What do we value in this country?
When I showed up to the office Sunday, the top news stories in the country included two mass shootings which had taken place within 24 hours of each other, resulting in 29 lives lost.
The top news in our own community included a shooting on Aug. 3, where 20 shots were fired in a residential area. One boy suffered gunshot wounds to his legs.
Fort Dodge police Capt. Ryan Gruenberg said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that no one else was hit by the bullets.
As I sat at my desk updating our social media pages, I was contemplating the content that would be included in the next day’s paper.
An update on the shooting where the boy was wounded would be one of the stories.
When I thought more about the recent shootings, I decided to call some of our local officials and ask their reaction to the recent violence.
Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich was my first call. I thought he summed it up pretty well when he said, “We have a great country built on freedom, but sometimes those freedoms cause pain. It’s hard to figure out the balance between what our rights and our protections are.”
Later that evening, with the phone in my hand dialing the numbers to another local official, the tones of the police scanner sounded.
There was a report of shots having been fired at a red pickup truck on the city’s south side.
I hung up the phone, grabbed my camera bag, and drove to the scene near Sixth Avenue South and 14th Street.
Emergency lights were flashing and people were coming out of their houses in droves to investigate.
A shirtless young male was being treated by paramedics with the Fort Dodge Fire Department and another young male was talking to a Fort Dodge police officer.
And as I am standing on a nearby sidewalk waiting to talk with a police sergeant, a young girl, maybe 10 years old, walked up to me, just as curious as the rest of the neighborhood as to what had happened.
She was holding a cell phone and taking pictures right alongside me.
I joked that she could take my job.
But when she pieced together that the truck had been hit by bullets, her eyes widened.
“I just walked past there a little while ago,” she said to me.
At least three bullets hit this truck, and here this child had just walked past.
A little girl in a neighborhood full of other children just wanting to play safely outside.
It’s a shame that children are around to witness these things.
Thankfully, no one was hit by the bullets. But what about next time?
I don’t want there to be a next time. I don’t want to see that look in a child’s face.
Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their kids go outside and play. We need more of that in society — kids playing outside.
People shouldn’t have to fear picking up groceries from the store.
Gun violence needs to stop in our community and in this country. And the talk needs to turn to action.
What contributes to this behavior? Is it violent video games? Most studies I’ve seen say it isn’t. But I doubt it helps.
Is it technology itself, where almost anyone can access underground information online to help them carry out such diabolical acts?
Is it mental health?
Does a person’s home life and upbringing contribute, as Fort Dodge City Councilman Terry Moehnke mentioned? Absolutely, it plays a role.
But how about the weapons themselves? That seems to be where any civil discussions end.
I value the Second Amendment – that right for people to keep and bear arms.
One of my childhood friends grew up a hunter. His dad taught him hunter safety at a young age.
He’s one of the responsible gun owners in this country. And I have a great respect for that responsibility.
But I don’t think my friend needs an AK-47 to bring home a nice deer.
And it’s more than clear that people who shouldn’t have access to these weapons, do.
People who aren’t like my friend.
According to a CBS News/New York Times poll from 2016, 88 percent of Americans favored a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers.
Save the argument that guns don’t kill people when evil is in someone’s heart.
“They’ll find another way,” many have said.
True, it takes someone to use the weapon, but why make it easier for someone to carry out those evil intentions? Why give them an easier way? A faster way? A deadlier way?
Tighter gun restrictions and more rigorous background checks in this country aren’t the only solutions. But they are solutions.
I value our Second Amendment. But I value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness even more so. And I’m tired of reading about and I’m tired of covering events where there’s no regard for that life.
We need to decide what we value more in this country. Is it the ability to hug our loved ones at night or is it the right to fire off rounds upon rounds of ammunition?
Chad Thompson is city editor at The Messenger.