My first memory of a gun incident is a bit fuzzy. I remember that I was one of several children that were in the woods with my father and another man. I remember hearing a rattle as my father stepped out of his prize 1950 Studebaker. He made us stay in the car while the men got out and conversed in hushed tones. He came back to the car and reached under the seat to pull out his 22 pistol. I remember the really long barrel on the gun. I remember feeling safer once we knew the rattlesnake was dead.
I remember seeing my father clean his guns as he prepared to go duck or pheasant or rabbit or deer or elk hunting. I have a strong memory of the smell of oil that he put on a rag and then, with a long wire, cleaned the inside of the barrel. I remember being warned that there might be buckshot in the duck or pheasant being served for dinner. I remember photographs of my uncle proudly standing in front of a bear he shot in Alaska. I remember countless pictures of relatives on one knee in the snow, kneeling in front of their kill, holding the head up so that it still looked alive. I remember that my father was once a member of the NRA but that he resigned his membership in some kind of pique.
I remember the last time I saw my brother alive. My sister had some problems with a car dealer, and my brother, who brokered automobiles for a living, was lecturing her and trying to get her to agree to some actions that would solve her problem. As he left, his eyes met mine for a long time, as though he wanted to say something. In fact, that look troubled me so much that I went outside to try to catch him before he drove away to see what he was trying to tell me. I guess it was goodbye.
I remember sitting on the front steps of my house in Denver talking to a friend when my sister was in such a panic that she couldn't get the front door open. She had answered the phone when the police called to tell us that my brother was dead. He put a gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger after kissing his girlfriend, and telling her that he would always love her.
I remember thinking about how to tell my parents this horrible news. My mother suffers from chronic depression. I remember wondering how to tell her about what happened that wouldn't drive her over the edge. I took the time to call her psychiatrist, and asked him to be on stand-by, before driving to my parents' home. When I walked in, I asked mother, who was standing in the kitchen, to sit down because I had some news. I remember her grabbing the counter, looking at me and asking what was wrong. She almost passed out when I told her that Karl was dead. I remember my father yelling at me because I didn't sugarcoat the story.
My brother's death left all of us wondering why, and feeling guilty because we didn't see it coming and do something to stop it. My father was so distracted by grief that he spilled industrial chemicals in a workplace accident that ended up taking most of the skin off of his foot. He was so distracted by grief that he put a huge dent in his car when he didn't see a boulder that had always been there. My mother still has dreams about my brother where he tells her it was an accident. It was no accident.
Guns kill a child or teenager every 20 minutes in the U.S. Of children who die from guns, 87% are American. The odds of a kid being shot in a school or movie theater, or church are small compared to the odds of them being killed while playing with a gun in their parent's home. The problem isn't monsters in our schools, the problem is too many guns and bullets in magazines and drums.
Claudette Konola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website at www.Konola4Colorado.com.