17 WITH A BULLET
My cousin Derek was easy to explain.
A street hustling thug, he was the first person to offer me pot and stick his tongue out at me in that nasty suggestive way no one should ever aim at an eight-year-old girl. So when he was shot to death by cops while attempting to getaway in one of the police cars that arrived at the scene of his last burglary, no one, except his grandmother was surprised.
Reynoldo was much harder.
Four years older than I was, my mom would pay him five dollars to take me to dance classes during the school week and pick me up at the end of an hour. During the winter, weâ€™d usually use the cash to buy candy before heading to our auntâ€™s house to play Atari. Reynaldo ran track and his momâ€™s mantle was covered with all trophies from his high school meets and summer track competitions. Two months before his high school graduation he was killed by a stray bullet while dancing at a local nightclub.
He was seventeen.
His killer, nineteen at the time, will be released from prison today, having served 2/3 of his sentence â€“ seventeen years.
Reynaldoâ€™s entire lifetime.
Having already been held hostage at gunpoint when I was a kid, it didnâ€™t take the deaths of my cousins to turn me off guns. Any arguments to convince me that gun ownership should not only be a constitutional right, it should be mandatory, would be as successful asâ€¦well, convincing a Chernobyl victim of the virtues of nuclear power.
Ainâ€™t gonna happen.
Sadly, it seems that having oneâ€™s family â€œtouched by a bulletâ€ is the most persuasive argument against the lunacy of the right wing gun nuts.
Just ask former Republican Carolyn Maloney.
It amazes me, though, that until the death of her husband and paralysis of her son, she didnâ€™t see how an automatic weapon in the hands of a lunatic might be a bad thing.
In the face of a high school shooting, a courthouse massacre and a church service killing spree, all within a ten-day period, how delusional does one have to be to continue to oppose firearm control?
Last month I toured the Tampa jail system. The complex houses the accused murderers, arsonists, rapists and burglars in Floridaâ€™s second largest county. Basically, the worst of the worst Tampa has to offer. Allegedly.
But there was one thing very conspicuously missing.
â€œExcuse me, warden?â€
â€œUmâ€¦why arenâ€™t the officers armed?â€
He laughed at the question.
â€œMiss, this is no place for guns. Can you imagine?â€
Yes, I can.
But unfortunately, I donâ€™t have to.