didn’t pick up and move to a place that would be safer for their families. Why stay in a country with so many acts of terror, so many suicide bombings? As adults, we understand. It’s difficult, in many ways and especially financially, to pick up and leave for another country. We agree that Britain or Australia would be a safer place for Arina and Jack, since America has become the land of domestic terrorism, with suicide shootings rather than bombings. It’s a land where one customer can buy 32,000 rounds of ammunition, worth $18,000, and have it delivered to his Kentucky house on a freight truck. It’s a land where it’s easier to buy bullets than Sudafed.

If the NRA, or anyone of the Wayne LaPierre mindset and pocketbook, is willing to finance our migration, we’ll go to that safer place with thanks. Otherwise, I’ll be right here, exposing your lies.

P.S. Natalie responds to the forwarded post, imitating its melodramatic form:

You’re sound asleep when you hear a thump in your garden.
Half-awake, and nearly paralyzed with fear, you hear muffled whispers.
Someone is trying to break into your sister’s house next door and is moving your way.
With your heart pumping, you reach down beside your bed and pick up your shotgun.
You rack a shell into the chamber, then inch toward the masked man.
You raise the shotgun and fire.
The blast knocks the thug to the floor.
Then you realize that “thug” was your adopted son, a high school student: