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Gun Culture and ‘Collateral Damage’

By now everyone is aware of the horrendous news out of Tucson yesterday where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot and critically injured and six others were killed, as well as over a dozen others wounded. Among the dead is 9 year old Christina Taylor Green. Christina, born on September 11, 2001, was the granddaughter of former major league baseball manager Dallas Green.

How many more Christinas are going to die in our gun culture? How many more of these deaths will be tolerated as collateral damage to the Second Amendment?

Just last Tuesday, there was a news story out of Alabama about a six year old girl killed while she was sleeping in her bed from a drive by shooting. A check of der Google using “children killed in drive by shooting” brought up 130,000 hits in .23 seconds. Then we have the stories of cops shooting someone holding a toy gun because the toy guns look realistic.

Now as a kid, I had my very own Dick Tracy ‘Snub Nose 38’ (with shoulder holster) and played with cap pistols and other toy guns with other kids in my neighborhood, at my grandmother’s, or with my cousin Tom and his friends. But one thing that was reinforced for all of us all along the way was the difference between toys and real guns. Most all of us had family and friends who hunted and we attended Conservation Camp where we learned fire arms safety among other things.

When I was in military high school one of the precepts drummed into us was that the only purpose of our rifles was to shoot someone and one of the ways to guarantee that the retired master sergeant would flip out was to be caught pointing a rifle at another cadet and “playing.” In my ROTC days, I qualified with the M16 and fired the 45 (but not even close to well enough to qualify with it). While in the USAF, I had to qualify with the 38 as part of one of my “additional duties” and it took me five tries before I managed to qualify. My point in mentioning these things is to acknowledge both that I have handled weapons and that handling and qualifying with weapons are not easily done for most of us.

Unfortunately, I doubt if we will ever be able to stop someone determined to kill another with a gun, such as was apparently the case with the Tucson shootings yesterday. Yet there are far too many children who die in preventable accidents. An example of a preventable accident is the death of the 8 year old boy a couple of years ago while firing an Uzi at a gun club.

I found more than a little irony yesterday afternoon after the shootings when I was looking at an article I’d seen earlier in the day from the Union-Leader of Manchester, NH where the New Hampshire House of Representatives overturned a decades old ban on guns:

The change in gun policy reverses a long-standing ban on firearms in Representatives Hall and adjacent areas. Republicans supported the change in a loud voice vote.

Democrats tried to win a ban on deadly weapons in the House gallery area, but were defeated by the three-to-one GOP majority. Firearms have been banned from the chamber for 40 years, since 1971.

Lawmakers on Tuesday repealed a year-old ban on all weapons at the State House complex.

Most states have metal detectors up to stop people from carrying concealed firearms into government buildings. New Hampshire seems to be encouraging the practice. My Quality Assurance background is telling me that this is not only ignoring a preventable tragedy but almost actively encouraging it. The Concord Monitor has some quotes from a 22 year Marine veteran who is now a state representative in NH on how knowing that people are armed will be the deterrent. Yet an opinion piece in the Foster’s Daily Democrat says it for me:

This move is absolutely irresponsible. Every other State House in the United States of America not only have bans on firearms, but also have metal detectors upon entering the building. Self-defense is the claim, but promoting an atmosphere of fear and intimidation is the reason.

As taxpaying citizens of the State of New Hampshire we should be upset about what is happening at the State House, more commonly known as the People’s House. Every year tens of thousands of fourth graders pass through the Gallery to observe the House in session. When parents sign their child’s permission slip to go to the State House, do they know that their child could be sitting next to person in the Gallery that has a concealed gun? If the State House were really the People’s House, Republicans would not have irresponsibly overturned this thirty-five year ban.

My bold. Thousands of fourth graders visiting their elected representatives each year to see democracy in action. Correct me but aren’t most fourth graders about 9 years old? The same age Christina Taylor Green of Tucson, AZ was.

And because I can:

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Small town Kentucky country boy lived all over the country. Currently in Ruskin, FL