My story is a joyful story. I have a husband, a son and a daughter. I have two precious infant granddaughters and a mother nearly 88 years old. I am loved. I live in beautiful Los Altos. I am blessed, but, most of all, I’m lucky, very lucky.
My cousin Tom (not his real name) is not so lucky. He was only 10 when he went to play at a neighbor’s house in Arvada, Colo. People kept shotguns in their farmhouses, saying the guns were for “protection.” Tom and his friend played with a shotgun and it discharged. The bullet went through Tom’s upper arm. He survived multiple surgeries to repair his arm, but, to this day, Tom, in his 50s, suffers from chronic arm pain.
Years ago, I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for work at a defense-contracting corporation, ESL, in Sunnyvale. I stayed home from my teaching job because I was sick with the flu. Later that day, I turned on the radio and, to my horror, heard that ESL was under siege. Loaded with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, semiautomatic rifles, pump-action rifles and a .357 Magnum revolver, Richard Farley killed seven people that day and wounded four others. My husband made it out alive.
My cousin Gary (not his real name) was mentally handicapped. He grew up on the farm next to our family home in Colorado. Every time I saw Gary, he appeared to be depressed or angry. It was after I married and moved to California that Gary took the shotgun from a closet in his mother’s house and committed suicide. He was in his 20s.
The Columbine High School massacre occurred after Gary’s death. One teacher and 12 students were killed, 21 others injured. When I spoke with my mother after the memorial service, tears flowed from her eyes.
My life, as that of many Americans, continued through mass killing after mass killing. I lived while six people died and 13 people were injured at the Gabby Giffords political rally in Arizona, seven died at the nursing school in Oakland and six died at the Sikh Temple killing in Wisconsin.
I emailed my brother in Aurora, Colo., to ask, “How is mom doing today?” My mom, who lives in an assisted-living home, has Alzheimer’s disease. John emailed back, “There’s a psycho out there. People are dead in a movie theater a couple of miles from our house.”
Now, as I am watching the funerals for the children who died in Connecticut, I am reminded of another funeral I attended last July. George, another cousin, died of a heart attack at 62. He enjoyed collecting guns – lots of them. At the funeral, I didn’t think it was courteous to ask the family how they planned to dispose of George’s guns. But now, I wish I had.
Some gun-rights advocates claim, “Guns make us safe, and the more guns we have in our possession, the safer we will be.”
This logic escapes me. We already have more civilians owning guns than any country in the world. Yet we still have mass killings like the one in Newtown and close to 30,000 people, on average, are killed or wounded by guns every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gun-rights advocates are fond of saying, “Guns don’t kill people. Only people kill people.” The fact is, 20 precious children in Newtown, Conn., along with six very brave educators, died because of guns and bullets. They would still be alive today if Adam Lanza hadn’t been able to get his hands on a gun.
Ellen Clark is a longtime Los Altos resident. She founded the annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Fair, a benefit for the Makumbi Children’s Home in Zimbabwe.