About that ‘Gun ownership 101’ story

About that “Gun ownership 101” story a week ago.

Some of you were alarmed that we dared to so openly talk about guns on the front page of The Messenger.

Perhaps you thought that we took a side that you found repugnant.

Maybe you thought we didn’t go far enough.

Or too far.

May I tell you our truth? We ran that story to start a conversation.

Today, I am taking that a step further.

But before I do, let me digress, won’t you?

My father served in the United States Army Air Force during World War II in the Pacific Theater. He was one of the older guys to go in, just about 30. He lost his teeth and hair during that conflict, I always suspected because what he witnessed was terrifying. I know he gave up a bunk on a troop ship to a buddy only to have a Kamikaze blast a hole at that bunk and his buddy. In a tent in Burma, he woke up to a python crossing on top of him.

I was born after he came home, so all of my first-person memories of his war days are in his tales.

Here is one I remember clearly: He said, probably more than once, that in the service, when a job needed to be done, it was given to an Iowan.

My young, unfiltered brain attached a bunch of pride to that notion.

His implication was that Iowans were clever, hard-working and reliable.

I grew up with that thought.

Now, getting back to “Gun ownership 101.”

We ran that story last week intent on education. The story was about the rules when they are used to their best effect. It was saying, yes, there are rules and, yes, there are people who abide by them.

That is a truth.

What is also a truth is that there are people who get ahold of guns, either legally or illegally, and use them to their worst effect.

We’re seeing a bunch of that lately.

So here’s where I was hoping we could take this conversation: We are Iowans. We are clever, hard-working and reliable, for the most part.

What do we, as Iowans, see as a solution?

I am opening this up to a conversation between you, the reader; me, the columnist; and this, The Messenger.

First, though, let me lay out a few of the knowns.

1. People own a lot of guns in the United States.

2. Some people want to hang onto those guns, which is their constitutional right.

3. The National Rifle Association has an opinion.

4. The National Rifle Association, although having a human membership, is not inherently human. It is a construct.

5. Some people want the National Rifle Association to go away.

6. Some people want guns to go away.

7. In the above-mentioned groups of human beings, most of those people would not go out and shoot a bunch of innocent school children.

8. In the above-mentioned groups of human beings, most of those people would not go out and shoot a bunch of adults.

9. Innocent school children and adults have been shot to death.

On June 24, Joan Becker, of Parkersburg, will experience the nine-year anniversary of when her son, Mark Becker, shot and killed Aplington-Parkersburg football Coach Ed Thomas in the school’s weight room.

Her story, and his, was presented last week at a Mental Health Awareness Day in Webster City.

Mark Becker was a normal child.

Until he wasn’t.

“That little guy was a go-getter,” his mother said. “In grade school and middle school he was very active and very involved in sports and drama. He liked to be involved. He was on the student council. He was very much a leader among his peers.”

But the family noticed something was wrong when he turned 16.

“That is when we started to see some serious changes in Mark.”

He was caught with a small amount of marijuana.

In hindsight, Joan Becker understands why her son turned to street drugs.

“We now know the voices were becoming so prevalent and up front,” she said. “He was trying to quiet them. That is what my son was trying to fix.”

There were successive psychotic episodes, successive rounds with law enforcement, and successive counselors.

Finally, there were successive declarations: He said, “I’m better off dead, three times.”

He seemed to be getting better before the shooting. Then his life erupted in chaos. He went to a home nearby and tried to attack the resident with a baseball bat. Then there was a high-speed chase.

“He believed this guy was contacting Mark through a teddy bear,” his mother said.

Finally, once Coach Thomas was dead and Mark Becker incarcerated, there was a diagnosis: schizophrenia.

10. There are people who struggle with mental health issues.

So here is today’s question: How can we do a better job of preventing someone getting to a point in their lives where they pick up a gun and kill?

To that end, I am throwing down the gauntlet.

Write to me.

Be it snail mail: Jane Curtis, editor; The Messenger, 713 Central Ave., Fort Dodge, IA 50501; or email: jcurtis@messengernews.net. Or put a message on The Messenger’s Facebook page.

Communicate.

Oh, I don’t mean send in your diatribes. Facebook has that covered.

And we’ve already listed some things we know to be true. So please stray from the obvious.

What I want for you to do is think.

Be clever, hard-working and reliable.

Be an Iowan.

Jane Curtis is the editor of The Messenger.

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