wǔ shí books, wǔ shí guns

I was on the other side of the world when the news hit, in the Mangkok district of Hong Kong, in a hotel room about the size of my first cubicle at Leo Burnett. I wasn’t doing touristy things or eating dim sum with this guy. I was sick, bedridden and the news on the television made me sicker.

It was coverage of the Las Vegas shootings.

I was tòng bù yù shēng (痛不欲生 ) or overwhelmed with sorrow.

It was awful. I was held hostage. Either I watched the breaking news or an Australian cooking show featuring crocodile quesadillas, which wasn’t appealing either. I turned back to BBC and listened to the reporter. Did he say twenty-three guns in this guys’ hotel room or had the cold meds made my mind muddy? Then this guy had nineteen more weapons at his home? Plus five hand guns and two more shot guns at his Reno residence?

That’s forty nine guns.

I can’t even check out that many books at Chicago’s Public Library without a problem.

Trust me. I know. I checked out a book in 2013 and left it in China. Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. I had to change my name and address to get a new library card. Either that, or get my mug shot added to Chicago Library’s Ten Most wanted list.

Upon returning to China, I bequeathed my library card to one of my best friends who will rename anonymous (though her last name rhymes with Squirrel-Gutter). She hasn’t run up any fines but every time she puts a book on hold, a notice ends up in my inbox in China.

Nine thousand miles away. Behind the Great FireWall where Google and YouTube and FB are banned. But Chicago Public Library has it figured out.

Yet, this man in Las Vegas legally purchasing forty nine guns and his local police department was none the wiser.

Now fifty (wǔ shí or 五十)  is the limit of books you can legally check out from the Chicago Public Library. Don’t you think that should also be the cap for guns one can own?

Granted, libraries aren’t without their problems. Once, I had to use a computer at the CPL branch on Belmont Avenue and the only machine open was next to a guy viewing something other than microfiche. He was viewing porn, but lucky with headphones. When I complained to the librarian, she informed this patron was protected by the first First Amendment. Watching porn in public libraries is also protected in  the state of New York, according to this NPR story. But porn won’t kill you. Libraries are also a haven for pick pockets, as I have had both a wallet and computer bag lifted while intensely working on a project. Pickpockets won’t kill, you either.

But one thing isn’t allowed at Chicago’s Public Libraries: concealed guns.

Laura Bush is known for saying,  “I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card. “

And Walter Cronkite said, “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot more guns in our country than library cards. There are more registered guns than people in this country and not every citizen has a legal library card. Right, Miss Squirrel-Gutter?

As of 2013, there were over five times as many registered gun dealers– (58,344) than public libraries. You can see how many gun dealers are in your state.

I got sick thinking about the shootings, the deaths, the wounded, the out of control violence in nation that’s still digging out from hurricanes. I turned off the TV and thought about when I was in grade school, how a classmate accidentally shot her sister with her father’s shot gun, thinking the noise outside was a prowler.  I’ll never forget seeing her school picture on the front page of the local newspaper. Even thought that was over forty years ago, I’m sure my classmate deals with that headline everyday. As will those who lived through Las Vegas.

Hopefully, the issue of gun control won’t be silenced this time. 为时不晚 – wéi shíbù wǎn – it is not too late.

Until then, maybe librarians should run the NRA.

Prayer bells at Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong.

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