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My Tucson

Owning a gun is the American way in Tucson, where gun shops can’t keep enough ammunition on their shelves.

Some people are stocking up on ammo for fear that President Obama will change gun laws, and much ammo is sent to fight wars in the Middle East.

I’ve never owned a gun and shot only one in Navy boot camp 35 years ago.

But I’m never surprised to read cases such as the recent one of a former Pueblo High football star getting a 10-year sentence sentences for his role in a drug rip-off that ended with two men dead. Andre DeWayne Mays, 23, was convicted in the January 2008 second-degree murders of Manuel Alcarez and Francisco Gonzalez.

Although Mays wasn’t carrying a weapon that day, he was in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

We’ve seen a number of senseless murders in Tucson and around the country in recent days.

I lost a younger brother to gun violence. He was 23 and a father. I still carry the image of me with another brother driving a rented van with his lifeless body in a casket from a New Mexico morgue to Phoenix.

As I viewed that from the summit of reason, all life looked like a malignant disease and the world like a madhouse.

My former brother-in-law sits in a Florence prison cell after shooting another man.

I’ve personally been robbed as a shotgun was pressed against my head in south Phoenix. My life almost ended with a gun in the wrong hands. That is something that never goes away.

Guns in the wrong hands kill.

Since 2001, more than 120,000 Americans have been killed in nonterrorist homicides, many of them committed with guns.

Tucson is quickly becoming a place where guns in the hands of the wrong people are commonplace.

When will the killings stop? I don’t think tougher gun laws will help. The National Rifle Association will protect the Second Amendment, which some gun owners really believe is the most important part of the U.S. Constitution.

The NRA seems to want every American to own a gun.Our state politicians have made it easier to own a gun.

It is not my intent to vilify gun owners. People have the right to protect themselves.

I’m more concerned with those who use guns for the wrong reasons. Such as the man who killed my brother. Such as the man who shoots another for looking at him the wrong way or the thug who shoots first and the bullet ends up killing an innocent bystander.

Families’ lives are turned upside down for no reason. Do we just accept periods of a gunman going mad as acceptable collateral damage on the road to liberty?

Stray bullets claim more victims than we care to admit. In Tucson we see juvenile street gangs propagate fear by inflicting death to banish fear.

We see it at its worst, as the result of violent emotions bursting into the mind and erupting from the hands.

My solution is simple: We need more community policing.

I remember living in a midtown Tucson condominium community where drug dealers moved in and caused havoc. They intimidated little old women and kept neighbors in fear for months.

We formed “Operation Frying Pan” and set in motion a dialogue with the Tucson Police Department for methods in dealing with our dilemma.

Eventually we ran off the drug dealers, winning back our community.

Furthermore, we’ll never stop crazed gunmen from opening fire in a church or school, but at least if cops make out the bad guys beforehand, maybe we can prevent some trigger-happy Joe from causing harm.

No longer can we afford to ignore the carnage.

As for Andre Wayne Mays, I’d tell him about my younger brother’s death. That the changes wrought by death are in themselves so sharp and final. That when the business is done, there is havoc made in other people’s lives, and a pin knocked out by which many subsidiary friendships hung together.

Bobby Burns is a poet, educator and author of “Shelter: One man’s journey from homelessness to hope.”



I lost a younger brother to gun violence. He was 23 and a father.

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