Featured Column
Week of 4.3.2008
Boom, boom, you're dead!
The old west is here again
          It was a simple trip up the street to Trader Joe’s. Pick up some bread, soy milk, lightly salted peanuts, hummus and bananas. I waited in line, ran my charge card through the scanning machine, signed the receipt and heard the clerk say, “Have a nice day.” I smiled, the clerk smiled.
          I loaded the Trader Joe’s cloth tote bag in the passenger seat of the car and backed out of the parking spot. I noticed a car waiting behind me. Youngish kid, baseball cap, sunshades, T-shirt. His arms were flailing and he was pointing a finger in my direction.
          I put my car in drive and pulled ahead. Fifteen feet ahead of me a middle aged woman was walking from one parking lane to another, most likely heading for her car. I stopped my car and waved to allow her to cross safely in front of me. Being courteous, you know.
          I glanced at the rear view mirror and saw the young kid in the baseball cap and sunshades wildly flailing his arms, stopping only to flip me the finger. His lips were flapping, so I presumed he was swearing a mile a minute. His head was flopping back and forth, indicating how fed up he was with me for stopping to let the lady cross in front of us. When the lady was safely in the next parking lane I proceeded. The young guy behind me peeled rubber, turned right and flipped me off. I was thankful he didn’t draw a gun.
           Two days later at the big mall up the freeway I was backing out of a parking space. I had only moved a couple of feet in reverse when I saw three teenagers walking closely behind the car next to me. I stopped to let the teenagers walk past the rear of my car before I continued backing out. The three, who were each wearing dark hoodies, stopped on the driver’s side of my car and starred at me before they let loose with a barrage of invitations to have sex with myself. Two of them gave me the finger, the third flashed some kind of (I presume) gang sign. The taller of the three reached into his sweatshirt pocket with his right hand. He stared at me. My car was motionless as were the three kids. Then two of the kids looked at each other, laughed and said, “Let’s go.” The three walked on and I pulled out of the parking space and drove home. I was thankful the tall kid didn’t draw a gun.
          No offense to the National Rifle Association, but it seems that the days of the old west, where every able bodied man or boy carried a firearm are back with us today. No offense to the National Rifle Association, but what the hell is happening in America when the newspapers and television are filled with stories of crimes being committed with guns.
          Stories fill my daily newspaper every day about the terrifying illegal use of guns, mostly by our youth. The last couple of days these stories appeared:
          “A teenager charged in the slaying of a police officer told detectives that he fired a rifle equipped with a scope six to seven times at the officer because police had been harassing his gang.”
          “A nineteen year old man was wounded in a shooting inside a coin laundry in a strip mall yesterday.”
          “The participants in a gun battle between police and armed robbery suspects have been identified. A holdup of a business led to shots being traded between a police officer and one of the robbers.”
          “A young man with a revolver held up a coffee shop early yesterday, escaping with money from the cash register and a safe.”
          “Gang detectives are looking for a young gunman who opened fire on a carload of people Sunday night as they were leaving a park near downtown.”
          “Two young men were shot and wounded in a neighborhood early yesterday. Sheriff’s deputies were called about 12:30 a.m. after reports of gunfire. Deputies found one man who had been shot three times. Another man in a vehicle also had been shot.”
          “Three young men, one armed with a silver revolver, entered two apartments Sunday and asked residents if they had any marijuana. The men assaulted two women inside one of the apartments.”
          “Four people were killed yesterday in a pair of shootings a few blocks apart.”
          “Rescue workers responding to a wreck on the freeway found a driver fatally shot in the head early yesterday, while another driver was shot and wounded in a separate attack about thirty miles away.”
          I find it hard to find the nexus between the use of firearms in these incidents and the constitutional sanction of allowing our citizens the right to bear arms:
          “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of a people to keep and bear firearms shall not be infringed.”
          I would think that a couple of strong parents, controlling their children would go a long way towards resolving the dangers of illegal gun ownership. What are the parents doing when their children come home after school toting a .45 Magnum handgun?        Where is dad when his seventeen year old son comes home reeking of gun powder? What are mom and dad thinking when they send their sixteen year old son off to school with his homework, lunch pail and pearl handled six shooter? Where are mom and dad when their twelve year old boy comes home with a roll of hundred dollar bills, a recently fired Glock .357 handgun and a small bag of white powder? Where are mom and dad when little nine year old Jimmy walks in the front door after school with a bulge in his jeans from a .45 Smith & Wesson revolver?
          Where have all the parents gone?
          Firearms were the second leading cause of death after motor vehicles for young people under nineteen in the U.S.
          Firearm homicide was the leading cause of death for young males.
          Fifty five percent of all murders of those under eighteen in the U.S. involved firearms.
          In 2004 a total of 2,852 young people were killed by firearms in the U.S. – one every three hours.
          The U.S. has the highest concentration of private gun ownership in the world.
          No offense to the National Rifle Association but what does the second amendment to the constitution have to do with having hundreds of thousands of kids walking home after school carrying Glocks and Smith & Wessons?
          Maybe parents would have more motivation to control their youngsters if they were fully responsible for their childrens’ actions. Think of this, dad: If little Jimmy gets caught with a piece you go to the pokey with him. Punk haired Gary, sixteen, gets caught holding up the local ice cream man you go to jail and serve the same three year term as him. Franklin is arrested and convicted for selling crystal meth and toting a Browning 9 mm handgun - you serve the same term as your little boy – twelve years behind bars with all the other bad guys. All this for being a bad, disinterested parent.
          Next time you’re backing out of a parking spot at your nearby mall and you see three teenagers, wearing hoodies, smirks and bulges in their pockets you might feel a bit safer if you knew that their parents took a stronger interest in their after school activities. I would.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger