The son of a friend of mine was killed in the early hours of Christmas Eve morning. He was in his twenties and was parking in front of his newly rented house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C. Police say he was the victim of a random robbery. He hadn't even turned off the ignition as he parked less than a block from his home. He was shot several times.
It lacks the drama of, say, Newtown. It happened around the holidays and so was a footnote to stories about Secret Santas and bad weather. But a young man -- a son, a brother, a friend -- is dead. His father is busy talking to detectives and learning the many tasks related to burying a child who dies unexpectedly and suddenly. His younger brother is no longer a brother.
How do we make sense of such a thing? Why would anyone pull out a gun and shoot another man -- a stranger -- on Christmas Eve? Does the murderer have a mother, children, a wife? Did he go home that morning and prepare for the arrival of Santa? Was it just another day for him? Another robbery, soon to be forgotten? Does he know the impact of those bullets on hundreds of people who knew and loved the young man whose life he stole?
After the massacre in Connecticut, Twitter was abuzz with rants against the easy availability of guns. I was among those who railed at those who choose guns over children. I couldn't watch the head of the NRA on Sunday's chat shows as he claimed that the antidote to gun violence is to arm "good guys." While NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre was earning his million dollar salary on Sunday afternoon, a young man in Washington had 12 hours to live before a "bad guy" with a gun would find him. If we saw the murderer on the street, would we easily recognize him as a bad guy or would we be have to consider what a bad guy looks like?
How exactly do you know who to hand guns over to, Mr. LaPierre? And do you see how some of us might be troubled by the ease with which so many obtain guns and then kill people with them?
It is hard for me to believe that if my friend's son had been armed, he would have had the time or foresight to have defended himself against the monster who shot him. He didn't even have time to turn his car off. "More guns" likely makes sense to people who earn their living by advocating against gun restraint, but it doesn't make any sense to me.
Why do I bother to write about one young man when the graves of 20 children are still freshly turned and when over 222 other Americans have been the victims of gun deaths since Newtown, according to Slate? Because he grew up in my neighborhood. He and I love some of the same people. He was a decent young man from a good family who likely would have contributed greatly to our world as he grew older.
Did he die because of a gun or because a monster wielded a gun? I'm sorry, Mr. LaPierre and the mighty NRA lobby, the word "gun" appears much too often in articles about dead people these days. There's a funeral in Arlington on Saturday for a promising young man. Perhaps you should stand outside the church, hat in hand and look at what is lost when one man dies. If you still feel like handing out guns afterward, go ahead and see what happens.