Mike Daisey’s “The Story of the Gun” presented a new and interesting way to approach gun control in the U.S.: It doesn’t exist. The way the U.S. treats guns right now is not control, Daisey said. So, when discussing gun control, we are always talking about the future and what we can change.
This political and emotional issue is impossible to view without an obvious preconception. I entered the theater as a liberal arts student at UNC. If I post anything about guns on Facebook, I’m usually met with aggression from hometown acquaintances in Pinehurst, N.C., just south of Sanford. But what many of these people don’t know is that I’m also a former Army brat. My father was a Special Forces Green Beret for 28 years. My mother was an Air Force veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm, and she always won the wife shooting competitions held on the Army base where we lived.
Performance: The Story of the Gun
Location: Kenan Theatre, Jan. 12 at 2 p.m.
Despite this, my parents never owned guns or brought them to the house. They always spoke of the gun’s power and offered to bring me to the range. Bringing this perspective to the performance allowed me to see things that I might have ignored had I been more biased in either direction.
Daisey pointed out the strength of political positions surrounding guns with clarity and a very middle-of-the-road point of view. Growing up in northern Maine, Daisey said everyone had guns for hunting. His father, a psychologist, would often keep guns at the request of his patients if they thought they might hurt themselves.
Once Daisey’s father left the safe unlocked, where he kept his patients’s guns, and he vividly described the way it felt to hold the instinctive and excellently designed object. He broke the seriousness of the moment by describing how male the gun is and how masculine he felt holding this weapon, which consisted of a long shaft with the ammunition stored in a lower hanging compartment.
Every time Daisey told a story, audience members, regardless of their opinions about guns, were transported to that moment and could easily see the situation through his eyes.
In between these stories, Daisey presented facts and opinions that we need in order to talk about gun control, rather than talk at gun control.
Daisey said there are roughly 300 million guns in the U.S., so at a population of 313 million that’s almost enough guns to give one to every woman, man and child.
He said the gun was influential and imperative in the domination of U.S. territory and also in the enslavement of African-Americans. He said the gun is a tool that derived its power from its ability to kill, but this is also why it deserves respect.
He also said if the U.S. were to control guns, how would that happen? We couldn’t send the military into homes to round up all the guns, because the last time something similar happened, there was a rebellion. All these were facts, but it was the lens through which Daisey presented them that allowed for the piece to provide insight.
Daisey described the issue of guns as broken, like a conversation about an alcoholic father in a dysfunctional family. No one wants to discuss it properly by stepping outside of themselves to provide real solutions. I felt that, in the future, I need to step away from the liberal arts student that I am and check myself before superiorly labeling my gun-loving friends as redneck.
Daisey’s performance, though serious and reflective, often used funny anecdotes and analogies to provide relief from tension. He said a lot of things that I never expected him to say to an audience of mostly upper-class Chapel Hill residents, and that’s what took his captivating prose to enlightening.
But, true to the issue, Daisey ended the performance with a serious story that brought the audience into his childhood kitchen, where he and his father would eat dinner together late at night. His dad told him that his patient asked for his weapons back after attending therapy sessions and later committed suicide. Though the end of the story couldn’t have been prevented by anyone, Daisey didn’t say that to his father.
And the performance came full circle as he pointed out that this is where we can change: Talking about the issue and reflecting on the power of this tool is what will help us be better in the future.
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