I had a strange and unpleasant experience a few weeks ago, and it still haunts me—probably because it adds to a chorus of experiences that I have chosen to not talk about. But now I have to:
A few weeks ago, eight of us were dining at a local restaurant. As we were finishing our meals, a police car stopped in front of the restaurant. Two officers marched in and bee-lined to the back of the bar. We didn’t pay much attention but then another police car and an ambulance arrived—apparently somebody was injured. Now we strained to see what had happened: the activity was at the back of the restaurant, partially hidden by a wall. Within a few minutes there were four or five more police cars and another ambulance in the parking lot. Now they had everybody’s attention, but no one in a position of authority told us anything. We just sat there as some of the officers and emergency technicians attended to the injured person and others walked in and out of the restaurant.
Since all we could see was a bar seat on the ground, we assumed that someone, probably a customer, had fallen and possibly hit their head in the process. Since we still hadn’t paid our bill, and no one at that point was focused on service, we just sat there.
“That is a lot of police cars,” someone said. “It’s far too many for an injury even if it is serious.” We continued to wait and wonder. Finally, the injured person, a man, was taken out of the restaurant and loaded into the ambulance. Other than that, we still knew nothing.
We can always count on our friend John to find out what’s going on. He’d staked out the bar and was now talking to someone he’d recognized. A few minutes later he returned to our table and said, “Oh my god, you won’t believe this! The man was sitting at the end of the bar and shot himself!”
“What?” I gasped.
This was serious and the questions swirled in all of our heads: Why didn’t we hear the gunshot? Was it an accident or intentional? How could a man be sitting at the bar with a loaded gun on him? That’s CRAZY!
As the reality of what had happened started setting in, the questions ballooned into paranoid nightmares: How many other people at the bar had guns on them? Loaded guns? What if he had started shooting the dinners—us? And then the full impact of that thought hit me: It happens everyday! People are killed and injured by someone carrying a gun. Children are afraid they will be shot at school like their friends!
I am not against guns; I think hunting is fine. I love the idea of learning to hit a target at a shooting range. But NO ONE thinks it is okay to use guns to murder people. So why do we allow it?
For over a week after the gunshot injured the man, I scoured the news for something that explained what had happened at the restaurant. There was nothing! And that was puzzling. Shootings are not a regular thing in our small town, so why wasn’t it in the press?
I finally found out when our friend, also looking for answers, asked a local merchant, who’d heard nothing about it, and, his curiosity piqued, he asked at the police station.
The answer: The man was a State Trooper, new to the job. He was off duty, carrying a loaded gun in his waistband. The type of gun he had was very sensitive and is known to go off when it’s jostled. That’s what happened—there are no words for that type of stupidity. Thankfully no one else was injured.
In 1972, my uncle, le professeur Jean Olmer, was murdered in Marseille, France. He was a well-known doctor, one of the most-respected authorities in hematology in France. On his way to work with his wife and son, who also worked at the hospital, he was shot with a sawed-off shotgun. The murderer, a thirty-two-year-old man, was mentally deranged and distraught because he hadn’t made the grade and was ousted out of medical school. He chose to murder my uncle simply because he was the head of the field the gunman wanted to be a part of. It didn’t matter that my uncle had nothing to do with his rejection or that he had never met him. He was shot and killed by an unbalanced man with a gun.
Just over a year ago, our daughter lost her college roommate and her closest friend, Whitney Washuta. While she was walking her dog, her ex-boyfriend shot her with a vintage gun he had just purchased. Since the gun was an antique, there was no need for a background check or a waiting period. He was sick and mentally unbalanced, and the lack of laws allowed him to act on impulse. After murdering Whitney, he shot himself to death. Research has shown that having a waiting period dramatically reduces the rate of suicides, and in this case probably a murder as well.
I know the reasons we have lax gun laws and refuse to close the loopholes. We hear them every day on the news: gun lobbies, the NRA, and that people are afraid they will lose their guns. But aren’t we equally or more afraid that we will lose our children, our loved ones, and friends? If not we should be.
When we want something, we must speak out, make ourselves heard, and take the actions necessary to achieve the results we want. Gun lovers have done that. We do not have gun laws because the loudest voices don’t want them.
The bloodshed needs to end; we have to make our voices heard. It may take time, but we need to be loud and continue until what we have to say is so piercing that we can’t be ignored. We need to work together to find a resolution. The place to start is our common ground: no one believes that murder and carnage is acceptable.
Guns are not toys they are dangerous. When a State Trooper who should know better mistakenly injures himself due to carelessness, what do we think will happen when we make guns available to people who are mentally ill?
My uncle was a gifted doctor who dedicated his life to helping people. His death occurred because a young man found it easier to solve his problems with a gun than get the help he needed from someone qualified to deal with his rage and frustration.
Whitney was an extraordinary young woman who didn’t deserve to die in the prime of her life.
Why do we let it happen?
You will find lots of valuable information and links on these three websites.
Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly’s Website
"WE’RE ON A MISSION TO SAVE LIVES FROM GUN VIOLENCE"
"Nearly 40,000 people died from gun violence in 2017, the highest level in 40 years. This uniquely American crisis leaves no community untouched—but it doesn’t have to be this way. From passing federal legislation to require background checks for all gun sales to funding federal research to better understand the gun violence crisis, there are steps we can and should take to make our country safer."
Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly’s Website has a lot of information and tons of great links you are going to want to know about.
"This Is the oldest and boldest organization in the gun violence prevention movement, Brady knows what must be done to end gun violence, and it requires a laser focus on three key truths.
A coalition of state legislators working to prevent gun violence
"The American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention is an independent nonpartisan coalition of legislators who share a commitment to developing strategies for reducing gun violence that will be most effective in our districts, our states, and the nation as a whole."
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