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Ten Minutes

“Why are those helicopters circling?”

Our five-year-old son asked us that as we drove toward the grocery store. I answered that I didn’t know why all those helicopters were hovering overhead.

The reason became apparent a moment later as we turned the corner and saw the police closing off the street. A dozen or so cop cars, with lights flashing, were parked in front of our neighborhood Trader Joe’s. Bystanders milled about, and I recognized a few employees of the store who sat on the curb, heads in their hands or just sobbing.

Yes, it was that Trader Joe’s, the one where a deranged gunman crashed his car, exchanged gunfire with the police, and then ran inside to take people hostage.

My wife and I have been going to this particular Trader Joe’s ever since our son was an infant, and the place has earned a spot as a neighborhood hub. We’ve gotten to know many of the employees, and one of the cashiers even became our son’s babysitter. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s part of our little environs.

But on this Saturday, a young man who was pissed off at the world, and who had easy access to a gun, decided that his problems were everyone’s problems. And he did what so many American males do, which is shoot the women who are making them angry, then unleash violence on random strangers.

And at the end of it all, one of the Trader Joe’s employees — a woman my wife and I knew, although not well — was dead. A cop’s bullet caught her as she tried to flee the crossfire.

Some will say that a fabled “good guy with a gun” would have stopped the carnage. But of course, more people firing more bullets means, logically, more people getting hit, not fewer. In fact, the woman who died was killed by the ultimate good guy with a gun: a police officer. If a trained cop who has received untold hours of marksmanship, and who works full-time at stopping bad guys, wound up shooting an innocent civilian, it defies belief that a regular dude with a conceal-and-carry permit could bring down a running, armed madman without even grazing anybody else. 

No, in a sickeningly repetitive scenario — virtually unique to America among all industrialized nations — an angry man grabbed a gun and started shooting.

They have angry young men in England and Japan and Denmark and all the other first-world nations. But those furious losers have trouble getting firearms and destroying strangers’ lives. This is only a serious, reoccurring problem in the United States.

But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. 

In any case, I’m feeling a little closer to this particular gun tragedy, not only because the sole fatality was an acquaintance and because it happened in my neighborhood.

You see, my wife and I were running late on Saturday. Our son, the master of the stall, had delayed us. So we got in the car to drive to Trader Joe’s later than usual.

We found out later that, if we had been just ten minutes earlier, we would have been trapped in the store when the gunman arrived. We would have been hostages. And my five-year-old would have had to duck gunfire.

That scenario should not be a concern when all you want to do is go shopping.

And it doesn’t happen anywhere else but America.


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