Some of my time away was spent in Las Vegas where part of my family lives and where I myself had lived from 1978 to 1981. Since then I've visited fairly frequently. During this trip I noticed how often guns came up, sometimes it was just a memory or a reflection, other times it was stuff I experienced or a conversation I had.
Through the years Vegas has had its share of shootings, like any big city. The killing of the famous Rap singer named Tupac was a big one. It came up in conversation just the other day. We were stopped at a traffic light on the Las Vegas Strip and my friend said this is the place Tupac got shot. "Yeah, car pulled up, couple guys got out and blasted the shit out of his car. No one was ever arrested." My friend blamed that on the fact that the players were all black and the cops would be just as happy to let them kill each other off.
A close friend of my family, a man whom I'd met a few times, killed himself with a handgun at the shooting range. This was a few years ago. The story was that he'd met a beautiful young girl from his home country, Hungary. She cleaned him out in some kind of scam. So he went to the range. The real shocker just now was while searching for the story I came upon this and this.
I knew a girl once named Lori. She was an innocent beauty, the type that frequently gravitates to Vegas and all too often gets roughed up in the process. I watched her get in with the wrong crowd, get into coke, but in those years none of that was too shocking. After I left, I'd heard she'd gotten strung out and started turning tricks. That just made me shake my head with sadness, blaming one guy we all knew. He'd corrupted her, I felt. Then it got much worse. She was walking down the street and a stranger came up to her and shot her in the face. I knew there was more to the story than that but never heard the rest of it. I saw her on a visit the following year. Miraculously, the .22 bullet had entered the front of her temple by the end of the eyebrow and somehow did very little damage and left very little scarring. She was different though: harder, tougher.
Back in those days I knew two guys who worked in L.A., good friends of mine. They got themselves into some trouble, basically it was a misunderstanding, but their lives were threatened by some connected people. What did they do? They came over to Vegas to get guns, of course. For a couple hundred bucks they picked up an old revolver-type pistol, I guess it could be called a Saturday night special, and a six-shot pump action shotgun, the kind referred to as a riot gun. I don't remember the details of how legal these transactions were. A couple days later, back in the jungles of L.A., whenever exiting their home or place of business, the one guy would go first with the handgun at his side, finger on the trigger I suppose, and the other guy, the main target, would warily follow holding the loaded shotgun at his side in its cloth case with his finger on the safety button, ready to press it, swing the gun up, feel for the trigger and fire through the carrying case. Somehow, no one got killed or injured. Whatever happened to the weapons, you may ask? The pistol no one remembers what happened, but the shotgun was in the trunk of a car that was stolen in Miami about a year after those guys made it out of L.A. The car was recovered, but of course the shotgun was gone along with the tape deck and spare tire. I wonder what mischief that gun got up to in the subsequent years.
A few days ago my Las Vegas family was gathered for the birthday of my sister-in-law. I introduced the subject by asking if any of them had guns. They were all responding in the negative when one of them fired the question back at me. I said simply, "No, I'm against guns." Then my nephew piped up that he has a gun. I guess my brother knew it, maybe my father too, so no one seemed too surprised or concerned. The kid's 24 years old. I asked him, taking care not to be contentious about it, what he has it for, going to the shooting range or for home protection. He said both and that he's thinking about applying for the Concealed Carry Permit because his work as a locksmith sometimes takes him into bad neighborhoods at night. That was it, no one seemed particularly into the subject one way or the other. But now I'm thinking. My nephew is like a lot of young people, got a DUI a couple months ago and got away with a few others. My father, in his gruff way, says the kid's a slob and can drink scotch out of the bottle. He lives with a couple other guys in a rented house. My idea is this is not the kind of person who should have a gun at all. He's not a squared away ex-marine who knows what he's doing with weapons. He's a typical 24-year-0ld.
Once I dated a girl in Vegas who's pocketbook weighed so much that I said what have you got in there. She pulled out a huge handgun, explaining that she had been raped once and the guy is getting out of jail soon. That's just a flash memory.
Last week I came upon an advertisement for this place, which I mentioned in the comment I left the other day. It made me wonder. I can't help but think there's a connection, just like I can't help but think there's a connection with what some of the frequent commenters on this blog profess, and the problem of gun violence. I've read every comment and every link, and I've done so with an open mind. I often find the arguments compelling, but I can't help but think arming the teachers, arming ourselves, playing with guns at the shooting range, all exacerbates the problem, the problem being the guy who shot Lori with a .22, and my two L.A. friends who could so easily have hurt or killed someone, the problem being my nephew and his buddies getting drunk and doing some of the crazy stunts that a lot of young people do.
Although I find the 2nd Amendment argument and the self-protection argument valid and compelling, I have to put more weight on my own personal experience. The things I mentioned above are only the few Vegas related incidents I could recall while writing this post. There are many more. I've lived in several other places. But, there is not one single positive gun story in my experience. Maybe my old girlfriend who'd been raped got to use that gun to protect herself, but I never heard that. Maybe my nephew will end up needing that gun of his, maybe his life will depend upon it, but that hasn't happened yet.
I ask the gun proponents, how can you discount this chronicle of violence? How can you not see that the right to gun ownership, while certainly wholesome and acceptable in theory, has turned into a major problem in America? And I ask you, how is it possible that gun advocates claim to be totally free of these types of experiences? Are you downplaying the problems to win the argument?
Please let me know what you think.