Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Why Guns Won't Keep You Safe
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" was playing live and the kids were so excited to be going with Linda and me. Their fathers, Don and Tom, were at an attorneys' reception and Linda, with her two children, had picked us up at the law office on Lady Street. In those days before seat belt laws, Jeff, aged 5,  Jeny, 3, and Linda's oldest--Jeff's age--sat unrestrained together in the back. Linda's baby,  who was barely 2,  stood between us in the front.  
Not long after we pulled away from the curb, amidst the squeals and jabbering of the four young ones, a BOOM exploded throughout  the car--a sound I can hear every time I think about it exactly as it was that night. Chaos! What was it!  Had the engine blown? Louder than that--A bomb? Where?--So loud! Like it was inside the car! The kids were screaming! Linda yelling--"What was that!!!" "I don't know" as I turned to the back seat.

Jeff was holding a gun.

"A gun!" I shouted. I grabbed it and threw it into the glove compartment as Linda tried to keep the car straight,  screaming "Is anybody hurt?"

"I don't know!"  Her baby was hysterical. I grabbed her and held her close, hoping to calm her down. I felt something wet and sticky. Linda yelled, "Blood, it's blood!"

She stomped on the accelerator, headed for Baptist Hospital just around the corner--though I still don't know how she did it. As we pulled into the emergency entrance, she grabbed the baby and ran. I scooped up the children and headed inside to register, answer questions, search for answers and try to calm the children and myself while we waited.  The police appeared with questions about the  hand gun, which I could not answer, nor could Linda later, as to why her husband had a gun in the car.
 .....How long had he had it? I don't know! Why did he have it! I don't know! Why did he keep it in the car? I don't know! Why did he keep it loaded? I don't know! Why in a cigar box? I don't know! Was it registered? I don't know! Did you know he had it? No.....

We were all lucky.  When Jeff  saw the cigar box on the floor, opened it, found the gun and pulled the trigger, he pointed it straight ahead, instead of at himself or either of the girls beside him.The bullet went through the side of the head rest before it hit the child. No vital organ was damaged; it was only a rather deep flesh wound and the police found the spent cartridge on the floor of the car.  It had not lodged in her little body.

Don's explanation to us all for why he had the gun was "for protection." His area of concentration in the law was collections. When a debtor could not pay, Don assisted the debt holder in bringing suit against the debtor.  He said he had had threats from those who were desperate, who were losing their homes, and he needed protection.  As for the rest of the questions--he had no answers. Why he kept a loaded gun in a cigar box in the family car he could not say. He did apologize for not remembering to take it out; but chastised us for not being alert enough to hear the sound of the gun being cocked in time to stop the tragedy.

Jeff tells me he can remember every minute as clearly as I can, though he was only 5. Later that night, I read to him hoping to calm him down so he could go to sleep. When we heard Tom's car in the driveway, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "Oh Momma, Daddy is going to be so mad at me."

You can believe me, that Jeff was not the one who felt Tom's anger.  It was the person who thought he could make himself safe by bringing more guns into play, who was willing to endanger his family and friends by the careless use of a weapon.

Don was governed by fear, as so many of us in this country are. We are afraid of young black men, of the homeless, of people who wear turbans, of innocent young people who come to our door to trick or treat, of hooded teenagers walking through our neighborhoods where they "don't belong", of  anybody different from ourselves. We turn away from them, run from them, shoot them, go to war with them--and the gun manufacturers profit.

When horrific events happen in Sandy Hook or Columbine and small children are killed, we don't know how to react.  Some think  the answer is to arm teachers because they can shoot first and make the school safe. Some say "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."  Some of my very good friends, supporters of the NRA, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for citizens to own almost any kind of weapon (though they do believe in background checks).

Here's some of what I believe. Yes, strict gun control, if not a total ban. Required gun safety courses for gun owners.  Sure, that.

But there's more to it than that.  I don't think that having fewer guns or no guns is the answer. I am an idealist. I believe that the attitude that gun control is the only answer because the horse is already out of the barn concerning guns is giving up, admitting defeat.  I want to go for more. I want to go for changing our way of thinking, doing, living, relating to each other--a culture change.  What if we stopped romanticizing violence? What if we learn to worship not the tough guys in Pulp Fiction or Fight Club, but instead the gentle, loving guys in To Kill a Mockingbird or Gandhi?   What if our movie heroes were not the ones who used violence to solve problems; our most sought after video games were not those where realistic killing was the point ? And we did the killing!!! What if  all our sports emphasized skill, endurance, cooperativeness, instead of violence where one of the purposes is to "take somebody out" with a head-on tackle and where the players are so damaged that their life expectancy is 55 years old? Oops, I know some Carolina/Clemson fans who will take exception to that one.

I believe in a world where we learn to honor God, not as an angry, vengeful God, a violent God who orders the Israelites to "not leave alive anything that breathes" or sends Joshua to destroy Jerico, or condemns sinners to hell, but as the loving New Testament God. I believe we can become a world where the mentally ill are not shunned, but are treated as any other person with an illness and we can commit the financial resources to truly help them. I believe in a world where we can learn to solve our problems without violence, but with respect, honoring one another. I believe in a world where we can overcome our selfishness, greed, lack of empathy and fear of one another. I believe in a world governed by compassion and respect for one another.

In that kind of world, Don won't need a gun.               


  1. Jeff is 42 years old. It was a long time ago, but, at the same time, like it was yesterday.

  2. The problem here was not the gun. The problem was an irresponsible gun owner. The ONLY gun law I would support is one making it a felony to have your gun used in an accident or crime because you failed to secure it properly.

    Idealism is great. I would love to see less violence in our culture, especially in our media and foreign relations. That's a wonderful, SEPARATE, long term goal to strive for.

    But realism has its place. An unarmed populace is at the mercy of its government. While I am not one of those who argues that we are already living in a police state, the militarization of our police forces and the way the infrastructure necessary to enact military law have slowly been built over the last decade concern me. Gun restrictions and confiscations would just be another step in that direction.

    Also, all the laws in the world aren't going to stop criminals. They only remove guns from those who need them for self defense. A review of the statistics consistently shows that crime rates go down when concealed and open carry laws are implemented in an area, and crime rates go up when gun ownership is restricted.

    I'm sorry that you experienced such a terrifying tragedy. I'm sure it marked all of you for life. I'm glad you're an idealist, because without the idealists the world would stagnate.

    But please, temper idealism and personal trauma with hard study of the facts. Look up the militarization of the police, the laws and facilities that have been put in force to enable martial law, statistics on accidental gun injuries and deaths, and statistics on the effects of gun laws on crime.

    I'm not saying you're wrong, because I think this issue is so important its like religion...we each have to come to our own conclusion. I am asking you to expand your knowledge base, especially if you are going to write on the subject.

    1. I too am all for the idealist's dream. The history of men in power speaks for itself to the validity of the extremely high potential for tyranny. I would also like to agree that irresponsible gun ownership should result in a felony thus barring of those people from ownership.

      Regarding statistics, the simple number of firearms incidents whether accident or homicide in comparison to other countries is a common comparison in popular media as well as social media. It is in extreme rarity that you find those numbers in relation to the actual total population of their respective countries. What upsets me most about the protectionist argument is that it is made up of cherry picked statistics and numbers in order drum up support, that is already fueled by emotion, to institute laws that will NOT prevent mass murder. Considering it is already on record that democide has accounted for over 290 million deaths over the last century.

      I would further add that persons under the influence of psychotropic medicines should also not be allowed to own guns. Adequate health care to the mentally ill and the removal of "fish in a barrel" laws as well as halting the glorification these murderers receive in the national media that will no doubt spur copycat incidents. I forget where but I read a study on mass shootings where media coverage had specifically influenced the number of incidents that occurred where as the least amount of media coverage the lower number of incidents.

      Further the simple psychology behind self preservation which can be found inherent in all individuals as a natural instinct is intrinsic to the decline of violent crime nationwide. Criminals don't want to get shot anymore than the law abiding citizen and the fact that they know more men and women are carrying a concealed firearm is a scary thought to them. Thus why petty crime is on the rise.

      The social conditioning from popular media like movies and video games, no doubt, has a detrimental psychological impact on the youth of this nation. I was fortunate enough to grow up with my parents who instilled in me not only proper gun safety practices but also the outstanding love of God. They taught me to be responsible and hold myself accountable for my actions. Proper parenting would make a drastic difference in our gun violence problem.

      My only hesitancy to stricter gun control really is the entire purpose of the 2nd Amendment itself. I stand firm in that the potential 290 million victims of tyranny (over half the population of America)to MAYBE cut gun violence down is not a realistic idea. Considering historically, gun control has resulted in an increase in gun violence. Statistically speaking, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

      In short I wouldn't mind having psychotropic medicine users barred from gun ownership and stricter irresponsible ownership laws such as mentioned in an above comment. I would not see anymore gun banning considering in a 2nd Amendment scenario we are already outgunned because semi-automatic sporting rifles can not compete with real assault weapons such as the select-fire M16 and other rapid fire weapons. Not to mention UAV, Predator drones, tanks, etc.

      If you must ban guns from the general public then I would advocate strong State militia access to that weaponry to facilitate a well regulated and organized militia as necessary to maintain a free State. Similar to that of Switzerland. That's just my two cents. God bless!

  3. Judy,

    I wish your vision of a different culture were closer to reality. I don't even listen to people like Quentin Tarantino giving interviews because their vision of our world seems so tainted by their attraction to violence. I don't go to violent films, but they are so popular with our young. I hate to think that this is mostly a male problem. My father was not a violent man or attracted in any way to depictions of violence. Where does this appetite come from? That is the mystery to me -- how does one become enamored of bloodshed and mayhem?


  4. First, I am SO glad that you are going to blog again. Thanks for letting me know. I put your blog back on my scroll. I only recently took it off since I thought you had both turned to facebook.

    Secondly, My Heidi is doing very well with her recovery from brain surgery. It is hard to believe that it has been exactly one month since she had a rather large tumor removed. If you were to see her and talk to her you wouldn't even know.

    I have also written a lot about guns lately. Here are the most recent ones...



    My good old friend Alan Weider, a former USC prof also wrote a good one about guns, Obama, drones, hypocrisy...


    While the horse is out of the barn as far as the number of guns in this country, there are still things we could do that would make a tremendous difference. First, we should realize that there are MANY people killed every year by guns. Last year over 15,000 people were murdered in the US. The Centers for Disease Control says 11,493 people died from gun homicides.

    That's 31 every day. Killed. By guns. I get the whole thing about people doing the killing, not guns. But if guns weren't so available - think that many people would have been murdered? Simple answer. No. Other countries don't have the murder rate. They don't have the guns.

    Limiting the type of weapons available (semiautomatic rifles?!), the huge clips for holding so many bullets, the types of bullets (armor piercing for example), having a lengthy waiting period, insisting on a thorough background check for every single gun sold - none of that would be a violation of the second amendment. It would only make our society safer.

    Thanks for blogging again. I'll be a constant reader.

    Thank you for your compelling story. Wow!


  5. I was working at the newspaper in Denver when the Columbine shooting took place. I never ever wanted to experience anything like that again. I wrote the following in a blog piece after the CT shooting entitled "Impotent Rage":

    "Since that spring day 13 years ago, I've had more than one occasion to look back and shed tears -- 29 times to be exact.

    -- 30 mass shootings total
    -- 256 killed
    -- 242 wounded

    One-third of these slaughters -- 10 of them -- have occurred during this past year alone. Total murdered in 2012: 73."

    Despite my loathing for the NRA - for what it has become - I'm not the least bit interested in taking guns away from anyone who gets a thrill out of killing animals or even target practice. I'm more interested in gun owners taking a more responsible role in guaranteeing the safety of innocent citizens. THAT takes precedence over their right to own weapons of mass destruction.

    A police state??? Puleez. If nothing else the pro-gunners on the far right, and those on the far left as well, have displayed an alarming level of paranoia -- a gen-u-ine mental illness, btw. That alone scares me more than this nonsense about a police state. If you want to know what a police state looks like in reality, pay a visit to Egypt, where the police number nearly 1,500 to 100,000 citizens. The U.S ranks 43rd with 233 cops per 100,000 citizens. Talk to some survivors of Nazi Germany to find out what a real police state is like.

    A responsible, law abiding citizen should have no reason to object to a criminal background check, unless they've done something wrong or they're paranoid. But I've already addressed that.

    In my mind there is no need for military and law enforcement weapons in the hands of Joe Blow and Mary Ann. Sorry. These weapons have one purpose: to kill as many people as possible in ten minutes or less; that's how long the shooting lasted at Sandy Hook. Blowing a 6 year old away with 10 or more bullets in less than one minute seems a bit unnecessary.

    ALL of this crap the NRA has put out about self-defense is a load of nonsense and there are stats to prove it, if you look beyond the NRA. There are also studies proving that carrying a concealed weapon ain't going to help you a bit when some crazy gunman surprises you with an assault weapon -- no matter how much training you've had.

    Oh, and there's that mental health issue. As deplorable as our system of care has become (thanks to St. Ronnie), we still have far better mental health care than other industrialized nations. So, why do these countries not have anywhere near the number of gun deaths as the U.S.?

    So, my proposals:
    1. Ban ALL assault weapons
    2. Criminal background checks rigidly enforced
    3. Waiting period of 30 days
    4. Register and insure every gun (national database)
    5. Outlaw the sale of guns and gun paraphernalia via the Internet
    6. Tax the hell out of bullets -- by at least 1500%.
    7. Finally, therapy for all the paranoids out there before they kill someone, or worse, shoot themselves.

  6. Tim' I am so glad Heidi so doing so well. I have been keeping up with her healing journey on your blog and reading your posts about guns. Even when I didn't have time to read anybody else I always read Ordinary Guy (who surely is not one. )

    Leslie, I like your proposals especially the last two

    1. Thanks. I honestly did not intend to write a book but I feel so strongly about this and I'm so sick and tired of the hysterics from the pro-gunners.

  7. Sorry for the typos. It is hard to type on an iPhone


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