BIDLACK | For a nation nearly numbed by gun violence — a novel proposal

Author: Hal Bidlack - May 22, 2018 - Updated: May 22, 2018

Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

I hate the fact that I am less horrified than I was in April of 1999. On the 19thof that month, I spent the evening watching a Rockies game with fellow members of my academic department at the Air Force Academy. It was our yearly outing, and I was the guy in charge of setting things up. As I recall, there were a couple of big home runs, and the Rockies beat the Expos 11 to 10 in an excitingly close game. As I drove south on I-25 to Colorado Springs, I passed only a few miles from Columbine High School, where the next day the nation would be stunned, saddened, and horrified by a school shooting that would leave 13 dead, plus the shooters.

And so, when I saw the news last week of the latest school shooting, this time leaving 10 dead in Texas, I was saddened and outraged, but I can no longer claim to be shocked or surprised. And don’t forget that, absent a heroic cop, there would have been another school shooting in Maryland, earlier that same week. I hate the idea that school shootings, and mass shootings in general, have become normalized in our society.

I remember talking to my dad as a kid and hearing him tell of how he and the parents of young children in the 1940s dreaded the return of summer. For those warm months, polio returned to sicken children, including my older brother. Parents feared the summer until Dr. Salk found a vaccine.

The threat of polio has long faded from consciousness. I can’t help but wonder if some modern parents are not counting the days until school ends, so that the 21st century parental fear of many – school shootings – fades until fall.

I’ve acquired no special wisdom that gives me the solution anymore today than I might have had in 1999. I am a multiple-gun-owner and former military cop myself – a good guy with a gun – and I support the 2ndAmendment, though with what I consider reasonable limits.

Some facts are clear, regardless of the obfuscation attempted by those who see any limit on any gun as a violation of their basic freedoms. I could point out that other industrialized nations also have mental illness, violent video games, poor parenting, and all the other usual non-gun “causes” of mass shootings, yet those countries only have the tiniest shadow of the gun violence problem we have.

Our great nation, with only about 4.5% of the world’s population has roughly half (about 48%) of the world’s guns. We’ve already had over 5,000 people killed by guns in 2018, with 239 of them children. We’ve had more mass shootings (4+ victims, shooters included) than we’ve had days of the year thus far, continuing a trend from previous years.

All that said, I can hear the voices of my friends on the NRA/conservative/“cold dead hands” side of the argument offering counter statistics that they insist show that we are actually safer with more guns. And since I can’t convince them, and they can’t convince me, I’m not sure what I can offer.

But perhaps there is one thing…

Leaders like our current president and the new NRA president Ollie North are fond of tut-tutting their tongues when there is yet another school shooting and offering their heartfelt thoughts and prayers. Given the number of shootings, I offer the blank form below to make the process quicker and easier for them.


(circle the correct information below)

Dear (Parent, Friend, Sibling, Spouse, Other),

I was (saddened, heartbroken, troubled) to learn of the recent mass shooting in your (school, church, casino parking lot, company Christmas party, other) that left _____ (fill in number) of people dead and/or wounded.

Please know that (I, we, my spouse and I, our great nation, other) joins you in mourning the loss of your (son, daughter, student, sibling, friend, pastor, mother, father, other) in the shooting.

Please know that our (thoughts, prayers, thoughts and prayers, hopes, tears, other) go out to you and all those in your community. We know that these horrible shootings are the result of (mental illness, video games, bad parents, not enough guns, not enough good guys with guns, other) and most certainly not because of any actual lack of reasoned and comprehensive gun policy.

On behalf of a (mourning, sad, normalized, other) nation, please accept my (condolences, thoughts, prayers, hope, all-of-the-above)


(fill in name and title)

See? Isn’t that more efficient?

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.