November 2015

Guns don't kill people

By David Long

As comedian Chris Rock has pointed out, guns don’t kill people, bullets do.

So, Rock suggested, one way of reducing the number of firearm-related murders in this country might be to charge $10,000 for each round of ammo, thus giving pause to those who would casually pop one off at the slightest provocation.

Not that death is a bit funny, of course. In fact, it is very sad, especially when premature.

Including, recently, the demise of a cute four-year old in Albuquerque, N.M. who got nationwide attention because she was the victim of a road-rage incident involving her father and another driver with a loaded gun and a hair-trigger temper.

One cut off the other on the freeway. Words and gestures were exchanged, then some macho maneuvers, then blam, (repeat four times) before dad pulled over and found his girl shot in the head.

The other guy was soon caught, jailed, charged and pronounced a monster by a judge. Her family was repeatedly interviewed, money quickly poured in, a mortuary offered a free funeral, a restaurant chain offered free food for the farewell, indignant citizens expressed outrage, a makeshift memorial (as they’re always called) was created at the scene, Gov. Susanna Martinez expressed shock and so on.

In other words, a lot of folks had a sympathetic field day, but the little girl remained dead.

With a bullet in her brain. Fired from a gun. By someone who no doubt would have been considered a “responsible” owner until he suddenly wasn’t.

Rather than admit he could have prevented the incident by not calling the suspect a blankety-blank idiot and flipping him off in the first place, Dad chose to focus on a theory that if only he had positioned his daughter’s car seat a little differently in his vehicle - four inches, he judged - she would not have died as he and her killer jousted in the aggressive driving style that is favored in the Land of Enchantment.

Mercifully, no one so far has tried to argue that Dad should have been armed as well, so he and his foe could have had a real western-style shootout driving down the highway.

But throughout all the predictable after- clamor, I’ve also heard no one mention an urgent need for sane gun policies.

Maybe that’s because it takes a mass shooting to really unnerve us. Or maybe because it was “too soon,” because, “the body was still warm,” because we don’t want her small corpse to become another pawn in the endless chess match between gun manufacturers and opponents of our nation’s sacred “firearms for all” tradition. (Wait, I forgot. No one wants true crazies to have guns. No sirree, bob.)

Several people interviewed on television vowed they would make sure the tyke’s tragic end wasn’t forgotten. Just like all those in . . . what was that place in Connecticut? Or that place in North Carolina? Or just a few weeks ago at that school in Oregon?

Anyway, there have been two lollapaloozas right here in Colorado that are for sure unforgettable, and we can certainly recall how awful they were. It’s almost a point of pride that Columbine is still remembered all across the fruited plain, and the Batman shootings in Aurora are still occasionally in the news after years of handwringing and retelling by the survivors and families of the dead.

But then why bother to keep all these depressing memories alive anyway? There’ll be plenty of new ones to pine and fret over coming along any day.

One thing, though. Since we aren’t about to change anything that would lessen the huge profits of the arms industry, I would like to suggest a rather small measure our leaders, reporters and commentators like myself could easily adopt so these inevitable occurrences won’t seem so . . . well, I hate to say it, but repetitious and boring.

We need to develop some new terms, an expanded vocabulary.

Take the word “horrific,” for instance.

I’m getting so sick of hearing every two-bit, four-bit, six-bit, a dollar political hack and all others at a loss for emotionally impacting words describe these increasingly common events this way.

My thesaurus has plenty of substitutes (synonyms, they’re called) for really terrible stuff, so it’s high time someone begins a campaign to start using them and save this overused word from extinction.

Like what happened to “awesome.” There was a time when it was a great word to describe something that actually inspired awe, such as a beautiful sunrise or other stunning celestial event.

Now, of course, when anything from a humungous hamburger to a prodigious pickup is called awesome, the term has become so hackneyed and diminished, good writers avoid it like (ahem) the plague.

However, please note I didn’t use “horrific” once in writing about . . . let’s see . . . um . . . you know . . .

Well, gotta go now, but I’ll try to remember to crank out more pap as soon as the next (copy editor: please pick 25- cent alternative for “horrific” from Roget’s) tragedy occurs, say if a crackpot buys a cheap piece at a yard sale and kills another dozen or so “innocent victims.”

With just bullets, of course, certainly not with a gun.

David Long is an award-winning journalist in Cortez, Colo.