Reflecting on Boston and the Need for Stricter Gun Control

Kimberly Tolleson




On the morning of Thursday, April 18th, I read the day’s headlines over breakfast and saw to my disbelief that the gun control bill expanding background checks had been defeated by certain senators, despite being supported by 90 percent of Americans. Though I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a very safe and gun-free city neighboring Boston, this total failure to do the bare minimum for gun safety sickened me.


I didn’t know any victims of gun violence myself, but I did know that more than 30,000 Americans are killed every year by guns. After seeing my city recently come together so passionately to mourn the three people killed in the Marathon bombing that Monday, I couldn’t help but wonder why more people – especially the senators who voted against universal background checks – weren’t equally affected by these other 30,000 unnecessary deaths. All I could do was shake my head and shrug, close my laptop and head to work.


During my lunch hour that day, I had an appointment to get my own criminal background check. I’d been in the process of becoming a volunteer at the public library to teach a small ESL class on weeknights. After showing someone my license and filling out a piece of paperwork, I was finished. The friendly HR director told me it could take anywhere from two days to two weeks for the results to come back, and then I could start teaching my class. Though I didn't mind the mild inconvenience, I felt a nagging annoyance on my way back to work. If I was required to get a background check and waiting period to simply volunteer, why weren't those buying assault rifles required to do the same? I wrote a passive-aggressive Facebook status about the irony of it all, and felt that I had done a service. But by the time I got back to work, checked my emails and got a coffee, I had probably let it go.


Later that night, I was woken up by the sound of one of my roommates crying in the hallway. Dazed, I got up to see what was wrong. When I was told, I thought I must’ve still been half asleep. I was sure there was some mistake – things like this didn’t happen on everyday work nights, to nice girls like us, in neighborhoods like ours.


Sean Collier was the MIT police officer who was shot by Tamerlan Tsarnaev that night. He was also my roommate's fellow worker at MIT, her kickball teammate, and a beloved friend. Without a second thought, we threw on sweatshirts and drove our roommate to the Mass General emergency room; through the maze of police cars and blocked roads, we were unaware that Sean’s situation had anything to do with the Marathon bombers, or that we were essentially driving through a manhunt.


Though earlier that day I thought I was properly angry or annoyed about the lack of gun control in our country, those earlier emotions were nothing compared to the numb awareness I felt during that night’s car ride, silently navigating through red and blue flashing lights, unable to say or do anything other than hand my friend every tissue I had on me. I was only an observer of a tragedy, but there were real victims out there, and also sitting right there next to me. And those affected must feel more helplessness than anything I am able to imagine – an anger and disbelief which you can’t shrug off and just let go.


Author Bio:

Kimberley Tolleson, a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine, is author of the Literary Flashback column.

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