Back when I was drinking, whenever someone would gently suggest I maybe stop for the night after I finished whatever was in my glass, or when I picked up the wine box and found it to be almost empty, I was seized with panic.

The possibility of having no access to alcohol, or the threat of having it taken away, caused me to immediately become fearful and aggressive. Have you ever known a dog who was sweet as pie, unless you tried to touch their food bowl before they were finished, and then you were liable to lose a finger? It was kind of like that.

I would stock up on a ton of booze and squirrel it away in various hidden locations (closets, backpacks, the car trunk, my sock drawer). I would yell at whatever unlucky family member or friend had dared to say that my access to booze should be reduced. I could be quite mean, and snippy, and logical – I’ve always been good at arguing, on account of my parents were lawyers for a while. I’m not proud of this behavior, but it’s the truth; it’s what happened. I was an addict. My reactions were textbook addiction behavioral patterns.

I see those same behavioral patterns of addiction in America’s reaction to new gun control measures or gun safety laws and requirements. Now, plenty of gun owners agree that our country needs to do more to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of people who would use them to harm themselves or others. They are usually hunters or sport shooters, who have a rifle and a shotgun and store their ammunition separately from the guns and who are in favor of universal background checks. We have a lot of these folks in Maine. I’ve met several of them. (You may even be one of them!) These are people who can use guns in moderation, like people who can have two cocktails at a party and then just stop.

Then there are the addicts. The ones who respond to any sort of proposed gun regulation – to any speed bump between them and their god-given right to immediate gratification when it comes to the purchase and wielding of firearms – with hysteria. I don’t know how to explain to people that requiring universal background checks and a 48-hour waiting period doesn’t mean liberals are trying to take away their guns. I’m not. I mean, this is Maine. Liberals have guns here, too. Even my gentleman friend has a collapsible survival rifle for work. If only all guns were “some assembly required.” And if you really think you need guns to defend yourself from a tyrannical government, might I remind you that the government has tanks?

Personally, I don’t like guns. I avoid them for two primary reasons. First, if there is a gun in my home, I am far more likely to be killed with it than I am to use it successfully in self-defense. The presence of a gun in the home in a domestic-violence situation increases the victim’s risk of being killed fivefold. Also, I don’t exactly have a clean bill of mental health. For 2019 – the last year for which I could find data – Maine had 163 gun deaths. Eighty-eight percent of those were suicides. Those numbers are horrific. I mean, they are just god-awful. And the second reason I avoid guns is that guns are power, power is the most highly addictive substance known to humans and I am an addict. I know myself too well to risk playing with guns. I would like it too much.

My parents made the decision not to have guns in the house when we were growing up, even though both of them came from homes where a shotgun was part of pest control. (And during the great porcupine invasion of 2020, and the resulting vet bills, I definitely found myself momentarily wishing we had one.) But I’m from a military family. Uncle Tim taught my brother and sister how to shoot. Just because I’m an alcoholic does not mean I’m trying to take anyone’s alcohol away; just because I don’t like weapons in the house doesn’t mean I want to take them away from anyone. But you don’t give a child a handle of vodka, and you shouldn’t give a dangerous person a gun.

It’s true that after major mass shootings, both sides of the political aisle line up behind their usual talking points. But most gun deaths in America don’t come from mass shootings. What really causes our numbers to rack up is the daily drip, drip, drip of singular suicides, homicides and accidents: deaths that only make the pages of the local paper, rather than being splashed across cable news.

Our country is addicted to guns. The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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