Bullets and Burgers? Seriously, Folks.

I should be working. I have assignments, bills to pay, stuff to do. But seriously, folks. Bullets and Burgers? Did we really have to endure the pain of a nine year old girl accidentally killing an instructor with an Uzi for it to finally occur to someone that maybe this is a really bad idea?

I remember as a kid shooting Coke cans with my dad’s hunting rifle. The damn thing usually knocked me on my butt, leaving a bruise  -or at least an ache -in my shoulder every time. I grew up in rural Mississippi and guns were as much a part of the family as Sunday church, cornbread and Thanksgiving turkey and giblet gravy.  But they were treated with respect, and at least in my home, they were not toys. Maybe my older cousins talked big when it came to guns and hunting, but even with them, the beer drinking and the gun shooting were kept separate. Or at least that’s what I want to believe.

There’s so much pain here, almost too much to grasp. I ache for that poor child. What she heard and saw and smelled and felt in those moments will forever live in her memory. And her nightmares. Her parents, who were apparently close by, will forever endure their decision-making, that moment when it seemed like a good idea. I don’t judge them. I can’t. Haven’t we all made decisions that could have gone so badly wrong?  Every time a child asks our permission -a sleepover, a beach trip, a night at the movies -we use our best judgement and instincts then call an audible. And hope it all goes as planned.  No, I don’t think I’d ever even consider letting my child pick up an Uzi with a side of fries and think it’ll be okay. But I did let my then 13 year old son go parasailing off a sketchy beach in Mexico once, in equipment that looked haphazard at best, behind a boat that barely started with instructors who spoke no English and mimed the instructions. If that had ended tragically, there would have been plenty of parental judgement swirling around me, I’m sure. But I wouldn’t have noticed, too lost in my own grief and guilt and regret to see beyond the depths of my pain. My heart aches for that mom, that dad, those grandparents.

The instructor, doing what he supposedly loved, however misguided I think it might be. In that moment, his world ended and that of his friends and family was forever changed. And don’t even get me started on the folks who work there, support the joint, think it’s a great spot for a kids birthday party or Friday happy hour.

I know I’m one voice in the chorus of voices saying enough already! We remember Columbine, and we said that was the sounding alarm. We remember Virginia Tech, and said the madness had to end. We saw the innocent faces of Sandy Hook first graders and cried, declaring that surely good sense would end the madness.

And now one little nine year old girl lives with the tragic death of an innocent man because she was handed an uzi the way we once handed scissors to our children, with a reminder not to run with them and always point them away from you. The little girl did just as she was told. Isn’t that enough to get our attention?