By: STEPHEN SALISBURY
In the wake of yet another mass school shooting several weeks ago, I struggled to come up with something original to contribute to the gun control debate. Any long time reader of mine will not be surprised where I fall on the issue. I’ve clearly stated my outright hatred for guns and the disdain I have for those who continually fight to restrain any type of sensible gun control legislation from being passed in our nation’s capital.
What I’d like to contribute to this conversation is something that is so often not discussed amid the cacophony of viewpoints expressed on Facebook and the Sunday morning talk shows, and that is the horrific pain that is experienced by those parents who lose their children to gun violence in so many ways in this country.
Amid the criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement, so many people forget that this rallying cry was started as a response to the loss of an innocent child at the hands of an over-zealous gun owner who had a legally documented history of domestic violence and yet had not been prevented from owning firearms.
My point is simply this, children are dying and parents are burying them, and yet there are those who continue to fight to keep access to weapons unfettered. While many of you as college-age students may not be able to relate to the idea of losing a child, let me share the agony associated with this kind of a loss. So as not to seem manipulative, I will tell you that my son is alive and well, but for several weeks a few years ago, I got a very short glimpse into the pain associated with losing my son.
This incident occurred on the heels of a fight that my son and I had had about him quitting his job and not discussing it with his stepmom and me. He had been living in our house for several months after dropping out of college and struggling to make it on his own out in the real world.
He was in his early twenties. He had accrued some debt, so we offered to let him stay with us as long as he wanted as long as he looked for work and made an attempt to pay off his debtors. I helped him find a good paying job and my wife and I helped him manage his finances so eventually he paid things off and had saved a little money. He didn’t have a vehicle of his own, so I got up every morning at 5 a.m. to take him and his bike to work and he was able to ride his bike home every day—the job site being just a few miles from our house.
Then, one day, he decided to stop going to work. We argued and, long story short, he left our house and disappeared. I assumed he was living with some friends, but about a week later I got a call from a train station in California saying they had found my son’s cell phone on one of their trains and did I want them to send it back to me.
The last I had heard, he had been in Chicago for one of those big music festivals and had been seen downtown by his aunt and then, nothing. The next two weeks were the scariest and most painful I have ever experienced as a parent, not knowing where my son was and whether or not he was alive. I called local law enforcement who discovered that he had bought a train ticket in Chicago for Denver. I knew he had some cash, but no credit card, and if his ticket was to Denver, how did his phone end up in California?
The Denver police got involved as did the FBI, but nobody seemed to have any answers. For two weeks I wept every time I thought of him and begged God to help us find him alive. The thought of him being dead was unfathomable.
The purpose of sharing this story is that after about two weeks my son called us from Northern California. He’d hopped a train out west, lost his phone, and hadn’t been able to reach out to us. He’d made some friends along the way and was working in a construction job out there.
Figuratively speaking, my son came home that day. For those who lost loved ones this past Valentine’s Day in Florida, their sons or daughters did not. My pain was real, but fleeting. Their pain is unequivocal. Can we please do something to prevent this from happening to another parent? Can we change the narrative from constitutional rights to kids being killed and parents suffering loss? If so, maybe change will come.