Betty got her gun


Alden Graves

Robert Walker and his wife, Betty, were from Texas, which may or may not have some direct bearing on their story. One of the topics of conversation during the couple's visit with their son and his children in South Jackson, Miss., was a pit bull puppy that was owned by the people next door. They had some concern about the possibility of the dog becoming aggressive and injuring one of the kids. It has happened before with pit bulls.

When the puppy jumped the adjoining fence and started pulling on the shirttail of one of his grandsons, Mr. Walker scooped up the animal and told the children to go inside the house -- like any reasonable person would do under the circumstances.

Keep in mind, we aren't talking about a king cobra here; we are talking about a puppy pulling on shirttails, the way puppies of any breed often do. The dog wasn't so threatening that Mr. Walker didn't hesitate to pick it up.

Betty Walker had other ideas about dealing with the situation. Mrs. Walker went into the house, found herself a handgun -- that great American equalizer -- came storming out into the yard and fired the weapon twice.

The first shot hit Robert Walker in the chest; the second nicked the puppy's leg. The dog survived. Mr. Walker didn't.

Betty Walker's first frantic cries are telling. Calling for her son, who was dozing inside the home, Mrs. Walker shouted, "Your daddy's been shot! Your daddy's been shot!"

Already, it seems, the same kind of automatic denial system that America as a nation practices regularly had kicked in with Betty Walker. Her cries were not, "I shot your daddy!" which, of course, was exactly what had happened. She screamed "Your daddy's been shot!" as if, by implying that the bullet had originated from someplace other than her own hand, she could lessen the horrible guilt she would have to bear for the rest of her life.

Well, no sympathy here, Mrs. Walker. Not for you. You chose a gun over picking up a telephone and now you can live with that.

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Betty Walker's actions and the tragedy that ensued are a direct result of the widespread, beautifully cultivated notion in the United States that most any problems that crop up these days can be settled with a gun. Her actions may seem appallingly extreme in retrospect -- perhaps even to her -- but that isn't going to bring Robert Walker back.

That's the trouble with using a bullet as a problem-solver. It is usually so final.

The gun lobby, and the National Rifle Association in particular, loves to herald the fact that it is only protecting the Second Amendment rights of all red-blooded, responsible Americans to arm themselves to the teeth.

The notion that the gun lobby exists to protect rights granted by the Founding Fathers is almost laughable in its transparency. Expensive lobbyists don't traditionally hustle for grand principles. What the NRA is really protecting is the arms merchant's ability to rake in obscene profits from the carnage that it both promotes and sustains.

A flack for gun interests would characterize the incident that ended up with Robert Walker's death as a tragic fluke or an extreme example of gross misjudgment on the part of a panicked woman. The world is just chock full of people who regularly make gross misjudgments and the ramifications of those misjudgments are usually compounded twenty times over by an easy access to firearms.

A six-shooter might have been the first recourse on the dusty streets of Tombstone (at least according to Hollywood), but times and weapons and people have changed since the glory days of the Old West.

The country has recently passed the first anniversary of what has come to be known as the Tucson massacre. I don't think that anyone who drew back in horror when a 22-year-old with a history of mental instability mowed down 19 people at a shopping center thought that the atrocity would really change anything in gun totin' America and it hasn't. I used to wonder what it would take to shock the country back into some semblance of sanity as far as the proliferation of guns is concerned. I honestly wonder now if anything ever will.

As the crowds did in Tucson last week, we will go on talking about heroes and watch misty-eyed as the flag flies over the site of the latest killing ground. We will profess to be a stronger people because we have been tempered in the fires of adversity.

I wondered, as I watched people gather and reverently lay bouquets at the scene in Tucson where, among five others, a 9-year-old child was shot to death, how many of those same people inquired of their legislators how a deranged man happened to be in possession of a semi-automatic pistol with a 33-shot capability. It would have done so much more as far as lending a meaning to that tragedy than the placing of flowers that will, like the people they are meant to memorialize, just lie on the hard pavement and die.

Alden Graves is a reviewer and columnist for the Banner.


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