By Calendar Hacksaw

Back in November, while writing my December column, I offered the opinion, in part, that "in 'politically correct' Twin Oaks, there isn't much demand for cap pistols. Most folks just give their young 'uns a good .22 Marlin or a .410 gauge, a little instruction, and send them on their way. This doesn't always work out on school days, but so far - so good."

Then--on December 1, just a week before the December Fence Post hit the stands--police said 14-year old Michael Carneal had a bad hair day in Paducah, Kentucky, blew away three classmates and wounded five others during an informal prayer session in the high school lobby.

Two weeks later, an 8-year-old second-grader in Wilmington, Delaware lugged a 32-caliber pistol onto the school bus and ended up in need of bail money and a public defender.

As Christmas drew near, prosecutors in Lyon County, Nevada debated whether or not to file charges against 15-year-old Steven McCabe, suspected of planning his own Paducah-style ambush in rural Yerington. While sorting things out, the authorities booked the high school sophomore for possession of bullets and shotgun shells found in his locker.

We hear people in Walker Basin talk about how safe they feel living in the country, sending their children to schools where inner-city pressures and gang violence seem to be distant strangers. But anyone who believes craziness can't come to Twin Oaks has a lot in common with every ostrich I've ever known. Time to get our heads out of the sand. Time to plan ahead. The future is here and now. Crime is on the increase in Walker Basin, and it will take a concerted effort by everyone--even our petty criminals--to protect the turf from those who would steal from us far more than our tools and household goods.

One needn't drive too far into Caliente Canyon to find evidence of graffiti. It's not necessary to motor all the way up to Isabella to read the crime news. And the last time I checked, the criminal elements were still alive and well in Tehachapi, Arvin and Bakersfield.

An old friend was a police lieutenant for a major California city, but was forced to take an early disability retirement, and ended up moving with his high school-age son to a remote hamlet in Idaho. He wrote that he was pleasantly surprised when on the first day of class he saw the parking lot of his son's new school filled with pick-up trucks, most of which were outfitted with rifle racks, most of which were filled with rifles.

These were kids, he reasoned, who understood not only the responsibilities that come with gun ownership, but also regarded their weapons as tools--tools which put food on the table; tools they knew from experience had tremendous destructive power. These firearms had not been purchased for protection from other human beings. And the playing field was level: it was not just one kid with a gun, but just about every kid with a gun. The consequences of even considering misuse of a weapon were clear, valid, and above-board. The abundance of firearms in the hands of responsible civilians serves as a deterrent to those who might otherwise take fatal advantage of the unarmed.

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor last month, Don B. Kates--a criminological policy analyst with the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco--recited a recent University of Chicago study based on statistics from every county in the nation since 1977. The researchers concluded that in states which had passed laws allowing responsible adults to carry guns, thousands of violent crimes had been averted, while in states such as California, massacre-type homicides continued unabated.

On December 19, fired CalTrans employee Arturo Torres returned to his former workplace in Orange, California, intent on revenge. He got what he wanted. When the dust settled, his former supervisor, Hal Bierlein, was dead, as were his former co-workers Wayne Bowers, Michael Kelley, and Paul White. Police Officer John Warde was critically injured.

Torres' killing spree didn't end until he met with firepower that proved capable of killing him. It came too late for the dead and injured, but who can say how many additional lives it saved? Had just one CalTrans employee in the yard that fateful day been in possession of a decent handgun, Arturo Torres' death wish might have been realized much sooner. Soon enough to avert the widespread grief felt by so many families and friends.

The expression "going postal" has become a part of our lexicon, describing what has happened so often in the workplace. Not only have we seen it in post offices, as recently as Milwaukee last month, but also at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government facilities. But for some strange, obscure reason, we seldom hear of a fired police officer returning to the station house to exact revenge. I wonder why that is.

When we think of place names such as Pearl, Mississippi, San Ysidro and Chowchilla, California, and so many others, we are reminded of the terrible; the terrible that could have been averted or at least cut short had someone been present with courage, proper training and a decent gun.

What's wrong with having a shotgun, properly stowed, in the head supervisor's office at each CalTrans facility and post office or other workplace? For that matter, what's wrong with putting a good weapon under lock and key inside the principal's office at Piute Mountain School? It sends a clear message: we value the lives of our students and staff members far more than that of anyone who would presume to harm them. This is a safe haven, and we intend to keep it that way.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that the principal would come out shooting as soon as gunfire erupts on campus. On the contrary. The school secretary has the key to the cabinet. She gives the shotgun to the gym teacher, who passes it on to the bus driver, and she's the one who takes care of business.

Now a word of caution: there have been but two occasions in my adult life in which I felt that I would have been justified in brandishing a weapon, if I'd had one on me. In both instances, brandishing seemed justified by what I was witnessing. But in both cases, I would have been wrong; perhaps dead wrong. That's a sobering thought, and one which guides my actions today. A brandished weapon can not be easily "unbrandished," and what so many of us do, especially our youth, is fail to look beyond the moment at hand, to consider the wide-ranging and possibly eternal consequences of our actions, however "right" they might seem at the time.

And on that note, ol' Calendar will duck for cover and move on.

Calendar Hacksaw's e-mail addresses are <> and <> and he'd love to hear from you, unless you're heavily armed, disagree with his views, or are in search of inspiration.

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