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My Rock-Ribbed Republican, Card-Carrying NRA Member Grandfather Would Have Been Aghast at 6-Year-Old Getting a Gun and Shooting His Teacher

And no, Youngkin's idea of more jail time for first graders isn't the answer

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by Kellen Squire

Having been born and raised in rural America, guns are something I’ve known as far back I can remember. I don’t think any of our neighbors in farm country were without one. When I ran for the Virginia House of Delegates, I got to experience some delectable schadenfreude in making the Virginia GOP squirm and bemoan that I knew more about guns and could outshoot my NRA-endorsed opponent, a guy who could cite Virginia Code from memory but had no idea what a “bump stock” was. I guess there’s nothing quite so humiliating as a liberal and a progressive who can outshoot one of the most senior Republicans in Virginia on an issue they consider sacrosanct.

My grandfather owned a rifle. One. It was an M1 Carbine of the same kind he used as a Seabee (“First we dig ’em, then we die in ’em!”) during World War II on Guam, Tarawa, and most notably Iwo Jima, where he went ashore with the Marines, was trapped on a beach attempting to unload construction equipment, and used a bulldozer blade to hide behind and fight off the last Japanese counterattack on Airfield #2.

Consequently, he never shied away from guns, and when I was young, I would listen in as he would regale friends with stories about some of the things he saw in some of the worst fighting of the war. But I recall vividly when, while visiting my grandparents, I went to see if I could find his rifle – I had seen my grandfather use it shoot a coyote that had threatened a dog at the campground they owned just outside of Blue Earth, Minnesota, and was fascinated by how precisely and easily he used it. I knew he kept it in a closet in his room, and I just wanted to hold and admire the wood stock and worn steel.

My grandfather caught me… and ensured I never considered making that mistake again. My father had told me stories about my grandfather making him “find a switch” growing up, going out to find a tree branch of sufficient size to be used to “tan their hide” with. My grandfather didn’t do that to me. He didn’t have to. Almost thirty-five years later, I haven’t forgotten a single word of the tongue lashing I got. It was measured and steely. True to his Minnesota roots, he never cursed or shouted but it remains one of the worst dressing-downs I’ve ever had in my life.

While I never made that mistake again, neither did my grandfather. Immediately thereafter, and I mean the very same day, the rifle wasn’t just kept secured, padlocked away, as my grandparents realized that not only having a grandchild in the house (even if only once every few months!) necessitated it, but that it was a good idea nonetheless. I didn’t even see it again until I was an adult.

That was all just common sense – and this coming from my grandfather, a rock-ribbed Republican, a card carrying member of the NRA. I’ve heard from my family repeatedly, definitely not joking, that “it’s just as well he died before he knew you became a Democrat, because he would have died then anyway.”

Whether or not they were right about that, I can guarantee he would have been incomprehendingly aghast to see how gun culture has metastasized into a cancer that has already irrevocably changed and affected our country in ways most of us cannot even grasp fully. I know that in my time in Pediatric Acute and Intensive care, and in the ER, I’ve seen firsthand what guns do to human bodies, and understand more than I ever could have when I was a child exactly why my grandfather never went into the gory details about what he saw in the Pacific; why he left the Navy at the first opportunity and went back to Granada, Minnesota.

When a six-year old recently brought a gun to school in Newport News, Virginia and shot their teacher, my governor – a self-supposed candidate for President of the United States – could do nothing better than offer “thoughts and prayers,” suggesting maybe we needed to make penalties for committing crimes like that tougher. Seemingly realizing that threatening more jail time to first graders isn’t exactly a huge deterrent, he backpedaled and admitted that wouldn’t have prevented the crime in question- so, instead, maybe we needed to x-ray and wand every single elementary school kid in Virginia.

And that was the length of his attention span on that issue. He moved on to talking about abortion bans and trying to manufacture a crisis to push for school vouchers in Virginia, presumably hoping everyone would simply “move on” and forget everything about it- with fifty-two Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates, including my incumbent opponent, going right along with him to claim they are “dedicated to empowering parents… and (the) parental rights movement.”

What I want to know is this: how, exactly, are parents empowered by an administration and a House of Delegates that “whistles past the graveyard” on gun violence and supporting our schools, time and time again? Where is the concern for my rights as a parent to have my kids in school without a fear they’ll be massacred because the NRA’s political power cannot be questioned?

This is the entire reason I’m running for office in the first place. Having been a school nurse when violence erupted at my school; watching the consequences of the gun violence epidemic plaguing our country firsthand from the emergency department; being a parent of three kids in the public school system.

I might not be able to make the Republicans in the legislature or the Governor’s mansion find the courage and moral conviction to stand up for what’s right- but I’ll damn well make sure they hear EXACTLY what the consequences of their inability to act will be. So that none of them will ever, EVER be able to claim “We weren’t told. We didn’t know. Who could have guessed?”

But when I win my seat, we’ll be half the way to wresting control of the Virginia House of Delegates from the Republicans. And we are already putting in the work to get it done: our campaign had the most individual donations of ANY House of Delegates campaign in 2022, over 1,251 donations that helped keep up in the field, organizing and building the infrastructure that will flip the bluest district the Virginia GOP still holds.

I need your help today to keep that going. My opponent outraised me last quarter by merely having a pulse; where we had 1,251 individual donations for the year, he had nine- count them, nine– human beings that donated to him last quarter.

That’s fine with me. I’d rather be accountable to a retired history teacher that writes me a $20 check than a fossil fuel magnate that writes me one for $20,000. But it just means I need your help to keep that going.

Chip in today, and we will win this district- all of us, together- $5, $10, and $25 at a time. Join us today- and we can bring progress to Virginia, together.

Kellen Squire is an emergency department nurse from Charlottesville, Virginia, running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Donate today and help us flip the bluest district the Virginia Republican Party still holds!

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