DY: In Just a Few Words (#57)
It only takes one bullet.
My father was discharged from the Army at a military base in Santa Ana, California, in 1946 at the conclusion of World War II. My mother, my brother and I had remained in our native New Jersey while he concluded his service. I was six years old at the time.
Post-war California was where it was going to happen. Lots of jobs. An historic housing boom. People from everywhere rushing to the Golden State to stake their claim to a future bursting with opportunity. My father sent for us - and that is how we spent the next five years living in the burgeoning community of Altadena, California.
I enrolled at the fast-growing Daniel Webster Elementary School, where I rather quickly expanded my vocabulary in the Daniel Webster tradition and also learned lots of other useful facts and figures. I became addicted to baseball. My friends and I went from schoolyard to schoolyard, vacant lot to vacant lot honing our baseball skills. At night, we would listen to radio broadcasts of Pacific Coast League games out of earshot of parents who thought we were sleeping.
I learned a lot about baseball in those days. And, one day, I also learned about something else. I got a lesson in something a bit less fun. It goes under the name of gun safety. As I read and see daily media accounts of the recent movie set gun tragedy involving Alec Baldwin, it reminds me that I should share my story.
We lived on Oakwood Avenue in Altadena, and a kid named Larry lived up the street. One day I was up at Larry’s house, hanging out like a normal 10-year-old kid, when he came back into the room carrying a rifle. I was standing directly across the room from him. Larry explained the gun belonged to his older brother. He wanted to show me how it worked. An important part of that was to show me how a gun fired.
He knew the gun wasn’t loaded so he pulled the trigger. A rather loud noise ensued as a bullet whizzed past within a couple of inches of my neck, embedding itself in the wall behind me. Lucky me. Larry - with no intent to do so - could have killed me or put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I’m not quite sure how he ever explained that hole in the wall to his parents, but I can assure you that from that moment on, we both had a healthy respect for guns and the damage they can cause when they get into the wrong hands.
That day could very well have been the end of me and scarred my friend, Larry, for life - just as Alec Baldwin will now wake up every morning with thoughts of a mishandled gun etched in his memory. What a shame.
Guns are dangerous. If you have one, keep it under lock and key. 2021 marks 72 years since I learned this valuable lesson. What a shame it would have been to have missed seven decades of holidays, birthdays, Karen, kids, grandkids - and baseball. That’s a sobering thought.
When the 2016 Republican National Convention came to Cleveland, Karen and I went downtown to join in the excitement. There at the center of our city were thousands of people wandering around, including a young man with an assault rifle carried over his shoulder and a pistol strapped to his side. Do you know why he did that? Because he could.
If you have a gun, so be it. Just be sure it’s out of reach of 10-year-olds or anybody else.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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