The list of dead Americans sacrificed on the altar of gun worship is ever-lengthening, and yet, every once in a while, a random tragedy shines fresh light on our ubiquitous national sickness.
I’m not talking about the massacres in places like Aurora and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Charleston. I’m referring to the deaths that barely make the headlines, the “isolated” incidents that barely register on the radar. On occasion, they too have the power to bestir us. Some of us, anyway.
Case in point: The abrupt departure, from this mortal coil, of a guy named Glenn Martin.
Over the July Fourth holiday, Glenn went camping in a national park – Colorado’s Pike National Forest – with his daughter, his son-in-law, and his grandsons. He was a healthy 60 years old. He was sitting at the campsite, toasting marshmallows with the boys.
Without warning, he spoke his last word in this life: “Ow.”
That was in response to the stray bullet that had just punched his lights out.
Some anonymous member of our Second Amendment Well-Regulated Militia – anonymous, because this gun fetishist has yet to step forward – had apparently failed to heed the federal signs posted everywhere in that stretch of the national forest. The signs say: “No Shooting.”
The signs have been up for a year. The feds in the U.S. Forest Service posted the signs because they believe that the lives of campers are kind of important – even more important than (get this!) the sacred rights of the trigger-happy.
The feds in the Pike forest, a few driving hours southwest of Denver, have come to this belief because they’ve been logging an increasing number of close calls. Last year a couple was sitting in their Jeep, eating lunch, when a stray bullet came within inches of making that lunch their last. So up went the signs. But, alas, the gun fetishists are most dissatisfied. Reportedly, they’ve been standing tall for Freedom by peppering the “No Shooting” signs with gunfire, chewing up the trees with hot lead, littering the area with their shell casings, and generally firing at will.
Enter Glenn Martin. He took the day off from his job as a machinist to join his family in the national forest. His daughter, Carlie, later described the scene: “It was a perfect camping spot. We felt it would be very safe….We thought he was stung by a bee or having a heart attack. Then it just happened very quickly, very graphically, and in front of my sons.”
Yeah. In front of her sons.
The family loaded Glenn into the back of the family vehicle and raced down the mountain to get medical help. Too late. The bullet from the high-powered rifle had done the job. Here’s Carlie again: “My world cracked….I lost the role model for our boys.”
But hey. What’s the life of one 60-year-old grandfather when weighed against the rights of the Well-Regulated Militia? How dare the feds tell them to take their bang bang elsewhere. Even before Glenn was shot dead, various hikers on those public trails had complained of bullets whizzing over their heads – but come on, don’t those hikers know their Constitution? Shouldn’t we expect occasional collateral damage in the exercise of Freedom?
Naturally, the fetishists at the Colorado State Shooting Association dislike those No Shooting signs. The group’s president, Anthony Fabian, complains: “The more places you close down, the more concentrated you make the places where people can go shoot.”
Aww. Where’s my violin.
If these fetishists – or, as the Colorado papers prefer to call them, “gun enthusiasts” – really need to get their rocks off, is it too much to ask that they do so at indoor shooting ranges? Or at designated outdoor sites far from campers and hikers, places that have backdrop berms to absorb the bullets?
Or is the Well-Regulated Militia’s sense of entitlement so extreme – and are the rest of us so benumbed at this point by American gun violence – that the senseless death of one family’s role model is to be shrugged off as no big deal?
I think we already know the answer to that question. To quote Glenn Martin, “Ow.”
On a far lighter note, today marks the 30th anniversary of the Live Aid concerts in Philadelphia and London. (Hard to believe.)
Great music, and a quarter of a billion dollars raised to fight famine. For me, David Bowie was the showstopper. If this number doesn’t bestir you (“We can be heroes/ Just for one day”), you’re probably dead.
Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.