That Moment When Your Friend Finds a Bullet Hole over Her Son’s Room

Sometimes scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed feels tedious — until you come across a status update that makes your breath catch, that reminds you the world isn’t as it should be. Recently, I lingered over the random dog video, and fashion dos and don’ts, before forgetting everything else when reading the following status update:

Had a roofer over to check out a leak in the roof over Alex’s bedroom. You are never going to believe what is causing the problem…A BULLET HOLE!!!!! Over my son’s room!! I won’t lie, I’m freaked out!

In the comments that followed, my friend, Suzi, detailed her conversation with her roofer. He finds at least one bullet hole in a roof per month. He saves the bullets he retrieves and has over forty and counting. With Independence Day less than a month away, it’s time to talk about celebratory gunfire, gravity, (because what goes up must come down), and sensible gun safety reform.

Yes, there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to celebratory gunfire and, yes, it is yet another perfect illustration of the fact that the United States bleeds red more often than any other developed country in the world. The page details the countries and regions in which firing into the air is a problem — places like the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States.

Here’s the thing about falling bullets: you’re lucky if all you have to worry about is repairing a leak — because sometimes they hit people. A couple of years ago, 7-year-old Brendon Mackey was fatally hit by a falling bullet in Virginia as he walked to an Independence Day fireworks celebration with his Dad. The year before that, Michelle Packard, a doctoral student at MSU, was fatally hit at a fireworks celebration with her fiance, Wes Thomas; Thomas committed suicide ten months later. A couple of years before that, 4-year-old Marquel Peters was fatally hit while sitting in his church for a New Year’s Eve service; he was his mother’s only child.

I, for one, am tired of so many people having so many guns and putting our roofs and children at risk. No, this is not a price we have to pay for our “freedom.” Other countries (e.g. Canada) have guns, along with restrictions in place to make such tragedies less likely to happen. To start, guns are registered (all are registered in countries like the UK and Australia, whereas handguns and the like are registered in Canada). This, of course, makes it easier to track the irresponsible Yosemite Sam who fires into the air — and to confiscate his gun accordingly. Consequently, there are less Yosemite Sams, because of the higher degree of accountability that accompanies gun ownership (i.e. when a person’s name is tied to his gun, he is more mindful of his gun).

Our alternative? Irresponsible gun owners fire into the air, and most of them never know what becomes of the bullet. An exception to this rule is US Private Danny Carpio: in 2005, a falling bullet from his gun fatally struck Selena Akther, a 28-year-old mother of two. The next day, Carpio saw the news, realized what had happened, and confessed. However, because there are those who do not watch the news (or who are unwilling to own up, even if they do), we must institute a system that demands accountability.

I can hear the tired “gun rights” argument now:

I don’t want to be inconvenienced when buying my gun — despite the fact that, for the sake of public safety, buying guns should be at least as difficult as having a pet (many cities require you to register dogs) or driving a car (think: testing, licensing, registering, servicing, renewing).

At least those who cry “inconvenience” admit, in the process, that they care more about themselves than others — so there’s that. Their problem, I think, is that they’re unable to think of Brendon Mackey and Marquel Peters as their children, or Michelle Packard and Selena Akther as their loved one; otherwise, they’d never be willing to sacrifice them for the sake of convenience.

News of the bullet hole in Suzi’s roof “hit me where I live,” so to speak, because I literally lived only a few houses away for years. But it’s not much of an imaginative leap to identity with my former neighbor even if you live across the country. Thankfully, most people are imaginative and generous enough to recognize all victims of gun violence as theirs. And this recognition is key to changing things, because it’s what inspires us to sacrifice and to act.

So, gun owner, you don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to fill out the necessary forms when registering your guns?

Send me your information, and I’ll do it for you.

You don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to pay a registration fee?

Send me the address and amount owed, and I’ll do it for you.

Gun safety reform is the right thing to do. You have no excuses — because there are more of us who care about our communities than any of our (or your) hobbies. If you don’t want to be “burdened” for the sake of public safety, say so. We’ll say #IllDoIt4U.

Nicole Plyler Fisk is Associate Director of First-Year English at the University of South Carolina and a writing instructor. She has been published at AlterNet and Bustle -- and Daily Dot, who ran her Bustle pieces under different titles. Read other articles by Nicole.