All the wrong lessons

Home | Op-Ed | All the wrong lessons

Oct 8, 2012

What have we learned that’s constructive about gun violence?

It’s been four months since the shooting death of Gary Cota, a 13-year-old living in Fort Edward, was front-page news in the Times Union. The June 7 article carried the ironic headline, “From death, lesson for life.”

If only there were any such lesson. None has been reported or even hinted at.

All we learned that day — when I wrote about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida (“Stand your ground needs to go”) — was that the deceased boy had been playing in his home with another unidentified 13-year-old and that the “Cota household'[s]” shotgun had discharged one round, killing Gary.

It was later reported in the Glens Falls Post-Star that the gun belonged to Gary, a gift to the deceased boy from “an adult relative.” Louis Cota, the boy’s father, was quoted in the Times Union saying, “this is a lesson for everybody to learn from. This is an unfortunate accident. We don’t blame the kid. We don’t blame anybody.”

The Times Union had also reported that an eerily similar and senseless death had occurred in Wilton, not far from Fort Edward, a year before, when a 12- year-old accidentally killed a friend, also 12, with his father’s handgun.

The grand and bitter irony is that these deaths keep occurring, and that no lesson is learned in these communities, in our state or the nation as a whole. Soon after the Fort Edward killing, which commanded only local attention, the Aurora, Colo., massacre claimed 12 lives and resulted in 58 other serious casualties. Barely a week ago, a shooting spree in Minneapolis resulted in five more deaths.

Criminal and accidental shootings account for 80 deaths each day in the United States. Our lax and steadily loosening laws invite families to buy guns, even as gifts to their children. The rationale is that these weapons are for hunting and/or self-defense in placid communities like Fort Edward and Wilton.

Young lives abruptly and predictably end with pronouncements such as “unfortunate accident,” “we don’t blame anybody” and “when’s it going to stop?”

In a more recent development it was reported that Louis Cota, Gary’s father, was convinced that the unidentified 13-year-old shooter “murdered” Gary with the gun kept loaded in the Cota home.

I experienced another irony as I tripped over this gun story while racing to feed my vanity by ostentatiously reading my own commentary that day on Stand Your Ground laws.

That article quickly elicited a personal attack from the esteemed publication “The Truth About Guns.” Every fact and premise of my Times Union commentary was dissected and rejected with the overarching observation that one would expect such lack of “restraint” and “evenhandedness” from a former adviser to “Client Number 9.”

The NRA and publications such as the “The Truth About Guns” are very busy right now, assassinating character and creating diversions from stories as national as Trayvon Martin and James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, to as local as Gary Cota and Nicholas Naumkin, the boy killed in Wilton.

The diversion du jour is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ probe into the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau sting operation called “Fast and Furious” and its contempt of Congress citation of Attorney General Eric Holder.

The sting operation, conducted by ATF from 2006 to 2011, was designed to show how guns illegally purchased in the United States make their way to Mexican drug cartels. However, some of these guns wound up being used by criminals on both sides of the border, including in the murder of a U.S. border agent, Brian Terry.

The tragic foul-ups in this ATF sting are irrelevant to the underlying truth that Fast and Furious is being used by gun proliferation advocates to divert attention from the fact demonstrated daily in Mexico, throughout America, and specifically in Wilton and Fort Edward — that where guns proliferate, innocent people die.

They die at the hands of criminals and at the hands of well-meaning people, and often in accidents involving loved ones and themselves. But “we don’t blame anybody,” and continue to kid and kill ourselves and our children.



Priceless Cover

Priceless: The Case that Brought Down the Visa/ MasterCard Bank Cartel

Journal of Plague Year cover

Journal of the Plague Year: An Insider’s Chronicle of Eliot Spitzer’s Short and Tragic Reign