My family’s brush with gun violence happened 17 years ago. My oldest sister called to tell me our 76-year-old dad was in the hospital. He’d been shot.
“Shot? You mean like with a gun?” I asked, disbelieving. It made no sense.
Our parents had been golfing in Florida. My dad was strolling toward the seventh tee when they heard a bang. When he felt something hit him in the chest, he thought he’d been hit by a golf ball. Then he saw the blood.
Today, ours is not a unique story. Many of us know someone – a relative or an acquaintance – who’s been affected by gun violence.
Some people may have lived through a situation where someone was saved because a gun was available. On Aug. 3, 14 people were shot – nine fatally -- in Dayton, Ohio, by a man armed with a semi-automatic, pistol-configured rifle with a 100-round magazine. It is certain lives were saved because armed law-enforcement officers were already at the scene.
In Virginia, 140 people have been killed by gunfire since Jan. 1, and another 369 were injured. On average, Virginia has about 264 gun-related homicides and 623 gun-related suicides annually, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center.
The numbers, however dramatic, don’t compare to the gut punch that accompanies the personal blow of gun violence.
The Moms Demand Action website is a repository of hundreds of stories about lives shattered by gunfire. A mother and sister shot while shopping at the mall; a husband shot and killed at work; an 8-year-old son shot in the face while playing in the backyard; a brother shot in an armed robbery, and on and on.
Our family was fortunate. My dad was released from the hospital in just a few hours. The bullet grazed the front of his chest. The police scoured the golf course for the bullet or other evidence, but never found any.
In 2006 – four years later -- we learned that the shooting matched the description of one of several Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger of the infamous D.C. snipers, said he and John Muhammad committed on their way to Washington, D.C. Over several months, the two shot 27 people, 17 fatally. Among those shot were two “two old guys on golf courses,” one in Arizona and one in Florida, Malvo told police. One of them was my dad.
We lost my dad to heart disease in 2011; we are grateful that our family’s horrific brush with gun violence didn’t steal him from us nine years sooner.
It’s not clear whether any of the gun laws currently under consideration could have stopped the D.C. snipers. But it’s possible that a “red flag law” might have inspired someone in Muhammad’s orbit to recognize his instability and report him. There’s at least a possibility that he might have been denied access to the guns that killed 17. Maybe.
Red flag laws and stricter background checks won’t eliminate gun violence. They can’t. The hope is they might prevent at least somefuture deaths.
Does your family have a story about how someone with a gun has taken or saved a life? If so, we invite you to write to us and share it. This could finally be the moment when our personal stories matter. Maybe.
Reach the Prince William and Fauquier Times at email@example.com