A man I grew up with sits in jail tonight. He’s one day into a three year sentence for having a gun. I’ll piece together what I know of the story from news accounts, online comments and the grapevine to tell you how he got here. I heard it was a .22 rifle. Online they questioned why he would choose a rifle for self defense in a city. I’ll guess that it had nothing to do with self defense in a city. It was about being a farm kid who hunted. And he wasn’t living in a city. He was on the outskirts. I have never wanted to have a gun of any type, but my brothers and my dad have them and in some cases they think of them more like collector’s items or a piece of their childhood. I know that sounds weird if you’re not a farm kid.
In any event, he wasn’t supposed to have a gun, because he’d gotten in a fight with his now ex-wife. As a result of that fight, he was convicted of assault. He was banned from having a gun for a period of time and he was very close to the end of that window of time.
Life hadn’t been easy for him recently. He and his wife had been having financial issues. Earlier in his career he was SO successful. I remember visiting his house when his daughter, who is now a tween, was only a toddler. The home was beautiful and he had built it. His wife decorated it. I remember her giving me the tour and stopping at her massive closet. Boxes and boxes of shoes. She assumed I’d be jealous. I liked her, but we didn’t have a lot in common. She was into working out and shopping and was a stay at home mom. I couldn’t imagine not having a career.
Fast forward to 2008. Tough economy. Home building grinds to a halt. His business suffers. Financial stress. The shopping continues. She refuses to get a job. I heard there was now a lot of credit card debt. That’s what the fight was about. He said he just pushed her a little bit. But it’s a he said-she said scenario. Assault. And after that he wasn’t supposed to have a gun.
Some of the people commenting online think three years in prison is a really long time in prison for simply having a gun. No one was hurt. He did nothing wrong, they say. Three years was the minimum sentence that he could have gotten, and because of that, there will be no parole and he’ll serve the whole sentence unless the conviction is overturned on appeal. Looking into this more, I’ve learned that this issue is more about abuse and the statistics around abuse. He and I both know what can happen in an abusive situation. You see, we graduated together from the same small town high school, and one of our classmates was killed by her abusive husband. She was a nurse, trained to notice and help women who suffered from abuse. She and her husband had four children. The news accounts about her death talked about how controlling he was. Her husband came home one night and sent the kids upstairs and shot her. Then he went and hung himself, leaving four orphans. This seems very different from the current situation. Very different.
There are worse crimes than having a gun…..crimes that hurt others. In fact, his dad was in the hospital when he was convicted of having a gun. His dad was a hard working trucker, long past the age of retirement. He was very reliable and was winding down his career handling some of the shorter runs. One night his dad walked around the back of his truck for something, and that’s the last thing he remembers. He was brutally beaten. Ten broken ribs, a concussion, his face was pounded, his back was scraped. He was in a coma. Even when he could communicate, his wife withheld the news of their son’s conviction until he was stronger. The first time I heard that he was in the hospital, I had heard he fell out of his truck. He had no memory of any of it. But later he recalled that he was heading to the back of the truck when the lights went out. That’s not where he was found and his injuries seemed too severe for a simple accident. He was delivering a load in a fairly small town, but gang activity was creeping in. These gangs have initiations that require them to beat or kill someone, even a 70-something man who didn’t have an enemy in the world. This crime has no arrests. No suspects. Is there even an investigation? I haven’t heard. He was in the hospital for about a month. He sits home now, crazy at the thought of still having to wear this brace. I wonder what goes through his mind. Does he think about the person who tried to kill him? Does he think about his second oldest son, living in prison, deep in debt, now cut off from his daughter. I’m sure from his perspective – on the ledge of misfortune – there’s such a disparity in what constitutes justice.