Political courage needed

Western movies featured a lot of shooting when I was a kid. Every cowboy hero packed a six shooter on his hip. Some had two, one on each hip, and used them to kill other people. These were evil people, and we cheered when they fell.

We kids played with toy guns, imitating the good guys, of course. Water pistols were popular. So were “cap” guns. At a neighborhood five and ten store, one could buy a paper roll of “caps,” each one less than a half inch square, with a tiny dot of explosive powder in its center. These fit into the toy revolver. When one squeezed the trigger, a tiny hammer smacked that dot of gunpowder and rewarded the shooter with a loud pop.

As teenagers, we loved to show off our marksmanship by flattening the ducks in carnival shooting galleries. Squeezing that trigger and watching the victims fall felt good. Masculine.

My older brother was discharged from the Army following World War II with medals for his sharpshooting skill. As a civilian police officer, he was in demand as a shooting instructor. He kept his police 38-caliber revolver on the top of a tall china cabinet in his dining room. None of his children dared to play with it.

I have lived in Baltimore, Miami, Tampa, various South Florida towns, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Since I outgrew those childhood toys, I have never owned a gun in any of these places. Violent crime is common in some of these cities, but I haven’t ever felt the need to arm myself with a gun.

Today, 64 Americans who celebrated the holidays in December now lie dead because someone shot them with a gun.

A girl of 15, a boy of 9, another child of 7, 5 other children, a pregnant woman, a couple and their two grandchildren, a family of 4. Are you keeping count?

All dead.

These join other Americans whose lives have ended in mass shootings since this year began. On Jan. 9, five died in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois. Five more perished on Jan. 24 in Indianapolis, where 12 others were to die soon thereafter, four in March, eight in April. Six were shot dead in Muscogee, Oklahoma, on Feb. 2. In March, we witnessed multiple mass shooting deaths in Atlanta, Boulder, Colorado, Essex, Maryland, and Orange, California. This month of April saw four die in Allen, Texas, and six in Rock Hill, South Carolina. This month is not yet over. Do more mass shootings await? It’s likely.

The lives of these people are over because someone shot them. To state the obvious, one needs a gun to shoot someone. Someone with a grievance and a gun can kill others. End their lives.

Will we have the courage to end this madness? In my lifetime?

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