About a month ago my mother phoned to tell me a distant cousin had been murdered outside his store. He was found shot in the head by a customer. The first speculation was that it was either an attempted robbery or a former business partner.
Mother asked if I remembered him and it took me awhile to recall him. He and his brother were the sons of the son of my mother's first cousin, so I'm not quite sure what level of cousin that made him to me. I remembered his parents better, but I remembered him too.
He was 22 years younger than I am and we met only a few times at family gatherings. He was probably in High School the last time I saw him, which was about 30 years ago. My mother told me she has a photo of me sitting next to him on the couch. I had forgotten about it.
I do remember that he was a nice, mature kid. I thought his older brother was better looking, but my Mother, who still keeps in touch with all of her extended family, said he was the responsible one with a good business and a wife and three children.
He was highly thought of and respected in his community. He was described in the newspapers as very honest in his business dealings, kind and generous, and willing to help people even if they couldn't afford to pay. Everyone who knew him was devastated by the shooting.
The police arrested a suspect on January 5th. The accused killer is a 21 year old man who is clearly paranoid. He confessed to hunting down his victims, shooting and killing them because he thought they were gay and coming onto him.
My cousin was not gay but even if he was, it's crazy to shoot a total stranger because of some perceived "look" he gave you. This was a senseless act by a disturbed young man who was on the way to becoming a serial killer. He also confessed to shooting his 64 year old neighbor for this same, crazy reason. The only good thing to come out of these tragedies is that the killer was caught before he could kill anyone else.
So now we have another young man, not unlike Jared Loughner in Tucson or Cho-Seung Hui at Virginia Tech, who used a gun to shoot innocent people because of mental illness that wasn't treated. Instead he was able to buy a gun with no background check or way to stop him.
I'm not against citizens owning guns. I used to target shoot in the past. I even joined the NRA 20+ years ago to use a target range in Santa Monica. I found target shooting very relaxing.
However, the NRA has to get off its horse and take some responsibility for keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people. It's far too easy for anyone to buy a gun without a proper background check.
The NRA should be more like the AAA. You would never think of letting anyone buy a car and drive it in anyway they pleased without a license or training in how to use it. If licensing was required, fewer nut cases would be able to buy or own guns or at least not legally.
My cousin was 46 years old. He leaves a widow and three daughters. May he Rest in Peace.