One day in the late '60s, a Lincoln mom took a sharp turn onto Loveland Drive and one of her sons flew out the back door of the station wagon and broke his collarbone.
Or maybe it was his arm.
We didn’t think too much of it, although we kept our hands off the door handles when the Lange car was in gear from then on.
Those were the days before car seats and child-proof locks and airbags. Back when seat belts got stuffed under the seat or used to torment your sister.
In 1968, the federal government had mandated all automobiles be fitted with seat belts and eventually, states began following with buckle-up laws of their own. Thousands of lives were saved, 15,000 a year, every year.
You probably know all this.
I always buckle up.
I lock my doors at night, too. I have an alarm system to supplement the bark of my 70-pound pit bull. I get my flu shot; I vaccinated my kids. I take common-sense steps to stay safe, some of them required by law.
And sometimes, when I’m swimming laps at the Y, I think about the water turning pink and about what I would do if someone started shooting people in the pool, where there is nowhere to escape.
I don’t dwell on it. I don’t stop swimming. Most of us whose lives are not devastated by a mass shooting carry on and the images from the TV fade, sometimes long enough for us to lull ourselves into thinking it won’t happen again.
But it always does. And what I heard loudest after the massacres in El Paso and Dayton was this: DO SOMETHING.
The pleas of peace-loving Americans directed at politicians — from our state capitals to Congress to the West Wing — in the hopes that someone is listening.
Dan Rather amplified the message on Twitter: “Will gun violence be an easy problem to solve? Of course not. Will there be a single solution? No. Will there still be tragedy and death? Yes. But does any of that mean we shouldn't try to do SOMETHING?”
He called mass shootings a public health emergency. He introduced a foreign concept: “bipartisan action.”
And so it goes. We disagree about what action. We disagree loudly and passionately and with vitriol.
I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to wave one statistic while you wave another one. Or yell across the room or across the internet.
I’m tired of hating each other. I want you to believe I’m a decent person who sees a crisis and figures we ought to do something about it. And I want to believe you are a decent person who might have another view about how to stop it.
I believe in the importance of good guys with a gun. I have friends who are hunters and lifetime NRA members. I know that it’s easy for criminals to arm themselves. I know the majority of deaths by gunshot are suicides and that gun violence is a plague upon our inner cities, one those of us with the privilege of lighter skin and more resources often turn a blind eye to.
I believe we can be better without trampling on the intent of the Second Amendment.
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I am not an expert on the genesis of America’s gun violence.
I’m a grandmother who doesn’t want her grandkids to duck and cover when they get to school, or be afraid to go to the mall, the park, the movies, to a concert, to a restaurant, a city hall, a newsroom, a house of worship, an entertainment district, a Walmart.
“The Russians may be trying to damage or weaken our country,” my colleague Don Walton wrote in Monday’s paper. “But we’re doing a pretty good job of it ourselves by destroying our right to live free and unafraid to gather ... by allowing virtually uncontrolled access to weapons that are allowed to kill people rapidly.”
The Dayton shooter killed nine and injured at least 30 more in the 30 seconds before law enforcement officers ended the rampage.
Could we agree to start there? Limit large-capacity magazines? Ban assault weapons? Fund research on gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Require universal background checks on all gun sales?
Pass legislation that matters. Install metal detectors, teach conflict resolution, support mental health services, love our neighbor, watch out for each other.
Hold our leaders accountable.
A few years after that boy fell out of his mother’s car on Loveland Drive, another boy in the neighborhood got a rifle for Christmas.
One of his younger brothers picked it up and, believing it wasn’t loaded, aimed it at the lizard cage in the rec room. His younger brother stepped in front of him as he pulled the trigger.
And the 9-year-old in the white-brick house died on the first day of 1972 — his photo in the evening paper, blond-haired and smiling.
I still think about that family and those brothers when I drive past my old house.
I think of the long legacy of gun violence, accidental and intentional, of people becoming targets because of their skin color, their religion, their sexuality — this new wave of terror that started with Columbine, back when the idea of such horror was unthinkable.
And of something I heard at the lunch table as talk swirled around another weekend of mass murder in America’s public squares.
And sacrificing a small, lethal piece of it for the greater good.