It was a mild spring Saturday in suburban Shaker Heights, Ohio, warm enough for the boys, ages 8 and 10, to play catch outside once the spacecraft soared out of sight.
Then the older boy asked a question that turned a good day into one memorable for all the wrong reasons:
“Do you want to see a real gun?”
An uncle visiting from Florida had shown him his .45-caliber pistol the night before. It didn’t take long for the boys to find it, stashed in a case in the top dresser drawer in a guest bedroom.
It took less time for the younger boy to fall dead with a bullet in his forehead.
“Shaker Boy Shot Dead as Friend Shows Him Gun,” the headline screamed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer the next day. An editorial in the paper called it a “needless tragedy” and urged gun owners to be more responsible.
“This past weekend’s gun tragedy is not the first of its kind and, regrettably, will not be the last,” the editorial read.
Dr. Barbara Einhorn, an Albuquerque dermatologist, thinks about that when she hears of another gun death. She thinks about that little boy killed 47 years ago even more so. He was her brother, Eddie.
“I will never forget seeing my father cry for the first time and being told, when I asked where Eddie was, that he was never coming home again,” Einhorn wrote in an email to me. “My entire family was forever changed by the loss of my brother. … Nearly 50 years have gone by. My family has moved forward, but we are all still scarred by this one defining moment.”
And so it will be for the families of the 58 concertgoers who were killed and the hundreds more who were wounded this month when a gunman high in a nearby hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., mowed them down in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
I wrote about the latest needless tragedy in an Oct. 4 column. Einhorn, like many of you, said it compelled her to write to air her frustration over how after all these years, all these deaths, nothing has stemmed the bloodshed by bullet.
“Maybe,” she told me, “if somebody heard a story like mine they would know that it is so ridiculous we can’t do anything to stop this. Doing nothing shouldn’t be the answer.”
She advanced a few possible solutions, such as implementing a one-week waiting period to purchase firearms; tightening regulations on the sale of assault weapons, excessive numbers of guns, armor-piercing bullets and silencers; improving a federal registry that better flags sales to domestic violence offenders, mentally ill people and those on no-fly lists.
“There should never be laws enacted that make murder easier,” she said. “Yet this is the reality that our nation faces.”
Many of you also had ideas. John Schum, a former FBI agent, reminded us that the International Association of Chiefs of Police, hardly an anti-gun group, has for many years supported stricter firearms regulations, including the reinstitution of the assault weapons ban, which was enacted in 1994 and allowed to lapse in 2004 despite statistics showing that the use of such firearms in crimes during the ban was reduced by 66 percent.
“If the public and government officials task police men and women with the dangerous and grim duty of confronting killers, picking up the bodies of the dead and breaking the news to the victims’ families, then it is only fair and wise that police ideas about firearms regulation should be given hefty consideration,” he wrote.
Khalil Spencer, scientist and firearms enthusiast, supports mandating background checks on private sales and requiring gun owners to securely store their weapons to reduce the chances they will be stolen and used in other crimes.
“We need to get gun owners to buy in to these ideas,” Spencer wrote. “We need to make it clear: ‘We’re not trying to tell you you can’t have your assault rifle or that you have to make all your magazines five rounds or less. We’re telling you that we need to keep guns out of the wrong hands.’ ”
Oh, sure, a few readers railed against any form of gun regulation. But I’ve noticed – and I’ve appreciated – an increase over the years of thoughtful responses from readers who believe there must be a solution and that now is the time to talk about it.
To do nothing, Einhorn said, dishonors the memory of those whose lives have been taken by gunfire.
“We do not speak out to take rights away but rather to create a world in which no family has to go through what mine experienced when my brother died,” she wrote. “As a physician who has sworn to do no harm, as a sister who wants to honor the memory of her brother, I am calling on us all. Now is the time to act.”
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.