It was a brief and sad story, buried in the second section of the Gazette last week. A dog was shot and killed by a man it approached in a Colorado Springs park Monday evening, police said.
Colorado Springs officers responded to reports of shots fired and screams coming from Penstemon Park, on the 1000 block of Jetwing Circle, shortly before 6 p.m. According to police, the dog was not on a leash. Police said the man fired several shots at the animal and fled on foot.
I was angry and appalled. Sure, the dog should've been on a leash, but the gunman was in no danger — otherwise, he would have stayed at the scene. KKTV interviewed the dog's owner, who wishes to remain anonymous.
"It took a little time to realize it was a real gun ... that he was really shooting my dog," Sydney's owner recalled. "She wouldn't [hurt anyone]. She's a very friendly dog, she loves to greet everybody, she loves to say 'Hi' to everybody."
Pictures of Sydney seem to confirm her owner's words. She looks small, sweet and harmless.
A colleague at work asked me what I would do if someone shot my dogs in a similar situation.
"I would have shot the son of a bitch," I replied.
I love my dogs, and I keep them on the leash (mostly). And honestly, I don't want to shoot anybody, so I don't routinely carry a firearm. Packing, whether legally or not, puts you in a different place. Your "fight or flight" consciousness is heightened, you're far more aware of potential threats, and you feel ready to deal with anything.
But you're not a cop. Like a certain tightly wound former City Councilor who packed on the Council dais, you're a cowboy living in a dream world.
The police are armed for a reason. They respond to life-threatening emergencies. They may have to defend themselves or others in such situations.
Approximately 400 Americans die each year in confrontations with law enforcement officers, a number dwarfed by the 11,068 gun-related homicides reported in 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Compared to other developed countries, both numbers are grotesquely high. Is that because we're a violent, murderous country? Are the police mere brutes in uniform, ready to gun down the innocent? No and no.
The Michael Brown and Tamir Rice killings rightfully stand out, but cops nationwide also detain or arrest tens of thousands of people daily without serious incident. And scanning scores of accounts of police shootings, one thing is clear: The vast majority take place when officers allegedly are threatened by armed individuals.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Americans own 35 percent to 50 percent of the civilian-owned firearms in the world. It equates to 88.8 firearms per 100 citizens.
That's a lot of guns. That's a lot of demented folks shooting up schools, movie theaters and workplaces. That's a lot of curious little kids finding their parents' firearms. That's a lot of middle-aged men committing suicide without reflection. That's a yearly total of more than 30,000 gun-related deaths.
What can we do about it?
Like gardening, art collecting or fly fishing, gun ownership is voluntary and legal. Restricting and regulating such ownership may be beside the point, given that guns are present in 50 percent of all households.
We — and by "we," I mean all of us gun owners — need to fall out of love with our beloved, steel-barreled sweethearts. We shouldn't pretend to be cops, ready to deal out frontier justice to men, women and unleashed dogs.
Americans once thought of cigarettes as a harmless way to calm nerves, focus attention and look cool. That changed, despite the efforts of Big Tobacco to confuse and distract the public. We figured it out: Cigarettes kill.
A country overflowing with dog-shooting vigilantes isn't a safe place, just as a smoky bar isn't a healthy place. We need to stop paying attention to the gun industry and their shills at the National Rifle Association, and learn how to live safely in a developed society. We don't need dead dogs in Colorado Springs parks.
This isn't frontier America, but an extraordinarily safe and secure modern city. We shouldn't strut around town like Wyatt Earp.
Want to play cowboy? Move to Wyoming — but be careful. Dick Cheney might mistake you for a pheasant.