Friday, October 6, 2017

A modest proposal on gun control

Colt AR-15 Assault Rifle

Like many Americans, I have struggled for something to say in the wake of the horrific shooting that left 58 dead and nearly 500 injured at a country music concert in Las Vegas.
Using a device called a “bump stock,” the shooter (who will remain unnamed here) was able to spray the concert audience of 22,000 with machine-gun fire from his sniper’s nest on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Outside of military and police forces, machine guns aren’t legal. However, semi-automatic assault rifles – the AR-15 or AK-47-- are legal. The bump stock, which can be purchased on-line for about $200, turns legal assault rifles into something close to machine guns, capable of firing up to 800 rounds per minute.
That, combined with a high-capacity magazine and a bunch of weapons like the Las Vegas shooter had, amounts to the deadliest gun shooting in modern American history. (Not sure what the deadliest massacre in all American history was, since the Civil War was hardly carried out by a single gunman.)
Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot through the brain in Tucson’s own mass shooting in 2011 and yet survived to become a powerful advocate for gun laws, stepped up to the microphones once again. With her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, she begged Congress to act on gun violence. She asked her former colleagues to “find the courage it will take to make progress on the challenging issue of gun violence.”
As usual, it took no time at all for people to find that courage.
White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed out  that it was too soon to talk about gun control. Just as it was after the Orlando killings, the San Bernardino killings, the Charleston killings, and all the other killings. 30,000 last year -- half as many as we lost in Vietnam.
But as usual, it never would be the time to talk about it.
In the meantime, Congress offered their “thoughts and prayers” but not much else.  Well, I don’t want to hear about those thoughts and prayers. There no longer is any right time for those.
The National Rifle Association chimed in with a call for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas massacre comply with federal law.
This move by the NRA isn’t designed to do anything about bump stocks, but to head off a messy gun control debate in Congress over issues such as universal background checks, assault weapons bans and limits on high-capacity magazines.
Well, thanks to one of my Facebook friends, Renee Downing, there’s now a modest proposal for an alternate strategy on guns. “What we need is to outlaw ‘metal detectors’ on all buildings where laws are made," Renee wrote. "Also security details for public servants. Our leaders are not feeling the full exhilaration of living in a gun-enriched environment.”
To that, I add: “And also outlaw metal detectors and security details for NRA headquarters. I'm sure those “good guys with a gun” would love to go up against a “bad, demented guy” with an assault rifle equipped with a bump stock to turn it into a machine gun capable of spraying the room with 800 rounds per minute.
To which Renee adds: “Yes, indeed! They’re missing so many opportunities for heroism.”
Coming soon to a movie theater near you.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In praise of famous football teams

The 1957 Wickenburg Wranglers

 Sometimes life sneaks up and hands you an honest-to-goodness surprise.
Not like the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City or the series of hurricanes that have ravaged Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. Those were nature showing us who’s really in charge here – not Donald Trump or the EPA – but good old tectonics and meteorology.
Or to put it another way, the disadvantage of building a huge city on an ancient lakebed that shakes like jello  when you give it a jiggle, or the trouble with pretending that man-caused climate change is just a hoax. Or, closer to home, the failure to install a patch that would have prevented the Equifax security breach.
We know all about those. We donate, we pray, we advocate for political change and we try to protect ourselves from the Equifax mess that let thieves steal personal information – including Social Security numbers – for  half the adults in the United States.
After all, what else can we do?
Well, thank you, Sandi Hartman, for giving me something else to do – a welcome break from all the natural, political and financial news that has kept me up late at night.
Sandi is a long-ago schoolmate at Wickenburg High School. After reading about my Equifax troubles last week on Facebook, she pointed me in a different direction. Did I know, she asked, that there was a photograph of me in the Sept. 20 edition of our hometown newspaper, The Wickenburg Sun?
 Well, no, I didn’t know that. In fact, I had forgotten there was a Wickenburg Sun, even though it had been around most of my life. I had seen it when we passed through town on our way to Las Vegas, and had even purchased an occasional copy.
But we hadn’t lived in Wickenburg for many years. I still knew a few people there, and luckily Sandi Hartman was one of them.
I tracked down the Sept. 20 issue of the Sun on its website. And there I was, with a big Number 51 plastered across my chest. It wasn’t only a picture of me, though; it was a picture of the high school football team that I used to play on.
The Wickenburg Wranglers. And what a mighty team we were that season. Under Coach Ralph Moran, we were the undefeated champions of the B-West football conference. I don’t remember how many games we won, but our only loss was to a much larger school: Class A Tucson Sunnyside.
There were some great players on that team: Bobby Rubash, Tony Kreider, Dan Doom (wow, what a name for a football player!), and Leonard Hershkowitz.
My name wasn’t among them. As a 145-pound guard, I played bench-warmer behind really skilled players like Hershkowitz and Doom, getting to play mainly when we were ahead by lopsided margins. Fortunately, we often were ahead by even more than that.
 Once, playing defensive guard against a desperately outclassed opponent, I broke through into the backfield and there was the quarterback, alone, unprotected, searching desperately for a receiver. It was a classic situation for the move Coach Moran had drilled into us: put your shoulder into the guy’s gut, wrap him up in your arms, tackle him down and complete the play by rolling over him.
Dramatic stuff, for sure.
But what I did was, I grabbed him by the shoulder pads, swung him around a few times and dragged him to the ground.
And I heard the announcer say over the loud speaker, “Looks like something from the rodeo.”
So that was it, the highlight of my football career. The following winter, we moved to another town that didn’t even have a football team. It did have a rodeo field, but it was too late to learn a new career. Sometimes life just doesn’t deal you a second hand. 
I became a newspaper reporter instead. 


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Here We Are Again

At This Narrow Bridge Again
@Mary Walker Baron

Here we are again at this narrow bridge
Ready to begin our annual crossing --
Returned to this moment by ancient migratory
Patterns mapped in stone.
For a month we’ve wondered
What to bring – how best to pack and what to wear -- .
Difficult preparations even though
We try to make them every year.

I always over pack and now at this
Pre-crossing liminal moment I wonder –
Will I really need a flashlight?
If I haven’t yet read that issue of ‘Scientific American’
I bought on impulse last year at the Jet Blue
Terminal of JFK maybe I should admit
That I’ll never read it
And leave it behind.

I open my pack for a final inventory before
Stepping on to the bridge.  Does my Zip Lock
Bag of anger weigh too much?  Is my Nalgene
Bottle of tears absolutely necessary?  Did I pack
Enough hope and forgiveness?  Where is that
Stuff bag of patience I meant to take?  Is there
Time to repack before I cross to the other side?
Is anyone less prepared than I?

Rav Nachman -- our tour guide – said that
The important thing is to not be afraid.
I just heard a scream.  No wait.  We’ve heard
That sound before -- our shrieking
Hollow filled with awe horn
Reminding us to watch our steps.
This bridge between our sunsets is, indeed,
Narrow.  Each year we journey together we

Become better packers.  We learn to travel
Lightly.  The anger was too heavy.  Tears once
Shed are gone forever.  Maybe the flashlight is
Still a good idea.  We make these crossings
Together to steady and prepare for the moment
We must cross the bridge alone – comforted by
Our yearly migrations to sacred moments at this
Fearless time.