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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

A Little Riff Off of Gene

My colleague Gene Siudut titled his column last week "Another Day, Another Shooting," and he made the point that guns in public places have become the new normal.  Sad to say, I think he's right.  We have succeeded in banning tobacco in public, but much more dangerous guns are more prevalent than ever.  And Gene didn't even mention the recent shooting that I found most appalling.  You doubtless have heard about the 66-year-old woman checking out of a suburban Publix:  her purse fell to the floor; the gun in it went off; and her husband collapsed with a bullet that went in and out of his leg.


She knew that she was in the wrong, as instead of tending to her husband, she ran out of the store to conceal the purse in her car.  When police later investigated, it was clear that she had violated any number of gun safety rules – even though she had a concealed weapons permit and presumably had been educated on proper procedure.  And yet they ruled the case an accident and let her go.  I'm sure she was white; a black woman probably would have been arrested.  And it was only her husband who was injured, not the people nearby.


Where the bullet ended up was not explained.  It so easily could have been so different, as this 66-year-old might have killed a toddler or a granny who happened to be standing in line.  What in the world makes a suburbanite shopping at Publix on a Sunday afternoon think that she needs a gun?  She probably doesn't – she just doesn't think at all.  Indeed, pistols in purses have become a fashion accessory for far too many women; it's a statement of style and status, not of need.


I really hate to admit this, but I first became aware of guns as trendy at my sister's home in Georgia.  We were gathered for the funeral of her son, who had passed away after years of suffering with both physical and mental illness.  We were in her big house with probably twenty people around, ranging in age from the eighties to toddlers and even an infant, when her granddaughter and her niece decided to compare the pistols in their purses.  To say that I was shocked is an understatement, but my daughter was not.  Nor did Sis tell these young women to get their weapons out of the house.  I would have, in no uncertain terms.


More Re Guns


Gene also reported trying to research the last day in America without a gun-related death.  That sort of research is very hard to do, but he proposed July 3, 1776, the day prior to the Declaration of Independence.  I've been pondering that, and I think it probably was earlier, maybe back in the 1740s or so.  The Boston Massacre, the Battle of Concord, and other Revolutionary War engagements already were over when independence was declared, and only about a decade had passed since the 1765 end of the French & Indian War.  Even though colonial governments had gun-control laws that strictly prohibited sales to Native Americans, warfare with Indian tribes continued on a regular basis since Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513.


Or perhaps it could be that the last fatality-free day from guns was later than 1776, after the War of 1812 ended in 1815, and about the time that states began passing bans on dueling.  The country was so unified then – and most American Indians had fled so far west – that the period was called "The Era of Good Feelings."  Indeed, James Monroe had the distinction of being the only president to have no opponent when he ran for reelection in 1820.  (Well, John Quincy Adams did receive one of the 232 electoral votes.)  That also was the year of the Maine/Missouri Compromise, which began the tradition of admitting one slave state to the Union to balance every free state.  That lasted until the Compromise of 1850, and the Civil War would follow a decade after that.


Instead of Indians, Southerners by then used guns to terrorize African Americans -- and, of course, they kept their weapons under lock and key.  Ditto with aristocrats of the hunting class in Europe.  Peasants and tenants did not have guns:  No one would have sold to them even if they had money to buy, and poaching game from the manor's estate was a grave offense.  Even after Europe became more democratic, the upper class kept guns out of the hands of ordinary people and under their own control.  Think "Downton Abbey" and the basement gun room that stayed locked until the horses and dogs were ready to hunt.


Gene began his commentary with a reminiscence about childhood, and I'll do the same.  When I was a grade-school girl in Minnesota, we lived just a few doors away from the American Legion Hall on our side of the street, and across from it was what was called "the armory."  Except for the fact that the town library also was in that building, I never would have gone there.  I was absolutely spooked by the armory's weapons, presumably leftover from the two world wars. 


Now that I think about that, though, far better that these weapons, mostly rifles, were kept in a single and secure place rather than in the hands of lots of individuals.  Colonial and early state governments also maintained urban armories where weapons were available, but not easily accessible, with responsible people in charge of checking them out.  We could do the same now.  Without going into the merits (or demerits) of killing wildlife, people who want to shoot could do so – and upon returning home, check their guns at the local fire station.  That wouldn't be hard, and it would prevent so many sad and unintended deaths, both accidents and suicides.  It could be voluntary, and there is no reason not to try it.  Ask your elected officials to create armories in firehouses.


Who's Unelectable?


Ultra Violet is a website run by young women, and I liked their recent message so much that I'm going to quote its beginning directly, with just some identifiers in brackets to help you compare credentials.  They wrote:  "You've probably heard that presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg [mayor of South Bend, Indiana] speaks Norwegian – but did you know that Kirsten Gillibrand [US senator from New York] speaks fluent Mandarin?  Vanity Fair gushed about how much Beto O'Rourke [loser of a Texas Senate race] likes to read, but left out the 11 books that Elizabeth Warren [US senator from Massachusetts] has written." 


They followed up with a chart that I'm going to replicate, again with a bit of rearranging.  And I'm assuming that you know the popular vote winners in 2000 and 2016 lost their elections because of the Electoral College.


Year           Democratic Nominee          Republican Nominee

      Votes in Millions        ­Votes in Millions


2000          Al Gore; 51.0         George W. Bush; 50.4


2004          John Kerry; 59.02  George W. Bush; 62.0


2008          Barack Obama; 69.5          John McCain; 59.9


2012          Barack Obama; 65.9          Mitt Romney; 60.9


2016          Hillary Clinton; 65.8Donald Trump; 62.9


Ultra Violet summarized:  "A white man has never hit 63 million votes – ever.  The two candidates to do so, at over 65 million votes each?  A black man whose middle name was Hussein and a woman everyone supposedly hated."  Take notice, pundits.  The millennials, including white ones, never again are going to vote for someone who looks like their great-grandfather.  Thanks for your service, Joe and Bernie, but good-bye.  And btw, Bernie, this is the second time you have asked Democrats to nominate you without ever declaring yourself to be a Democrat.  As the Church Lady used to say on Saturday Night Live, "Well, isn't that special?"



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