A Fork in the Road

Schoolmate shot in the head by another — playing with a rifle…

That was my first encounter with gun deaths as a kid. Absolutely preventable. There would be more — friends or relatives of friends. We are at a fork in the road. Fifty-eight deaths at a concert. We have been here before but we always take the wrong path forward. That path only leads us to another ugly fork in the road and we always take the wrong path forward — deeper into the abyss of gun violence — fork after fork after fork. We don’t have the guts to take the right path because the wrong one is the familiar way…we don’t know what we will find on the right path and there are forces at work that keep us from going that way. We seem to be running in circles but it is a straight path downward.

Coworker’s son accidentally shot and killed by his father in a hunting accident.

That was my second encounter with gun deaths…some years later. Very sad, devastating indeed, and truly an accident. About one-third of Americans own firearms. About half of that number own only one or two guns. Many are hunters who are careful people when handling their firearms. Accidents happen but not all that often. Many are also sport shooters who are drawn to competitions or enjoy target shooting as a hobby. They are also very careful and usually shoot in a safe and controlled environment. I am technically a gun owner because I own a black-powder flintlock pistol that I once used in target shooting almost thirty-five years ago. It hasn’t been fired in over thirty years but I keep it in a safe place. Hunters and sport shooters are not the problem — but could be part of the solution to the gun problem in America.

Staff member’s young brother shot and killed by a confused and fearful security guard.

My next encounter with a gun death was absolutely preventable. He was a young black kid, a pre-teen, playing where he shouldn’t but was viewed as a threat by a startled security guard. The boy was with friends and they were doing what kids do. Somehow there was confusion in the dark and the security guard had a gun and used it. Guns are everywhere and fear is a great motivator to use them even when there is no real danger. About 3% of Americans own half the guns in this country. That’s somewhere around 180+ million guns. The average among that group is seventeen guns but some own many more. So many more that the average for all gun owners is somewhere around eight per owner. Some of those gun owners are legitimate collectors. Some might be legitimate gun vendors. Some, maybe more than some, are compelled by fear or some misguided notion of paranoia. I had a neighbor who pulled a gun on a fellow driver in a road rage incident. He was usually a calm person and not excitable but something happened that made him think he needed a gun. Then something happened that made him think he needed to use the gun. No one was hurt in the incident but a short time later it turned out he had a brain tumor. There is a lot of fear pushing people to own guns, mostly hand guns, and most of it is unwarranted.

A close friend and colleague gunned down by a white supremacist when he answered the front door.

My fourth encounter with a gun violence death was not that long ago. A good friend and colleague  was killed — they call it “assassinated” because he was a government official — by a white supremacy nut job who apparently acted on orders from an Aryan Brotherhood cell. The case is still open though the shooter was killed in a car chase. Someone put him up to it. There are crackpots and gun-crazy people and criminals and mental cases who should never have access to a gun. Kids should never have unsupervised access to a gun. The more guns we have the more they are circulated and end up where they don’t belong. About a half-million guns are stolen in this country every year, from private gun owners or from gun shops. Last December two guys stole a large Ford truck and drove it through the wall of a local gun shop and stole “several” guns…the number was not reported. They got away with the guns and have never been apprehended. About 1,600 guns are stolen in America each day. As gun advocates like the NRA pressure state legislatures to roll back gun possession and control laws the theft rate in those states increases. The guns fall into a black-market pipeline that funnels them into cities with stricter controls. A gun is stolen every minute in America.

A former coworker’s husband, a law enforcement officer, shot himself in the head on a quiet day on a quiet street for no apparent reason — a suicide.

A person bent on committing suicide will often find a way to accomplish it unless there is some intervention. Having a gun handy will speed things up — no intervention possible. It often destroys more than one life.  I live and grew up in a middle class community. I had the benefits of being educated and gainfully employed non-stop for 36 years. I mostly lived in “white” neighborhoods where one would not expect a great deal of gun violence. I know more people who died from firearms than I know who died from traffic accidents. I’m sure my experience with gun deaths is almost nothing compared to the experience of someone living in a ghetto or barrio or a gang controlled neighborhood.

Double homicide — jilted guy shoots and kills his girlfriend and her husband as they come out their door to go to work…an ambush killing.

This happened two doors away from my daughter’s house in a small town in rural Missouri. Gun violence is not just a city thing. The guy got away and was finally caught several hundred miles away. He had a gun and thought it was OK to kill people and figured he could get away. If he didn’t have the gun he wouldn’t have been waiting in the dark to squeeze off a couple rounds into his “problem” people. He wouldn’t have considered that to be a solution to his problem. There are about 310,000,000 guns in America with more added every day. We need more guns like we need a hole in the head.

     *     *     *

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Written on the Eve of the Next Mass Shooting

Who will it be this time?
The shooter, I mean.
My guess is it will be some guy with a problem.
His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.
He was bullied in school.
He lost his job and it wasn’t fair.
Somebody got too close or too slow on the road.
He’s a self-styled vigilante who doesn’t approve of “those people”.
His God told him to do it.

Who will it be this time?
The victims, I mean.
My guess is it will be ordinary people with ordinary problems.
His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.
She lost her job and it wasn’t fair.
He was bullied in school.
She was one of “those people”.
He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
She worshiped the wrong God.

Who will it be this time?
The person who gave him the guns, I mean.
My guess it’s someone who is clueless…and guiltless.
Was it the dad who was fascinated with fire power?
Was it the mom frightened witless for her safety?
Was it the shop owner who was just making another sale?
Was it the anonymous online gun dealer?
Was it the guy in the alley with a trunk load of weapons?
Was it the neighbor who just left it lying around unsecured?

Who will it be this time?
The ones making lame excuses and feeble explanations.
My guess it will be the same ones we always hear.
The bought-off politicians.
The 2nd Amendment Constitutional crack-pots.
The gun rights fanatics…”If only they were all armed…”
The NRA spokesmen whose cold dead brains can’t fathom what’s happening?
The goof-ball local sheriff who suddenly has a crisis.
The wannabe candidate sucking up to voters.

Who will it be next time?

 

 

To Lucinda, Whoever You Were

KEN8 (2)

What I know of you for certain is only what’s recorded on your tombstone
and two grainy old photographs. Certainly, you were once a girl. A wife.
A mother. You were a survivor of interesting times. Of Huguenot stock.
You knew duty. Did you know love? Did you know peace?
You were the family nurse, then a widow, a “Relict”, they said for decades.
The custom then, it sounds harsh today: Relict. But do we judge you unfairly?

You were a hard woman for hard times and kept a Bible cocked and loaded.
You weren’t afraid to use it. It was your preferred weapon.
Two of five children quickly fled when they could. A darling little girl
died as an infant. How you mourned. A son went insane, locked up forever.
One last daughter, a constant companion to the end, disappeared
without a trace. Are there really two people in your grave?

Your grudges piled up, un-dismissed for a lifetime. Cloying sweetness
masked failed manipulation. Did you feel unloved?
I think you were loved in spite of yourself. Your son fled to
marry an Irish “Papist” …oh the tears…oh the horror!
With hope in his heart, he gave his daughter your name: Lucinda:

— Illumination —

and she lived up to the name in ways you could never comprehend.

    *     *     *

Tumulus

Today is Star Wars Day and tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and sandwiched in between, from sunset to sunset, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are an odd bunch. We commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in war and, as if that isn’t enough, we invent make-believe wars and then commemorate them as well. And then we do it all over again — It must all be a genetic trait.

tumulus new grange
Ireland 3000 BC

We really don’t need to make up war stories or invent enemies or heros. We have plenty to go around. There is very little of our scarred and sodden planet that is not sprinkled with blood.

tumulus sarajevo
Sarajevo

We have always been fond of building earth and stone monuments to our dead heros or the fallen martyrs. War and battlefields bring out the builder in us. That helps us remember what we were — or what “they” were.

tumulus vietnam 2
Vietnam Memorial

What happens when we run out of stone to build memorials? Will we put an end to the warfare? We have accepted the industrialization of killing as part of our being. That’s what we do even though we say “Never Again”.

tumulus berlin
Holocaust – Berlin

We are nothing if not a resourceful kind of being. Look how far we’ve come. We used to throw rocks and sticks. We have come so far — now we can incinerate cities or surgically remove unwanted foes anonymously. Two million here, six million there….the shear numbers render it all impersonal and anonymous. No one person can be responsible. But then we go back to the earth and stone and build a memorial.

tumulus cambodia2
Cambodia

Sometimes we build war memorials and then tip-toe around them while we fight more wars generations later in the same place.  It doesn’t seem to matter. Why do we even bother? We turn a blind eye to the past and stumble forward and do it all again.  People blame this on religion or ideology or racism but it has to be some sort of genetic flaw.

Tumulus waterloo
Battle of Waterloo

Written on the Eve of the Next Mass Shooting

Who will it be this time?

The shooter, I mean.

My guess is it will be some guy with a problem.

His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.

He was bullied in school.

He lost his job and it wasn’t fair.

Somebody got too close or too slow on the road.

He’s a self-styled vigilante who doesn’t approve of “those people”.

His God told him to do it.

 

Who will it be this time?

The victims, I mean.

My guess is it will be ordinary people with ordinary problems.

His girlfriend doesn’t understand him.

She lost her job and it wasn’t fair.

He was bullied in school.

She was one of “those people”.

He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

She worshiped the wrong God.

 

Who will it be this time?

The person who gave him the guns, I mean.

My guess it’s someone who is clueless…and guiltless.

Was it the dad who was fascinated with fire power?

Was it the mom frightened witless for her safety?

Was it the shop owner who was just making another sale?

Was it the anonymous online gun dealer?

Was it the guy in the alley with a trunk load of weapons?

Was it the neighbor who just left it lying around unsecured?

 

Who will it be this time?

The ones making lame excuses and feeble explanations.

My guess it will be the same ones we always hear.

The bought-off politicians.

The 2nd Amendment Constitutional crack-pots.

The gun rights fanatics…”if only they were all armed…”

The NRA spokesmen whose cold dead brains can’t fathom what’s happening.

The goof-ball local sheriff who suddenly has a crisis.

The wannabe candidate sucking up to voters.

Who will it be next time?