Guns and vigilantes: Fear, paranoia has created a culture of violence

April 21, 2023 11:26 am

Guns and the ease with which they kill over the most banal circumstances are turning us into perpetrators, Taylor Hirth writes. (Photo by Amalie Hindash for New Jersey Monitor)


It’s just the doorbell, the child is lost.


It’s just a car, doing a u-turn because they were lost.


She got into the wrong car by accident.


He didn’t mean to cut you off.


It doesn’t have to be like this.

Yes, there is crime in our cities. Yes, there is violence and rape and theft. But I would rather be a victim than a perpetrator.

Guns and the ease with which they kill over the most banal circumstances are turning us into perpetrators.

I do not understand how fearful one must be to see a stranger approach them, and the first instinct is to reach for a weapon — the same way my dog sees a rabbit run across the yard, and immediately wants to destroy it for such an egregious offense.

I have cowered against my locked bedroom door at the sound of the front door of my neighbor’s apartment shutting. I have had strangers break into my home in the middle of the night and make my daughter and I victims.

And I still don’t understand.

Senseless gun violence occurred with alarming frequency across the country this week.

In Kansas City, a 16-year-old Black boy, Ralph Yarl, was almost killed simply because he got lost and rang the wrong doorbell. The elderly white man who shot Yarl was said to be immersed in “a 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia,” nearly killed the innocent child.

In New York, a young woman was gunned down when the car she was in accidentally pulled into the wrong driveway.

Elsewhere in the country, two Texas cheerleaders were shot after one of them mistakenly crawled into the driver’s seat of the wrong vehicle.

This is what our political climate has wrought. Too many people cannot see the humanity in a stranger on our doorstep, in a parking lot, on the street. They cannot fathom that people would be somewhere they shouldn’t be for any reason other than to commit harm. They cannot fathom sharing their space with anybody they do not know.

I would rather live in a community of victims who refused to be perpetrators. Of people who opened their doors and gave directions instead of bullets. I do not want vigilante justice. I do not want eye for an eye. I do not want this fear and famine, isolation and segregation.

How do I teach my daughter not to fear this world when there are so many reasons to be afraid? Do I teach my daughter, among all the other things I must teach her, to double, triple check the address, the car, the driveway before she enters? Do I teach her to play her music low because somebody with a gun might get upset, or to blast it at full volume because life is short and youth is shorter? When do I teach her to know the hiding places and easy exits in every school, church, supermarket? In between the spelling tests, math homework and grocery shopping?

In America, where the leading cause of death for our children and teens is gun violence, refusing to live afraid of your community, despite all of the reasons to fear it, is an act of resistance.

I stand in solidarity with every other person out there who refuses to cower from their neighbors behind a gun.

This was originally published by Missouri Independent.

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Taylor Hirth
Taylor Hirth

Taylor Hirth is a freelance writer, public speaker, and dedicated advocate for survivors of sexual violence. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post,, The Kansas City Star and the Missouri Independent, a States Newsroom outlet where this commentary originally appeared. She has been a voice for change since coming forward in 2015 to publicly shed light on the culture of harassment at the Missouri State Capitol. She currently serves on the speaker’s bureau with Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, and as a survivor voice on the Missouri Sexual Assault Response Team where her story has helped initiate a statewide audit of the rape kit backlog, and helped guide the development of trauma-informed training for law enforcement. She is a 2018 recipient of the Visionary Voice award from the NSVRC. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and currently works at Lockton.