Sunday, December 23, 2018

My last Christmas.

I have to be in the mood to write Christmas cards. My wife, Ellen, and I send a pile every year. To set the tone, I usually channel surf to find a cinematic classic to watch as "background music." Last  Sunday night, I glimpsed several gauzy scenes from two early film versions of Charles Dicken's novel, "A Christmas Carol." Then we settled on director, Frank Capra's, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Making my way down the list of family and friends, I couldn't help but pause a little longer at those who had lost loved ones in the last year or so. Ellen sat across from me sticking return address labels to the envelopes. Only four years ago at this time, she was just getting started on a battle with breast cancer. She survived, while two of our friends succumbed to the vicious disease. There are a growing number of widows and widowers on our Christmas list. And this year, I had to write a card to friends  who tragically lost their son two days before his college graduation. Sadly, we also have one less family card to send in 2018. Ellen's brother, Rick, died on St. Patrick's Day this year. The Christmas movie on the screen suddenly felt poignant.

Like Dicken's Ebenezer Scrooge character, George Bailey, played by the legendary Jimmy Stewart,  rediscovers the meaning of his "Wonderful Life" by confronting his mortality. Similarly, Scrooge meets three Christmas spirits in one night, including one grim spook who provides a funereal preview complete with tombstone and gravesite.

Likewise, a guardian angel steps down from heaven and dives into Bedford Falls and George Bailey's nightmare. The despondent Bailey is considering suicide because of an accidental financial crisis that threatens his reputation and freedom. Even then, the unselfish hero plunges into an icy river to save a stranger, who turns out to be his own angel, whom he thinks is drowning.  It's then that "Clarence," the simple-minded celestial being, has a winter brainstorm. Miraculously, he shows George what his community would have become had he never been born. Suddenly, the small town savings and loan officer understands everything. He prays for more time in this world. Perhaps another decade of self-sacrifice and service to neighbors who are struggling to get out of the clutches of their evil landlord in Pottersville.

Death is a powerful teacher, especially at Christmastime.

Facing their own mortality helped Scrooge and Bailey discover the truth about life. That it is temporary and yet eternal. If we choose to cling to this world we die, buried under a mountain of selfishness. If we choose to love so much we give up our lives for the good of others, we live forever.

That is the meaning of Christmas. An unconditional, vast love becomes flesh. Only to embrace a courageous death so we can live forever.

This must be why I choke up every time I watch the closing scenes of these classics from Dicken's and Capra. I can't help but see God in the characters who are redeemed by love. It puts me in the mood to write to our cherished family and friends. And reminds me, I'm running out of time with them here. So, I need to love everyone I can. Like this is my last Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Right place. Wrong time.

In America's most dangerous communities, one step recommended for at-risk youth is to avoid social media. For example, some have been shot and even killed for their Facebook posts. Seems it's just as important to carefully choose your virtual friends as those you run with in the real world. When soldiers  die or suffer wounds because they're accidentally shot by one of their brothers, we call it "friendly fire."

Then there are those gunned down due to mistaken identify. The tragic loss of life occurs because a careless attacker fired senselessly. Some say the death toll would be much higher if young shooters were better marksmen.

The stories of random gunfire are all too common on U.S. streets and we cluck our tongues at the obvious insanity. Yet, truth be told, Americans have long been dodging long-distance assaults.

I remember the true story of labor leader, Walter P. Reuther, who in 1948 survived a shotgun blast in his own home. He was in his kitchen with his wife, when pellets burst through the window. Four lodged in his arm, one in his chest. Other stories I've heard involved angry business owners who shot up the competition's shop or a union hall because they felt unfairly targeted. The purpose was only to send a message, they allegedly said. But what if someone had been in the right place at the wrong time?

Whether the assault is a volley of commentary via electronic bursts in cyberspace or rounds fired from many feet away, the distance between attacker and the attacked allows us to shoot aimlessly.

We can debate the effectiveness of gun control in the effort to reduce violence. But without a change in our trigger-happy, vindictive natures, we will continue to count the dead and wounded, without knowing the lives that we've lost.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Pass the compassion, please.

A  few days before Thanksgiving, a friend shared his concern about getting together with family for the  big holiday. The issue at hand was the side dish of politics that might be served up mid-meal.

Seems like many of our divided countrymen and women forget to hang up their partisan caps in the coat closet, and happily wear them to the feast dedicated to gratitude and blessings.

Even mobsters, as in the Corleone family of "The Godfather" fame, had rules about not talking "business" at the table.

Truthfully, kitchen table talk is where political campaigns are made. We should be able to respectfully share our opinions about hot topics and tough questions, at least by the time we're squirting the whipped cream onto the pie. For example, why do so many mentally ill live on our streets? That seems like appropriate conversation for the holiday season, when so many people make donations to help the suffering.

Why are so many of the homeless veterans of the U.S. armed forces? Did you know, the Veterans Administration routinely visits street villages under overpasses and at other make-shift shelters to conduct a census of vets? It's true. How do we support these troops?

Why do so many of our houses of worship restrict meals for the homeless to Thanksgiving and the holidays when we know they're hungry and in need of help all year long?

That's a conversation worthy of any holiday table. Season's Greetings!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The space between humanity and insanity

The hot lather hit the back of my neck marking the beginning of the end of my monthly grooming. My barber, Mike, glided the straight razor through the foam, slicing hairs closer than any clippers could. I conjured up retro images of groomers striking blade to strap to sharpen the edge that would clean a week-long growth off the cheeks of hard-working dude, a guy's guy, grabbing a Saturday afternoon shave and cut before his weekly bath. It took steady hands to manipulate the razor without leaving bloody nicks.

Though I sat up a little straighter yesterday, because the conversation at the barbershop had gone to a frightening place. One guy mentioned a friend who slipped into a coma after his girlfriend stabbed him near the clavicle, above his heart. They had been at a party. Another patron, waiting for his trim spoke up as he recalled a couple of college buddies who accidentally got into a "sword fight." Seems one roomie was showing his pirate blade to the other and stabbed him in the side. It was unintentional but the swashbuckler spent a month in jail because he couldn't pay restitution to his roommate for drawing blood.

I couldn't help but recall a kid I met this summer who was stabbed in his neighborhood. He didn't share much about his story except, "I was stabbed yesterday." He had bandages on both arms.

In America's debate about guns, there is one, undeniable truth -- some people are irrationally violent. And firearms are our weapon of choice. According to, in 2017, over 10,000 were shot to death in the U.S. People armed with handguns killed more than 7,000 of those. Compare that to nearly 1,600 who died in stabbings.

My take is, to kill someone with a knife, you have to get close. Razor close. Guns can help make murder impersonal, rapid and very efficient, especially automatic weapons.

There is no doubt that a madman or woman can murder with the even the most primitive objects. Over 460 died from blunt force trauma inflicted with clubs and hammers. Our best bet to stop the mayhem is changing the hearts and minds of those who could step through that hair-splitting space that separates humanity from insanity.

Only love can do that.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Reliving the trauma

I failed to write a blog last weekend for a good reason. Actually 90 reasons. Our family gathered in Detroit to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday.

After a joyful celebration with 16 of her 17 great-grandkids dancing around the rented hall, we joined our matriarch for a service at her church. At the end of Mass, the priest paused to acknowledge Irene Stepien's milestone. Stepping forward toward her seat in the middle of the front pew, he asked, "How does it feel to be 90? I'm sure you've seen so much over all those years."

"Yes!" she replied. "I lived through the war and German occupation in Poland."

"You lived through the war and occupation," the clergyman repeated her words so the rest of the congregation could hear them. Then he prayed a  beautiful blessing.

Of all the things Mom chose to share in that brief moment, she recalled World War II and the Nazis taking control of her country. I grew up listening to her stories about the terror of soldiers invading her family home. She ran through the family farm fields as bullets whizzed past her head. Mom was only ten when war broke out. Once, she even escaped from the Gestapo. My late father had similar memories. Like the German soldier who shoved the barrel of a submachine gun under Dad's chin. Another guy pushed his Luger into the back of Dad's head to encourage him to work for the invading forces.

It's hard to forget the trauma of wanton violence. For survivors of the Holocaust, the memories are searing. You have to wonder about American kids who grow up enduring drive-by gunfire, street crime and the murder of neighbors and even friends. How do they cope with a war that never ends? It changes their perception of safety and rewires their brains and bodies with fear.

Imagine you escape a massacre in your school. One where a madman uses a military-style weapon to slaughter your classmates. How could you forget?

"Now you gotta take a test in a bulletproof vest. Scared to death that you might get shot," croons country singer, Kane Brown, in his new song, "American Bad Dream."

But it's not a dream. It's a real-world nightmare. And for many, an unshakeable memory they'll relive as long as they number their days. Even if the survive nearly a century.  Happy birthday, Mom.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lord have mercy.

From time to time, I'll see a post on social media or receive an email poking fun at safety for kids. You know the one that says baby boomers grew up without wearing bike helmets, batting helmets, mouth guards and safety belts while running our neighborhoods unsupervised until the street lights came out. Yet we survived.

On the other hand, back then, we never considered training our teachers to pack heat in order to protect us from mayhem. Nor did our houses of worship hire security forces to watch the front and back doors for gunmen. We didn't wonder if someone in the theater would open fire with an automatic weapon during the double feature. The action was on the screen or at the candy counter.

There is no safety gear to protect a child or adult from the kind of trauma that occurred at the synagogue in Pittsburgh yesterday, where a gunman slaughtered 11 congregants and injured two police SWAT team members. Police said the shooter was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns. This was a hate crime against Jews. Coincidentally, next month will mark 80 years since Kristallnacht, "the night of the broken glass," November 9, 1938. Nazi's rioted in Germany and massacred nearly 100 Jews while they damaged their synagogues, businesses and homes. World War II and the Holocaust were brewing and about boil over.

Hatred always fuels mass murder. And because our media has become ubiquitous, we see it vividly displayed daily. I wouldn't dare compare my childhood to the insanity kids are exposed to in these times. The tragedy is, we boomers can't muster the courage to do something constructive about the madness. As children, we watched our nation send men to walk on the moon. But today, America, with all its financial power and ingenuity is unable or unwilling to solve this threat for our grandchildren and our neighbors.  So now, hatred, armed to the teeth, invades the places we pray, again and again. Lord have mercy.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The nudge of an angel

I woke up bleary eyed Saturday but I needed to start earlier than usual to make my appointment. Before I put on my glasses, I checked the text on my phone. It was my cousin's wife sending me a picture of their son. He stood in military uniform, beaming alongside his army buddy. The scene was Camp Fuji, Japan. The two men smiled through tall grasses with the majestic, snow-capped mountain in the background. After training, they're headed to South Korea.

My cousin and his wife worry about their son daily. My best friend's son is in the U.S. Army Special Forces and another friend of ours has a son in army intelligence, deployed overseas. Those parents are living with one eye and ear on their phones and hoping no uniformed visitors come knocking at the doors.

Other mothers and fathers are praying tonight for sons and daughters confronting trouble at every turn. Lord, help them find a way to stand up to the pressure. Pass up the offers to make that easy money, selling drugs. Give them the courage to put down the handgun, or refuse to pick it up. Turn down that ride with the gang bent of revenge.

Whether your child is a role model or at-risk of becoming a statistic, parents worry ... and pray for grace and the gentle, swift nudge of their guardian angels.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fearless Sally

I met a very brave woman today. We'll call her "Sally."

She wore a blue striped turban and there were grey hoses or wires jutting out from the fabric at the back of her head. They were connected to a device on a backpack she wore.

"I have a brain tumor," Sally explained. Yet, on this gorgeous fall Sunday in Chicago, Sally decided to spend her valuable afternoon in a violent community, attending a fundraiser to help at-risk youth and young adults.

Before her illness, she had volunteered at the nonprofit community center and was now looking forward to returning soon to serve again. Sally said her illness helped make her wiser. She had gained a better understanding of what was important. What she required. And Sally said she is trying to learn how to overcome fear. Not an easy task when battling a life-threatening illness.

So, imagine, a brain cancer victim came to a neighborhood torn by gun violence to serve young kids who were born into chaos. And her reward is fearlessness. The power to live courageously. Unselfishly. To live as if today were her last and she were willing to give it away to help someone else. Someone she doesn't really know. And to love them like family.

Sally reminds me of the Psalm of fearlessness. She is living it.
"The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?"
(Psalm 27:1)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

His middle name is delight.

"You want to be what you see," explained Quincy Delight Jones, Jr.  in the new Netflix documentary bearing his first name.

At first, he longed to be a gangster. No wonder. Jones grew up on the South Side of Chicago, during the Great Depression. What he saw was chaos. His community was run by gangs. His father, a carpenter on the payroll of mobsters who ran the ghetto. His mother, a schizophrenic, was dragged away in a strait jacket when Jones and his little brother, Lloyd, were just young kids. Yet somehow he found the grace to rise above the insanity and became a legend. A Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winner, Jones is a music producer, composer, arranger, musician and film producer. A household name.

How did he do it? You owe it to yourself to watch this doc, directed by Jones' daughter, Rashida Jones and Alan Hicks. Jones shares a lifetime of wisdom and his degree from the University of HK (Hard Knocks).

Kids don't choose to whom they are born. Where or when. Too often we are quick to write off those who squirm under the foot of oppression that is racism, poverty and the trauma of crime, dysfunction, abuse and addiction.

For Jones, the example of his hardworking father inspires him to this day. Quincy Delight Jones, Sr. taught him how to toil, tirelessly. His father's mother was a former slave and she helped her son raise the boys. It was while breaking into the armory that young Quincy discovered his passion for music, as he tickled the keys on a piano there. His suffering mother once told him to write his music for God's glory.

Jones' story, imperfect like the rest of ours, is, however, a masterpiece in human frailty and heavenly intervention, including more than one near-death experience. In the film, he ponders the meaning of his life, treasuring a Christmas celebration in the context of his mortality.

Endless reports from around the world, featuring at-risk youth begging on streets to survive, living in cardboard boxes -- or those just around the corner dodging bullets to get to school -- build calluses on our ears and eyes. But beneath that mayhem are the souls of God's children waiting to fulfill his divine plans. "Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart's desire." (Psalm 37:4)
Lord help us to help them to live like each of them was born with the middle name, "Delight."

Sunday, September 30, 2018

It's always time.

It was the middle of the night when the annoying noise began. Through my bleary eyes I peered into the living room at the source of the sound. It was our fire alarm. Something was making it chirp. I staggered toward the closet for the step ladder so I could reset the alarm. I knew there was no fire. It was that relentless peeping these safety devices make when it's time to change a battery.

Every fall, when we set back clocks to standard time, it's tradition to replace the battery in all smoke alarms. This is a simple, affordable safety practice to increase the likelihood we'll get a reliable, unmistakable alert when a house fire occurs.

Why not take the same approach to firearms safety?  Standard time resumes at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 2018. Those who own weapons could make sure they're secure to prevent accidental shootings and deaths. In fact, why not double check when we spring forward to daylight savings time in March, too.  And repeat the process every fall and spring.

The esteemed Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, CHOP, has a research institute that has captured alarming safety data. CHOP says there are about 393 million firearms in the U.S. That's about 120 guns for every 100 people. Some 1.7 million kids live in a home with unlocked, loaded weapons. One out of three homes with kids have guns. Here are three eye-opening stats CHOP reports:

An emergency department visit for non-fatal assault injury make a youth 40% more likely for another firearm injury.

Those who die of accidental shootings were more than three times as likely to have a firearm in their homes.

Almost 90% of accidental shooting deaths among children occur in the home. Most of these happen because kids play with guns when parents aren't looking or aren't around.

Annually about 33,000 Americans die due to firearm injuries. Two-thirds of those are suicides. Law enforcement sources estimate about four times as many people, or over 120,000 per year, are injured by guns and survive. I've seen some sources that put accidental injuries at more than 70,000 annually.

Now imagine a gun that chirped when the safety was off or the lock wasn't engaged. Or a gun safe that chimed when security was compromised. Tech companies offer alarm devices you can use to arm any type of safe. And yes, you have to change the batteries.

One of the "wisdom books" in the good book says, "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

A word to the wise is sufficient. It's time to pay attention to gun safety or it will be a time to mourn.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Praying in the blur.

This has been a busy news week.

So much buzz, I've had a hard time keeping track of it all, not to mention the stack of political stories. Two mass shootings, one in Wisconsin, one in Maryland. One cop facing trial in Dallas for killing her neighbor in his own apartment, which the accused officer says she mistook for her own. Another veteran police officer on trial in Chicago on charges of first-degree murder. He allegedly, unnecessarily shot a suspect 16 times, killing him in the street. That shooting was captured on police video and has played everywhere.

Visit the Web site of any local TV or radio news station or big city daily paper and you will find headlines like:

"21-year-old killed in shooting at Fort Worth party"

"1 killed, thirteen wounded in city (Chicago) shootings"

"Man, 64, shot in foot in Michigan Avenue (Detroit) drive-by"

Day after day, local media turns the valve on an endless stream of carnage from coast to coast. A good friend and former major-market TV anchor told me the marching orders at her last gig were to report just two things "weather and crime in your neighborhood." Animated storm graphics and police blotter are cheap and easy to report. You send a lone photographer out to capture the shots of the house and the yellow crime scene tape. The news anchor yacks over it or your reporter writes a few inches of copy. Done. Roll your two minutes of commercials or run the full-page ad adjacent to the blood and guts.

According the Associated Press, Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, told the Chicago Tribune he prayed daily for the family of the man he shot, teenager Laquan McDonald. If convicted, Van Dyke is facing the potential of spending the rest of his life in prison. McDonald has been dead since 2014.

Both families of the officer and the deceased wait tonight as Van Dykes' defense team opens its case  tomorrow. The victims' families in Wisconsin and Maryland will endure the funeral and burial process. The shooters who attacked their coworkers in both states are now dead. Both suffered from mental illness. Their families and friends are in indescribable pain, as are those who lost their loved ones to the heinous mayhem.

When we line up to argue for and against firearms in our national  debate, how many of us stop to think about all those suffering in the crossfire? Those whose child or brother went on a crazed rampage and slaughtered coworkers? Those who sit in jail cells awaiting trials for the unspeakable? Those who were randomly hit by stray bullets? Those who never came home from a party? Those who shot a friend because they had too much to drink or lost too much in a card game? Those who saw it happen?

Who prays for the vilified? Or the father who forgot to lock up his handgun? The one his child used to shoot a friend.

In the blur of gunfire and all the news stories, so many are wounded. And we all need to pray for them -- all of them.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Intense love

You are surrounded by two ferocious intruders.

At your front door is a hurricane. At your side is a typhoon. Only one weapon can protect you from these forces that defy human control.


St. Peter, the guy Jesus nicknamed, "Rock," said this, "Let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) You may have heard it translated as "because love conquers all."

Some reports describe the flooding in America's Carolinas as "biblical." Landslides are burying people in the Philippines. And we're still waiting for the storm waters to stop rising so the full force of the rescues can begin.

Mother Nature can be as lethal as she is majestically magnificent and mesmerizing. Her powerful expressions are universally humbling and make even the most fearless tremble and beg her for peace.

It takes courage to love those we don't know as if they were family. Yet, over the coming weeks, quiet heroes will battle the impacts of disaster and comfort thousands who have lost everything. Victims will be left without understanding. Brought to their knees. Powerless.

There is always someone in our circle of family, friends or acquaintances who is battling a storm, submerged in despair. It is up to us to wield the only weapon that works.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leftover firepower for sale

"The Bible justifies the right to bear arms!"

That's what a couple work colleagues told me many years ago. I was intrigued. Not so much by chapter and verse, because I've seen many manipulations of scripture. But I wanted to understand what they really meant.

"Does that include tanks, bazookas, and RPGs? What about nuclear weapons?" I asked.

One of the guys said, "Yes, there's no limit."

For those concerned about the proliferation of military assault weapons in the hands of civilians, this is sobering. But there's a broad spectrum of thought on the Second Amendment and its meaning. And there is a vast variety of influences in the debate. These include enormous sources of revenue from firearms. All this is interlaced with the issue and the long standing tradition of gun ownership, marksmanship and defense, both personal and national.

For example, this week, Bloomberg ran a story on a little known organization that is wealthier than the National Rifle Association (NRA). You can read the expansive story here about the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) that dates back to President Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

Roosevelt was concerned that American citizens, if drafted to fight in a war, might not know how to wield weapons. That was the purpose of the CMP. To train civilians. Of course, during the Spanish-American War, we didn't have the mammoth "big stick" defense budget we have today and massive corp of troops, sailors, airmen and marines.

By the end of the 20th century, Uncle Sam declared the CMP obsolete. Congress didn't agree. So, among the other surprises you'll discover Bloomberg's piece is this one: the U.S. armed forces sells surplus weapons through a private, non-profit that promotes guns and gun safety to youth. This non-profit earns hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of leftover military firearms, some to collectors. The recent defense spending bill authorized the delivery of 18,000 M1911 pistols to the CMP over the next couple years. The premise is, the sale of the weapons cache saves the U.S. the cost of storing them. Turns out, the warehousing is less than a buck a year per pistol, much less. After refurb, the non-profit expects to sell them to the public for $850 to $1,050 per pistol. Their cost, the price of shipping the weapons. That's it. Buyers are already lining up, so if you want an M1911 this fall, you'll have lots of competition. CMP could earn $18 million from the refreshed military sidearms. That's a pretty nice non-profit. CMP is sitting on a quarter-billion in assets.

Not sure where this process is covered in the Bible, or for that matter the Constitution. But in the tug-of-war over America's gun culture, follow the money.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Praying for a second chance

"Nothing stops a bullet like a job!"

Those are the words of Greg Boyle, SJ, a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries of Los Angeles. The organization's Web site says it's "the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world."

Through a similar program in Chicago, founded by Catholic priests,  I've met former gang members, who committed serious, violent crimes as juveniles. They have each spent more than a decade in prison. Now, they are again living in the community and compassionately working to show teens and young adults how to avoid incarceration. They're dedicated to accompanying those they mentor and help them find employment.

Because it is a job and the dignity of work that allows each of us to feel that we're contributing. Working shapes our self worth and sense of belonging. It requires us to selflessly give of ourselves and our valuable time to help carry the load. The lifting we do impacts our families, the lives of those we love, and even total strangers. In exchange, we receive a wage. We are created to feel the value of work. To earn. To be acknowledged for our contribution to something greater than ourselves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

But if you've got a police record, especially for an act of aggression, finding a paying situation can be especially challenging. Even employers that are felony friendly often reject those who have been convicted of assault.

On this Labor Day weekend, when we honor our neighbors and fellow citizens who do the work that sustains our communities, know there a many who are praying for a second chance.

"Nothing stops a bullet like a job!"

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Talk

When I was a little boy, my mother and father told me to never talk to strangers. Never. Of course, we had the other talk about how babies are made, but I already knew that secret before they told me.

By the time I became a parent, the faces of children began appearing on milk cartons making "stranger danger" breakfast conversation.

What I don't understand is how our older son and his wife will explain school lockdown drills to their young children. Our 3-year-old granddaughter will begin school in about ten days. She's so tiny and innocent and I'm not looking forward to hearing her questions about gun violence. We talk about safety all the time in terms of boo-boos that can really hurt you. But not bullets and gunshot wounds.

Although we've discussed bad people who hurt others, we've never talked about armed attackers. I'm sure there will be a fire drill at school. She understands hot and cold and getting a burn at the stove. We've even talked a little about life and death when she spotted a dead robin on the sidewalk. But not the idea that someone can come into a theater, church, or preschool and savagely shatter lives by slaughtering people, including tiny children. I can't imagine telling her "Your teacher has a gun in case someone comes into the classroom and tries to shoot you and your classmates."

The thought reminds me there are children dodging bullets and bombs in war zones around the world, and parents who seek refuge for their families in other countries.

So, is it time to have that talk with a toddler ... or is it time to change our conversation about gun violence in America?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Taste and see.

Today, while driving through an unfamiliar suburban neighborhood near Chicago, I saw peace.

A young girl, perhaps 11 years old, rode her bike, smiling broadly, her hijab furling in the wind. On the next block, an enormous star of David stretched across the brick facade of a synagogue. We had just enjoyed lunch at a Lebanese restaurant, prepared by a chef from Baghdad, who had learned from European chefs while living in Amsterdam. A Syrian Christian woman waited on us, while a 17-year-old South American  guy swept the floor. People of all colors from many nations filled this spotless eatery, savoring the flavors, aromas and atmosphere.

A car salesman, the grandson of a Palestinian refugee, suggested the lunch place. He told me he could  trace his ancestry to an ancient, tiny village near  the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.  Some of his extended family, who are Muslim, still live there. His boss, a friendly Catholic, explained the rosary tattooed artistically around his forearm.  He asked me about the Jerusalem cross on my ring. I told him about my Jewish friend who located a craftsman to engrave it. This jeweler chose a Muslim surgeon to perform a very delicate procedure on his back.

Despite the turmoil, tension and tragedy that fills the 24-hour-news cycle, ordinary people with powerful differences, enjoy swapping stories and celebrating the things they share every day.

It's a beautiful thing to experience peace in action.  Thousands of years ago, the psalmist, David, sang it this way, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:9). On this day, it genuinely felt like God was among these people, alive and joyful nourishing their serenity. Food never tasted this good.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Counting The Children

The typewriter sat like a lonely sentry under the window to nowhere with a single page of newsprint on the roll. That day, there was one name with age and address typed across the paper. It was the basic identification of the latest recorded homicide victim in the "Murder City." Detroit had earned that title in the 1970's and early 1980's by leading the nation in reported annual murders.

It was 1977, and I was in the press room at Detroit Police Headquarters, 1300 Beaubien Street back in the day. This was my junior year as an electronic journalism student at Wayne State University. Public Affairs Reporting put me in the cop house for three weeks, the city county building for three more and the courts for the balance. I covered colorful debates at Detroit's legendary city council, murder trials where defendants stared down witnesses, and I wrote a feature piece on a remarkably talented police artist who recreated the faces of suspects. Our assignment was to turn in several stories each week for the entire term. The best lessons were learned on the beat.

And if you were in the press room at police headquarters, even if you were just a student, you were expected to type and record the identity of any victim, when public information officer, Sargent Fred Williams, hustled in with the info. The local reporters were sharing duty of tallying the list of the dead, to accurately tabulate a total.

This week, I heard from two relatives who live in Detroit asking me about the insane spike in shootings in Chicago, where last week 66 people were shot and 12 killed. My wife and I live in the Windy City now. So do our two sons, our daughter-in-law who is expecting, and our darling granddaughter. Chicago had 750 murders in 2016 and is awaiting official FBI totals from 2017. Truth is, Baltimore and Detroit are still considered statistically more murderous, despite lower totals, because their populations are smaller. They report more murders per 100,000 than Chicago, Philadelphia, Nashville, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Houston and New York City. But when 66 people are shot in a week, a city instantly jumps to the front of the headlines.

Why are we so violent, with so many more gun killings than other industrialized nations? That would take too many chapters and interviews to answer journalistically. But I can scratch the surface on something just as important: the impact this kind of violence has on the next generation.

I met a man recently who mentors in one of the most violent communities in the nation, on Chicago's South Side. He grew up in the neighborhood where he now serves. He inspires me because he hasn't forgotten his community, now that his life is better. And he said something that has been haunting me.

Imagine for a moment you are a child. You're in middle school or high school. You see five or six kids murdered in your community each year. If you lived in the suburbs, you'd receive special counseling if just one kid were shot in your neighborhood. But not in this one. You grow up wondering if you'll make it to see your thirtieth birthday.

These at-risk kids don't choose to live where they do. And their mentor is doing his best to guide them through the maze of jeopardy. What can we do to help?

Jesus said: "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them: for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14)

While we're counting the number of lives lost to violence, we need to include those who live on, wounded by the trauma. Heaven knows we need to save them, no matter where they live.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Good hands.

I told you so.

Since the Parkland High School shooting, I've been dedicating this weekly blog to unraveling the truth in America's gun debate. In that pursuit, I've published a few posts on the grease that lubricates all business, the cost of risk-taking, more commonly called liability insurance. For months now, I've predicted it would be underwriters who would turn the tide in this national debate.

It's happening.

You can't buy a car or mortgage a home without insurance. Nor can you rationally operate a business without liability coverage. Right now, media reports say the National Rifle Association (NRA) can't get coverage because the state of New York is pressuring insurers to deny it to the NRA. Lenders are also listening to New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and his campaign to hobble the NRA by cutting off its liquidity. In fact, the NRA has sighted these issues in a suit against the state of New York. Some are reporting the organization may declare bankruptcy due to these pressures.

So, I believe it's no coincidence that the gun rights group took a shocking stand this week. It is arguing against the position of a Florida shooter in an incident involving that state's "stand your ground" law. There's pressure building on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident and Florida legislators are discussing revising the law. All because a man licensed to carry a concealed weapon recently shot and killed another man who had pushed him to the ground in a convenience store parking lot. I shared this event last week. Video from security cameras shows the pushy shopper was actually protecting his girlfriend from the aggressive guy who had approached her vehicle and started an argument over a handicapped parking spot. The sheriff ruled that according to Florida law, the gunman had a right to "stand his ground" when pushed. He then referred the case to the state's attorney to decide. But what about the man's right to protect his girlfriend and their young children in the family car? Did a shove from an unarmed man justify a fatal shot to his chest?

Who would ever imagine that the NRA would side with the person NOT carrying the gun? Probably wouldn't happen as long as they could cover their behinds with insurance. But their support of risky laws like "stand your ground" statutes in nearly half the state's makes the pro-gun club liable for death and damages. And that could be too expensive for those who lend them money or cover their gun business bets. In turn, the NRA cannot afford to offer deals on liability insurance to its members who own guns.

By the way, MGM Resorts, the owners of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay where a madman killed 58 in 2017, are suing more than 1,000 victims. Incredibly, they've taken this action in an attempt to shed their massive liability. Imagine the cost to them if they lose that suit.

You see, when the risk of losing insurance money is greater than the passion to profit from guns, then Congress and state legislatures will enact common sense gun reform. The Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Timothy 6:10). And those with pockets deep enough to insure your risk are not in the business of losing what they love.

I told you so. We're in good hands.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Gun gods.

The First Amendment gives Americans the right to free speech, press, assembly, to petition the government and to practice or not practice religion. So, for example, you can believe in whatever theology you like and pretty much say whatever you wish without interference or regulation. However, if you start sacrificing humans at your worship gathering, the cops are going to show up, shut you down and charge you with murder.

If I libel or slander you with my words, you can take legal action, file suit and seek justice and damages, despite the First Amendment. No rights are unlimited. None.

Now the Second Amendment says this: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." But in Florida, that has become, among other things: "A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony." And that deadly force includes using a firearm.

This week in Florida, a man approached a mother in a parked car outside a store. With her were two of her children, a four-month old son and three-year-old daughter. The man started an argument with her, apparently because she was occupying a spot designated for the disabled. He believed he had the right to enforce parking ordinances and vigorously argued her eligibility to use the spot. There were apparently empty spaces and he insisted she move into one of them. When the woman's boyfriend and father of her children came out of the store, she opened the door of her vehicle and climbed out, putting her in close proximity of the stranger. Her partner quickly stepped forward and shoved the man who was confronting her, pushing him to the ground. Seated on the pavement, the self-proclaimed parking enforcement official pulled a handgun. The boyfriend took steps back, before the assailant shot him in front of his family. Wounded, the dad staggered into the store where he collapsed and died in front of his five-year-old son.

Law enforcement in Florida has not arrested the shooter, declaring he was within his rights to stand his ground and shoot an unarmed man because he believed he had to "to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm." The gunman had a concealed weapon's permit.

Question: Was the boyfriend within his rights to protect the mother of his children and the two youngsters inside the car because he felt concerned for their safety? Since in Florida you can kill someone if you "reasonably believe" you're threatened, it would follow you can you push someone if you "reasonably believe" you're threatened, or your loved one is threatened? Law enforcement there must not agree because they've publicly defended the shooter and referred the case to the State Attorney's office to decide. Perhaps if the boyfriend had shot the stranger who confronted his girlfriend at her car window, he would be alive today and free to go about his business because he was just standing his ground with a weapon. Perhaps his mistake was that he didn't shoot the man who came to the family car and provoked an argument. Florida law allows you to stand your ground at home, in your car, in a hotel room and apparently in a parking lot. Twenty-two states have similar laws that do not re quire people to retreat to avoid conflict.

However, just before the victim was shot, he took a couple steps back when he saw the shooter reach for his gun. He wasn't standing his ground but died anyway.

The event was captured on the store's security cameras, which you can view here. I offer this version because it has no commentary. Unfortunately the NY Post added music, but it is raw and unedited:

Now, what if the shooting had occurred around the corner, out of the camera's view?

The idea that we have reached a place where you can pull a gun and shoot and kill an unarmed person who shoves you away from his family in the broad daylight is a frightening concept. This means, your word against a dead man that you felt legitimately threatened. I can sacrifice your life if I "believe" you are dangerous and I'm free to go about my business.

I must be misinterpreting Florida law. The so called, "stand your ground" statute must be based on the First Amendment since it says: "... reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary ..." So, in Florida, you have a right to kill based on what you "believe," because your beliefs are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sort of like a religion. It's not about facts, it's about what you "reasonably believe."

Here's one very important footnote and the basis of my sarcasm. If you watched the video link above, I'm sure you saw the shooting victim take a couple steps back a good second or two before he was shot. In Florida, the law also clearly states that anyone who "... initially provokes the use or threatened use of force against himself or herself" still has duty to retreat. The shooter took it upon himself to argue with the mother about the parking space, despite the fact there were empty spots much closer to the store entrance. He approached her vehicle, stood nearby, gestured and made demands to a total stranger. This provoked the shove from the father who came out to defend his family. As he approached, his girlfriend stepped outside the car and was much closer to the stranger. Perhaps he thought she was now in harm's way. Maybe he was concerned the stranger was carrying a weapon. Indeed he was.

Here's what one reader of the Florida Sun Sentinel wrote about the matter: "I have a handicapped Disabled Veteran Plate due to Vietnam warfare, yet I still have all my limbs, so I do not always appear disabled. However, I have already been shot (so I have a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Cross of Gallantry w/Palm, and a Combat Infantryman's Badge)," wrote David Brown. "Does that mean I should also be exposed to this (person's) poor judgment, as he stands his ground while I either produce my credentials or tell him to ...?"

You can imagine how David finished that sentence. How Florida police officials missed the idea that the unarmed father was defending his family from the unwanted advances of a stranger at the family vehicle, makes me think they're biased. Biased in favor of gun owners to stand their ground as opposed to those who are unarmed defending their turf. What they believe supercedes your beliefs and visual evidence.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9) He was not referring to the gun that won the West, the 1873 edition of the Colt Single Action Army revolver which came to be called "The Peacemaker." But the nickname implied that flashing that weapon was enough to cool heads. Unfortunately, there were no real, flesh and bone peacemakers in that parking lot in Florida. So, a father went into a store with a five-year-old to buy snacks and came outside to meet his Maker.

Tragically, in America, gun's have become gods. And some who are hired to keep the peace worship them.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Do we care?

It's amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it. But we have to care.

Did you know that the automotive electric self-starter was invented because someone was killed by a crank start? That's right. In 1908, a Detroit car guy stopped to help a woman on the city's Belle Isle when her snazzy Cadillac stalled. Byron Carter, founder of the CarterCar company generously offered to rescue the stranded lady. He had sold his company to GM in 1909 and was a buddy of Cadillac founder, Henry Leyland. Well, when he cranked the woman's Caddy, the engine backfired and the crank mechanism slammed Carter in the jaw, breaking it. Gangrene developed, then pneumonia and Carter died that year. Reportedly, Leyland was so saddened, he promised his engineering team a Cadillac would never kill another person. In 1912, the luxury carmaker introduced a self-starter on its vehicles. No more killer cranks. GM genius, Charles Kettering, and founder of Delco held the patent for the life-saving device.

In Muscoy, California this week, a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and fatally wounded his cousin, a two-year-old girl. The dead child's 53-year-old grandfather has been arrested for child endangerment. He recklessly left the loaded firearm within reach of the children. I would not want to be that grandpa. My heart aches for him.

Now, I'm guessing his relatives won't sue him for liability in the death of their daughter. And the parents of the four year old won't sue him for damages in the trauma their boy endured when he picked up a gun and killed his relative.

In one way, that's unfortunate. Because lawsuits involving damages due to gun violence could lead to dramatic improvements in gun safety. They could spark the type of powerful technology improvements that have helped dramatically reduce highway deaths in U.S. since the turn of the 21st century.

Please allow me to explain. Here's what happened in the car business. It's the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) that has applied profound pressure to automakers and government regulators. The IIHS has powerful lobbies and clever public relations teams who help generate a lot of data, test results and information about those car crashes that cause the most expensive automotive injuries. Their work leads to high-profile news stories. To protect the profits of insurance companies, the IIHS researches vehicle safety to identify the issues that cost insurers the most money. Technology companies seize on these situations to create interventions to help save lives. With plenty of grease applied by the insurers, sooner than later, these advances often become required, standard equipment. According to the IIHS, there were nearly 51,000 vehicle-related deaths in 1980. Forty years later, in 2011, there were about 19,000 fewer deaths! That's a lot of lives saved! And between 2005 and 2009, the number killed plummeted from 43,500 to 32,500, about a 25% drop.

Not coincidentally, in 2009 and 2010, carmakers were standardizing electronic stability control (ESC), because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would require it by 2012. ESC helps reduce the likelihood of a crash up to 65%. Most people today don't even know they have it on their vehicles because it's a sophisticated, automated system.

Imagine if that gun the four-year-old boy picked up this week had a way to detect that a child was holding it and not its owner. I've written a similar line recently. I'm taking a cue from the insurance people. Keep up the pressure.

Maybe if we pray for a change as well as continue to push for change the way the IIHS does, we'll see improvements in firearm safety sooner than later. Miracles are possible. Jesus himself said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater one's than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

So, what are we going to do about all the kids who are dying? Do we care?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Packin' fear

You're 17 and you've been arrested twice for carrying a firearm. You're thinking about getting another  because you don't feel safe walking your neighborhood without one.

Stories like these are real and not rare. I spoke to a social worker recently who manages cases in one of America's most violent neighborhoods. She told me teenagers there are routinely arrested for illegally carrying guns but not for committing a crime with a firearm. They buy a weapon for protection because they fear being shot at home, walking to school, or sitting on a corner.

They become hypervigilant. They look over their shoulders. They talk to their workers about fear. They carry guns. And some of them become victims of gunfire. Some die.

During the debate about gun rights in America, some people often suggest the answer to gun violence is arming everyone. Arming teachers in schools. I guess, arming clergy in churches because we've had shootings in churches.

Perhaps when everyone carries a gun, we'll all become hypervigilant, walk about with our heads on a swivel and we'll need to talk to our social workers about our fears.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Counting the carnage.

If you had $75 million and neighbors took nearly all of it leaving you merely 325 bucks -- how would you feel about them?

What if you had been given 75 million food producing plants to farm and someone came and uprooted and sold all but 325 of them, what would you do?

When explorers Louis and Clark arrived in America's West back in 1806, as many as 75 million wild buffalo or bison roamed the plains. Low estimates place the count at 30 million. That's a lot of beef! How many folks could that have fed for how many years?

The adventurers Louis and Clark encountered massive herds at South Dakota's White River and described the sight as "the moving multitude that darkened the whole plains."

By 1830, Americans began to systematically reduce the herds. Seventy-eight years after Louis and Clark first spied the beasts, the species had been decimated. There were only 325 wild bison left in the U.S. by 1884, with 25 in Yellowstone National Park. 

You'd think 74 million would be enough to bag and they could have left a million or so. Nope. 

According to a timeline from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in 1870, two million bison were hunted and killed in the southern plains. German tanners had developed a method to process hides creating fine leathers. In 1872, as America prepared to celebrate its centennial in a few years, 5,000 bison were killed each day, every day of the year! Ten thousand hunters poured into the plains and one railroad shipped over a million pounds of bison bones. Manufacturers used them in refining sugar, making fertilizer and fine bone china. Hunting bison also became a popular sport among the wealthy. 

Conservation efforts by the turn of the century helped to salvage the devastated species. By 1990, there were about 20 to 25 thousand bison in public American herds, while another quarter million lived in private herds, kept for eventual slaughter and tender, lean meat sales. 

As America debates the second amendment and the right to bear arms, we often hear about our nation's hunting tradition as justification for no gun regulation. But the tale of North America's bison makes a strong, real-world case for common sense versus absolutes. Here's some haunting perspective from scripture: "For mine are all the animals of the forests, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know all the birds of the air, and whatever stirs in the plains, belongs to me." (Psalm 50:10-11)

And then Jesus added this vital detail, "... yet not one (sparrow) falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)

Eventually, cooler heads and clearer minds found a way to stop the shameful, massacre and carnage of bison. But it was too late. It should be easy for us to see the truth -- that greed is making it easy to kill people, just as it did in the 19th century slaughter of beasts. Guns didn't kill the buffalo, but they did make the job easier.

We need to conserve the human heard, unborn and born. Our creator is watching and counting. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Worth remembering

"Look how they massacred my boy!"

In "The Godfather," that's how mob boss, Don Corleone, described the scene at the bullet-riddled body of his adult child, Sonny. He swallowed his welling tears and sobs as he pulled back a blanket to reveal the daunting task at hand to his friend, the undertaker. The iconic film introduced America to organized crime families and their viciously brutal lifestyle, fed by retribution and diabolical violence.

"Look how they massacred my boy!

That could have been what God said the day his son died impaled on a tree. Catholics commemorate the death of Jesus at every Mass, honoring his request to "Do this in memory of me."

"Look how they massacred my boy!"

Or my girl. Or my mother. Or my father. Or my brother. Or my sister. Or my lover.

Do we stop to remember those who are massacred when gunmen madly invade schools and churches, night clubs and newsrooms? Do we think of those who mourn them?

No death makes sense in human terms. The loss can cause us to question the meaning of living. But there is something about murder, especially mass murder or insanely merciless killing that leaves us numb. Shaken. Wanting to forget the unforgettable.

Kids who live in communities where gun violence is a way of life often wear t-shirts printed with the faces of those they've lost. It's how they remember.

All lives are worth remembering. Because they come from the source of life and are not ours to take. They are all valuable and deserve protecting. Even those who damage others are precious to their maker.

"Look how they massacred ... "

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How much trouble could they get into?

The year was 1981. The news series featured the risky nature of latchkey after-school care. Basically, it's allowing your preteen son or daughter to come home to an empty house. That year I was in TV promotions for ABC and my task was to attract viewers for the "Closeup" series. I wrote a script and we hired an actor to play a nerdy little guy "home alone" for an hour or two. The kid blows through the front door toward camera but fails to lock it behind him. Announcer, Ernie Anderson said, "He's a big boy, how much trouble can he get into?" "Then the little guy moseys into the bathroom to try his first cigarette. He coughs his head off as we dissolve into the living room where he's got his feet up in the recliner while on the phone. "Yeah, I'm just watching TV, Mom," the youngster explains. The camera racks focus and reveals he's holding a revolver in his hand which he points right at the lens. When he pulls the trigger, fortunately the chamber is empty.  

It was a compelling spot. But it never aired. ABC Broadcast Standards pulled it because the kid pointed his weapon right at the lens. Today's video games feature the point-of-view of gunman and criminals. And kids at home are still exposed to many unlocked guns in homes of well-meaning people. Nationally, about 1.7 million children live in homes with unlocked and loaded firearms. Gunshots are the third leading cause of death for children, claiming about 1,300 lives in 2017. 

Our younger son, Mike, had a frightening experience at preschool age while in the home of dear friends. Their younger son showed Mike his father's handgun, which his dad used in his law enforcement job. The youngster climbed up and got into the gun safe on the closet shelf. It was chilling to hear his mother reveal the experience. 

Last week, a national effort called ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Gun Safety Campaign encouraged diligent education to prevent accidental shootings. With the rise in gun violence, doctors are required to talk safety at annual physicals to parents who own guns. Many moms and dads are accompanying children on a first play date to find out if there's a gun in the house. 

Medication comes in childproof containers right from the pharmacy. Vehicles with smart airbags know if the occupant is too small to be safe and they disarm themselves to protect children. Wouldn't it be great if a gun was so smart it knew to lock itself when picked up by a child or someone who's had too much to drink? 

Is that asking too much from manufacturers who earn $13.5 billion a year making weapons? 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Why the delay?

At the last minute, our flight was cancelled.

That's why this blog is a week late. It's a long story but last Friday, June 8, 2018, the terminals at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport choked with passengers praying for alternative flights. Some said it was mandatory maintenance that required the grounding of our non-stop American Airlines trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Oh, how I wanted to enjoy the barbecue at the rehearsal dinner that night. Now we were just hoping to make it there in time for Saturday's wedding. Other passengers heard excuses about extreme weather from the day before that was rippling through air travel schedules resulting in delays, postponements and cancellations through a typical hectic Friday. On Sunday, our trip home was delayed until Monday!

Just that week, I had heard a radio spot comparing the safety of flying to that of large trucks on America's highways. The announcer coldly criticized 18-wheelers as unsafe, responsible for more than 10 deaths a day on America's highways. "If airlines reported those types of fatalities, who would fly?" blared my car speakers. For sure, I thought. Coincidentally, that same week, I glimpsed a report from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control revealing that 96 Americans die everyday due to gunshot wounds. Now, if truck drivers or pilots produced that kind of carnage, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration would bring everything to a screeching halt.

As my wife, Ellen, and I waited through a four-hour delay for our next flight to Memphis, news of chef and gourmand Anthony Bourdain's suicide flashed endlessly across screens throughout passenger waiting areas, restaurants and lounges. Just that week earlier, fashion designer Kate Spade took her life. I felt a certain connection to them that day. Maybe it was because I was experiencing the news in a public setting, where people were united by travel dysfunction. We were all momentarily helpless to  change the temporary insanity of rolling delays and cancellations as my phone displayed texts of flights booked and rebooked in rapid succession. I felt for the airline workers behind the counters and on the phones coping with an army of angry flyers. But it wasn't even a taste of the pressure the depressed and anxious endure as they search for healing in desperation. Some 21,000 Americans kill themselves with guns each year. Ninety percent of those who attempt suicide with a firearm succeed. Ninety percent of those who use other means to take their lives fail.

As the debate about gun violence continues to rage across our nation, even if it's largely fallen out of the headlines in favor of political wars, I struggle to understand why we don't attempt to make guns safer. Why don't more state's  pass laws requiring those whose guns are lost or stolen to report them?  Why is it that we insist on using technology to dramatically improve auto safety but the pro-gun lobby resists smart guns? If we can create computer-aided chassis systems to help reduce the likelihood of a crash by 65%, why can't we create a firearm that knows its owner and won't allow him to shoot himself. If a three year old can't start my car without holding my key fob, why can she fire a firearm without a unique electronic ID. I don't understand why gun manufacturers don't jump at the opportunity to make safer products.

As we boarded our connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina, I spied a teen wearing a #Enough t-shirt. We chatted briefly and he told me he planned to vote this fall. It's important we care about voting because the U.S. Supreme Court just made it easier for states to take away your right to vote if you fail to use it. No such rules for gun ownership. No matter how many mass shootings occur, no matter how many are shot at art shows, churches and in schools, no matter how much the cost of security rises, nothing changes. When second-hand smoke proved cancerous and dangerous, states raised taxes on cigarettes and planes, trains and pubs went smokeless.

If we have to boost security measures in every conceivable public environment, including churches, to try to prevent random massacres by gun, who will pay for that? We may finally reach a tipping point that puts taxes on guns to fund metal detectors, armed guards and police investigations, hospitalizations and public cleanups of blood in the streets.

If we cared enough about each other, we'd care as much about the anonymous person who shoots himself or a kid from the wrong side of the tracks as we do about a celebrity who ends his life after a lifetime battle with mental illness.

 I'm not suggesting we can prevent every murder, every accidental child death, or every wife from finding her husband slumped over his desk. It's not about perfection. lt's about loving our neighbors enough to care just enough to make the changes we need to save a few more lives each day. If we can't find the courage and the will do that, as a nation, we are committing suicide by firearms.

Why the delay? People are dying.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Yes or no?

The bumper sticker read, "Baby on Board." However, the black and white graphic featured the shape of a Glock-style handgun instead of a child. That was the owner's idea of precious cargo.

Sorry, I've lost my sense of humor for gun violence. The idea of mixing kids with weapons is frightening not funny. Earlier this week, a video game publisher pulled its new "Active Shooter" property,  just before the scheduled release on June 6. That would have been just a few days after the seniors graduated at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Four seniors were among the 17 killed in the mass shooting there in February.

The "Active Shooter" game allowed users to move through a virtual school and choose to play the role of a SWAT team or the gunman terrorizing police and civilians.

Sound like fun? Had it successfully launched, "Active Shooter" would have likely been a red hot property, exploiting the trauma of school shootings to "entertain" game lovers. The parents of Parkland victims responded with outrage. The publisher, a Russian company called, ACID, considered removing the option for gamers to play the shooter, and, of course, no children would appear in the school.

Having fun yet?

Eventually, consumer pressure pulled the plug on this "Active Shooter" before any were purchased. Ultimately, although votes at the polls matter some, nothing counts or says more than the messages we send with our money. People are boycotting to change corporate policies and decisions and boycotting is effective. Because we have to prove we mean what we say, by the way we shop and spend. Otherwise, corporations know we're just kidding. There is a growing list of companies boycotting he National Rifle Association. These firms fully expect people to vote on guns with their wallets. And the NRA is returning the favor. In May, it recommended members boycott a Texas restaurant that advocated for and supported reasonable gun regulation. The restaurant committed a portion of its proceeds to organizations pushing to control guns.

Jesus said, "Let your 'yes' mean 'yes' and your 'no' mean 'no.'" (Matthew 5:37) Time to say no to violence with everything we do.

Cash is a language everyone understands and takes seriously. No joke.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

God bless the children.

Quick, crawl under your desk. Duck and cover. Get into a crouch. Put your hands over your head. Run to the hall. Lay on the floor and hope.

Until the 1980's, American schools conducted nuclear strike drills to teach faculty and students what to do in the event someone dropped "the bomb." Someone like the former Soviet Union.

Today, schools run drills to prepare occupants to deal with an assault by a gunslinging student or random armed assailant. And as we've discovered, a school shooting is infinitely more likely to occur than an atomic incident. The drills to minimize the impact of a gunman are also far more effective than pretending we can prepare to survive nuclear devastation by covering our heads with wood.

Pogo, the comic strip character, said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." We Americans have proven to be more dangerous to each other than any foreign power or even terrorists. It's ironic that our nation established Memorial Day in the 1860's to remember the well more than 600,000 who perished in battle during our Civil War that same decade. Tomorrow, when we honor all those who died to protect America over more than two centuries, we also remember how we massacred each other in our war between the states, North and South. Families literally killing kin.

So far in 2018, the number of U.S. students killed in school shootings is greater than the number of U.S. military personnel who have been killed in combat operations. Thankfully, the kids aren't willing to accept that. Students from the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 died from semiautomatic gunshot wounds earlier this year, continue to push for change that will help prevent gun violence and related domestic terrorism. To start the Memorial Day weekend, some of the Parkland students staged a "die-in" at a Publix Supermarket in Coral Springs, Florida. Lying in the aisles, they shook up the retail giant, persuading it to withdraw campaign donations from a Florida politician running for Governor. He has received donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The students are fighting to liberate our gun debate from the influence of heavy donors with financial skin in the game. Publix pulled its donations to the gubernatorial candidate within just one day of the  protest.

"Dying-in" at a retail store to push for change is as important as drilling at school to improve responses to random attackers. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)  God bless the children who are blessing our nation with their courage. Peace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Sunday, May 20, 2018

One such child

Most Saturday mornings, our two-year-old granddaughter attends the story time event in the heart of Chicago's West Loop at Open Books. It's a precious gathering of toddlers and preschoolers who arrive with parents and grandparents in tow to listen to Miss Nancy read dramatically from picture books and hear Mr. Pat play tunes on his guitar for singing along.

This Saturday we accompanied Quinn for the mass educational assembly that includes, diaper bags, snacks, sippy cups and strollers amidst the stacks of books at this unique nonprofit social venture.

After a few minutes of the colorful stories and tunes, I noticed a mother with a little boy in his special stroller. He was probably three and developmentally disabled. Every once in a while, his mom would push the plunger on a 50cc syringe to inject nutrition into his feeding tube. Her son couldn't speak and didn't smile, but mom followed the action and observed the other kids. Occasionally, he moaned.

My heart ached for her and him and I wondered what she felt looking at the other kids. Was it envy or  a yearning to see her own child filled with joy and the ability to imagine, sing and dance with others? I thought, "You are so courageous to bring your boy to this gathering and surround yourself with so many reminders of what he is not." She wanted the best for her little one no matter what he couldn't accomplish. It was a profound display of love.

There was just one such challenged child among some 25 tikes that day.  Just the day before, there was  just one child in a high school in Sante Fe, Texas who wrought mayhem on an art class with a shotgun and a revolver he reportedly acquired from his father. The 17-year-old concealed them in a trench coat above his combat boots, before murdering 10 and savagely wounding 10 more. Thank God his were not semiautomatic assault weapons.

Across the globe, earlier Saturday morning in a massive chapel in England, a bishop spoke about love at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He repeatedly lifted up  the "power of love" to renew the face of the earth.

And I wonder how much we love our children and grandchildren that we would allow them to suffer without help. To be so afflicted that they would aspire to slaughter  schoolmates. To make firearms so accessible that the mentally deranged can pack them the way some bring a sandwich in a lunchbox or nutrition in a feeding tube.

There is no "silver bullet" solution to gun violence because it is a complex blend of neglect, addiction, illness, revenge, hate, fear, racism, crime, trauma, and insanity. Just as we cannot allow the mentally ill to go untreated, uncared for, un-nurtured and in some cases left to live on the streets, we  cannot allow the young or the addicted or the afflicted to acquire weapons to hurt themselves or others.

Jesus said this about parents: "Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you good things to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:9-11) It seems like when it comes to guns and violence, we are giving our kids rocks and venomous reptiles instead of nourishing bread and fish.

The answer to our crisis lies in the power of love -- like the powerful love that mother displayed with her beautiful, broken boy in a reading group where he didn't seem to fit. Because her actions said, "I love all children more than you'll ever know."

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Far more than a crime

My mom is approaching 90 and she's sharing many memories these days. She's always been a storyteller, but recently I'm hearing some special ones. Today, on Mother's Day morning, she told me that her father died on Ascension Thursday, 79 years ago in Poland. She was ten, the oldest of three at the time and she was walking home from Mass when neighbors informed her, my aunt and uncle that their father had died at home. Her mother was at my grandfather's side when he passed.

My mom also experienced the loss of two infant siblings prior to her father's passing. She was holding one little brother when he died. Death is traumatic to families. Violent death is traumatic to communities.

I'm not sure why, but her story made me think of a childhood friend. I use that term loosely because we were only occasionally on good terms. He was a troubled kid from a more troubled family. We'll call him Tim. Tough and often raging, Tim was not at the top of anyone's list, unless you were going to a brawl. This guy had a way of finding evil anywhere and punching it in the face in a fit of mania. At 18, he and some running buddies spied a few young women stranded on the roadside. They recognized one of them and pulled over to help. It wasn't long before another carload of young men joined the rescue effort. The boys began to argue over the girls. In the second car was a gun. It quickly found its way into the hands of one of the passengers, the son of a Detroit cop. Tim died that day, on the side of the road in the Motor City.

Friday afternoon I looked in my driver's side mirror and spied a sign right in the middle of the reflection, "Stop the Violence" it screamed, with a clenched fist raised amidst a bursting graphic explosion. I was parked at Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation (PBMR) in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Southside Chicago. In just one hour, I learned so much that day about the restorative justice initiative at PBMR, but I was just beginning to scratch the surface. Besides the Catholic priests and nuns who operate this ministry in this notoriously tough community, many of the staff members are ex-cons, gang members or formerly involved with courts due to violence. They are experts on the experience of incarceration for juveniles because  they've lived it. Mentoring is among the many services provided here, where a traumatized teen or young adult, whose already been convicted, can find a safe and welcoming place. A place to learn that crime is far more than an act that broke a law, it violated relationships. Relationships with individuals. With families and the community. With God.

Their crimes traumatized their community. Relationships and peace were shattered. Communities depend on relationships and peace to thrive, just as families do.

You don't learn that in prison. It's not a peaceful place. You can only learn peace and reconciliation if someone bothers to teach you. Maybe this is why Jesus, hanging from the cross, the victim of violence and betrayal said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

We really don't understand, we don't know what we're doing when it  comes to justice and restoring relationships. I'm looking forward to learning.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What Mothers Do

"My mother came out on the porch with a shotgun and said, 'Nah, nah! These are the Thomas boys and they're the only gang around here!'" Laughed Isaiah Thomas with a his unmistakable cackle. He was reliving his youth and chatting on the stoop of his Southside-Chicago, childhood home.

It was 1984 and the then Detroit Piston All-Star and now National Basketball Association Hall-of-Famer was engaged in a revealing interview about his unlikely rise to success. The interviewer was my former ABC-TV colleague, Dayna Eubanks Simpson, who coaxed Thomas to unpack the truth about his life in an urban war zone, where drug gangs stole innocence and youth and ruled the streets with merciless violence and retribution. Thomas had an older brother who got caught up in that mess, despite his mother's profound courage and powerful parenting. Mrs. Mary Thomas raised nine children. Long before her death in 2010,  she had required her son, the basketball millionaire, to sign a homemade contract with her that he'd finish college when he entered the NBA draft after only one year at Indiana University and an NCAA men's basketball championship. In 1989, Disney produced "A Mother's Courage" starring Alfre Woodard portraying Isaiah's larger-than-life mother.

Still today, mothers like the late Mrs. Thomas struggle and endure the searing impact of poverty and the stress of inner city culture, too often to bury children murdered by senseless gunfire. Others mourn the squandered potential of those they love who used guns and drugs to make their marks, only to buy time behind bars while rotting the promise of their youth.

In Chicago, the Precious Blood Ministries of Reconciliation (PBMR) operates a spiritual field hospital to provide an oasis of peace in a place that offers little hope. See 

One of its many remarkable services is a Peace Garden and circles of forgiveness. Led by a spiritual grandmother of Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, Sister Donna Liette gently convinces women mourning their children to work through loss and forgiveness. Mothers who buried sons support those whose kids killed their neighbors. Through the love of the group, these women find a way to overcome the grief, lift up their crosses and do greater things than they imagined.

Jesus said, "Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) The beloved disciple John reminds us that "... God is love." (1 John 4:8). Love conquers all.

As we prepare to celebrate Mother's Day next weekend, it's a great time to pause and honor the courage of those women who not only choose to give life, but choose to rise above the world and snatch peace from the jaws of hatred and violence.

To watch Sr. Donna in action and meet some of her brave friends, click the link below. It will likely be the best eight minutes you'll spend today. Wishing all the moms, a blessed and happy Mother's Day next weekend.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Truth sets us free.

It was must-watch TV that was very tough to take.

This week, HBO's edgy and contemporary "Vice" news magazine featured a detailed report on semi-automatic weapons and the growing trend of mass shootings involving them. Among other things, the story included an interview with a  physician who treated victims of last year's First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas near San Antonio.

The doctor used her laptop to highlight images of gunshot wounds and X-rays that revealed the profound impact of bullets fired from semi-automatic weapons that struck human beings. The gaping holes were gruesome but couldn't compare to the slo-mo demo footage of a bullet exploding and expanding a mass of meat.

This morning, irony dawned on me. Here was a cable premium channel producing a piece of journalism depicting images that rivaled some of the violence in its original dramatic programming and feature length movies. Virtually every news network is affiliated with an entertainment conglomerate that makes major money selling explosive violence in TV series and feature-length motion pictures.

Disney owns ABC. Comcast owns NBC. National Amusements owns both CBS and Viacom. Of course, 21st Century Fox owns Fox News, but Disney is in the process of spending more than $50 billion dollars to buy the entertainment side of Fox.

So what's the point? As we see more and more consolidation in media, as newspapers and radio fizzle in the digital age, there are fewer and fewer independent news sources with the economic power to investigate and explore serious topics. Those sources that exists are largely owned by corporate giants that have many conflicts of interest. For example, how does a company that makes billions selling shoot-em-up shows and movies objectively pursue issues like inner city gun violence, the gun policy debate, or the influence of violent content and gaming on human behavior?

When I worked as a producer-director for ABC-TV in the 1970's and 1980's, we were required by corporate management to reveal our conflicts of interest each year. We listed stock investments we owned as potential influences that might taint our objectivity.

As Jesus said, "... The truth will set you free." And the truth is that much of our media is deeply invested in violence.

For those who are protesting against gun violence, you might seriously think about avoiding consumptions of TV shows, movies and games that glorify guns, war, crime and killing. You know the ones. Because the same network that features "Vice News" created the legendary mobster series, "The Sopranos."

Forget about it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No greater love.

I was all ready to write about Friday's pleasant peacemaking coincidence. You know the one. Students across America walk out of schools to protest gun violence and remember the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. That very same day, North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, apparently decides to drop his country's missile testing program. The one that practiced firing rockets to deliver nuclear warheads.

I smiled to myself, playfully pretending Jong-Un responded to the example set by kids in America. After all, many in the U.S. like to say our country was founded by faithful Christians who shaped our core principles. And indeed, Jesus said, before you reach to remove the splinter in your brother's eye, be sure to first remove the log in your own. (Matthew 7:5) In other words, you have no credibility to tell someone else to change until you change yourself. So, for example, it makes little sense for a fat guy like me to call out someone else on his or her addiction, whatever it is. Now, if I drop 40 pounds, they just might pay attention to me. I might not even have to say a thing and they'll ask me, "How did you do it? Tell me how you conquered your demons." So, it was amusing to fantasize that U.S. kids fighting for peace and disarmament inside America influenced a foreign leader's view on weapons of mass destruction.

But then, early this morning, another tortured gunman with a semi-automatic weapon, the kind the U.S. kids are protesting, shot up a Waffle House parking lot and dining area at 3 a.m. in Antioch, Tennessee, near Nashville. The alleged shooter is Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois. He's on the run and dangerous, possibly carrying two more weapons.

Those who staunchly defend gun rights often say, "Guns don't kill people. People do." And if that logic is correct, then the reverse is also true. "Guns don't project people. People do." We saw proof of it at the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting and again early this morning at the Waffle House. At the Florida high school, an armed law enforcement officer failed to enter the school to defend the kids while the shooter fired away killing 17. But this morning, another 29-year-old, James Shaw, a restaurant patron, summoned the courage to battle the gunman and wrestle his AR-15 from him. Shaw, who was unarmed, made a decision that he was not going to allow Reinking to easily kill him. He stepped up to battle the shooter, mano-a-mano, burning his arm on the sizzling weapon. The result, Shaw disarmed Reinking and tossed the murder's weapon over the dining counter and out of the madman's reach. Reinking fled the scene. Four were dead, two more injured, but tonight police are calling Shaw a hero as the manhunt for Reinking continues. They say Shaw's decision to take on the gunman saved many more lives than his own.

Jesus said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) Shaw humbly says he wants to return to anonymity, he's not interested in the accolades of heroism.

One guy who's definitely not a hero is Reinking's father. Reportedly, he gave his son the automatic weapons after they were taken away by Illinois law enforcement. In 2017, Travis Reinking, was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service for showing up in the wrong place around the White House looking to set up a meeting with President Trump. Authorities arrested Reinking, he completed community service, and the FBI paid him a visit. County authorities in Illinois revoked his right to possess weapons, handing them over to his father, including the AR-15. For some God-forsaken reason, this father decided to return them to his boy.

Police in Tennessee found two full magazines for the AR-15 in a jacket Reinking left behind at the Waffle House in the wee hours this morning. Apparently he planned to leave no one dining or working there alive. There would be no hangovers that Sunday morning.

Before you become too enraged with Reinking's father, keep in mind that in some states, the courts can take away your driving privileges if you have a DUI, but you may still have the right to own and possess firearms.

If Kim Jung-Un is watching the United States, he will discover that nuclear weapons don't guarantee your protection. We certainly will never forget how 19 terrorists with box cutters brought the most powerful nation to its knees on September 11, 2001. Only love conquers all.

And Jung-Un might want to keep an eye on his country's youth who may decide enough is enough. That it's time to stand up and protest the madness.  Let's pray North Korea's youth finds the moral strength to demand sanity and peace.

 "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Blood money?

Confessed Parkland School shooter, Nickolas Cruz, announced this week he wanted his inheritance to  go to the victim's fund for those he murdered. Cruz's mother died last November, leaving him and his brother an estate with a reported value of eight hundred thousand dollars.

Not sure what the families of the 17 dead victims think about this gesture, but we know the money will do nothing to restore the lost lives.

However, it does bring up an interesting concept and many questions. Whether a person shoots one or 50 victims, they are responsible for the act. What about those who enable them? If your gun is stolen or lost and you fail to report it missing, do you share in some of the blame for the loss of life? In many states, if a bartender over-serves a customer and the intoxicated driver crashes and kills, the business that poured too much alcohol is on the hook for damages.

What about a store that over-sells an arsenal of weapons and ammunition to a buyer? Do they have any responsibility for the gun owner's crimes?

Jesus told his closest followers:"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little one's to sin." (Luke 17:1-2)

Ouch! But he continued. "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him, And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry, ' you should forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)

I haven't been able to find any news report featuring an apology from Cruz. Money is heartless and soulless.  It knows no remorse.

I wonder if Cruz will ever be able to express regret and apologize for his insane acts? If so, would any families in Parkland, Florida forgive him?

Forgiveness is a lonely physician, in search of willing patients to heal.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Why pick up the gauntlet?

"Hamilton didn't want to shoot Burr. He fired into the air!" said Bob, a feisty 86-year-old, avid reader.

We were chatting about the biography Alexander Hamilton, which Bob and his colleagues had read and discussed at the Old St. Pat's Book Group in Chicago, Illinois. Old St. Pat's (St. Patrick's Catholic Church) was founded in 1846 and was the city's first English-speaking Catholic parish. The church itself is the oldest public building to survive the devastating Chicago fire of 1871.

Early this Sunday morning, my wife, Ellen, and I had the pleasure of visiting the group at Old St. Pat's to discuss our book, Dying to Be Happy, Discovering the Truth About Life. We heard some surprising stories from people who had encountered death by losing loved ones and some were actively fighting life-threatening illness themselves.

However, only Bob mentioned a shooting. I couldn't get the famous Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr duel out of my mind. I wanted to check the facts from their 1804 shootout.  Especially since we've got tickets to see the musical stage play Hamilton this May, courtesy of our kids.

The duelers, Hamilton and Burr, were both Revolutionary War heroes so they knew how to use weapons, albeit they were rusty shooters. Formerly well-regulated militiamen. Turns out, Hamilton's son, Philip, was killed in a duel near the same location just three years earlier. The same weapons were used for the senior Hamilton's face-off with Burr.

Duels date back to Germanic tribes in the second century AD, and by medieval times were common throughout Europe. Germanic tribes spread this practice to Western Europe in the early Middle Ages.They were born of an era when most men wore swords on their hips. These codified battles were used as an alternative mechanism of justice to settle disputes. A judge could assign a time and place for a trial by battle if the accused testified his accuser was a liar.  Later, duelers even had to put up dough to insure they would show up for the gunfight.  Duels were fought for the slightest challenge to another man's honor, whether the verbal assault was real or imagined. By the time Burr and Hamilton met to settle their political war with weapons, duals were illegal in the U.S. They chose New Jersey for their confrontation because the state was more lenient about enforcing its anti-duel laws. The insult: Hamilton had allegedly called Burr "a dangerous man" and had expressed "a more despicable opinion" of him.  That's it!

My quick research uncovered that most duels were settled by negotiation and rarely ended in a fatal decision. Hamilton had apparently told friends he intended not to shoot Burr and previously opposed duels based on his Christian principles. He had advised his own son, Phillip, to "throw away his shot" when facing his dueler. Perhaps Hamilton had read Jesus' words in scripture when a large, armed posse approached at night and prepared to arrest him. His apostle Peter said, "Lord, look there are two swords here." Jesus replied, "It is enough," as if to say, "I won't pick up the gauntlet." (Luke 22:38) Moments later, Peter cut off the ear of one guy in the mob only to watch Jesus heal the man and not resist arrest.

Ultimately, Hamilton did pick it up Burr's gauntlet and the two traveled from Manhattan, New York to New Jersey for their standoff. The eye-witness accounts by "seconds" for both men conflicted. Burr's handpicked observer said Hamilton missed. Hamilton's guy said he intentionally fired wide.  But Hamilton did pause to put on his eye glasses. Did he want to be sure he missed? They stood a mere ten paces apart. (Having been held up at gunpoint, I can tell you ten paces is a bit too cozy for comfort.) The two men fired. Hamilton died in Manhattan some 31 hours later. Reportedly, his shooter had worn the equivalent to a bulletproof silk coat, "impenetrable to ball."

Burr escaped trial, though wanted for murder in two states. He was Vice President of the U.S. when he killed Hamilton, who had been America's first Secretary of the Treasury, under George Washington. Later, Burr hooked up with a U.S. general who was secretly being paid by Spain. He and his sinister colleague planned an invasion of Mexico to establish a separate government there. Burr was tried on charges of treason for planning to attack Spanish territory. He was acquitted. Burr even attempted to persuade Napoleon of France to participate in a conquest on Florida.

By the start of World War I, officials in Germany outlawed the code of dueling there but the insane Nazi party reinstated the practice in 1936 when they came to power.  Imagine that, trial by firearm was still in vogue less than 100 years ago.

Comprehending this mind boggling approach to justice and so-called honor helps shed some light on America's relationship with guns, right from its founders to our present day.

I can't help but wonder what course our political debates and international wars would take if dueling were reinstated to resolve territorial disputes, partisan gridlock and global conflicts. Ridiculous right? However, it is important to remember, history says most duels were settled without a shot being fired. Rationale people tend to sober up when no one is standing between them and the enemy they're agitating.

True honor is refusing to pick up the gauntlet. "It is enough."