I took my kid to the public pool yesterday. First day it was open this year. More people than I expected as the water was not quite warm. But once you got in, it was fine. Hot sun. Cool water. Great way to spend the day.
About an hour past noon, from my pool side chair I noticed another kid splashing water in my kid’s face. My boy splashed back, laughing. The other kid’s father noticed and jumped to his feet by the side of the pool, a half dozen chairs down from mine.
“Hey! Leave my kid alone!”
My son was not certain who was being yelled at over the noise of the public pool.
“What do you think you are doing? Don’t be splashing like that! You’re gonna get in trouble,” he added
My son got it this time. He looked at me. I looked at his father who was strapping on a holster and gun over his swimming trunks.
Oh shit. Here we go, I thought.
I called to Tom, “Hey, son, come on out of the pool. He isn’t worth the trouble.”
“What you mean ‘he ain’t worth the trouble’?” his father asked as he turned toward me.
“Hey man. It’s not worth a fight. Just two kids splashing, right?”
“Yeah. It’s worth it. Your kid’s a punk ass.”
“They were just playing. It’s water. It’s what kids do. It doesn’t hurt.”
“It doesn’t hurt? No. Maybe not. But you disrespecting my kid? That hurts.”
He lowered his hand to his hip. Is he going to shoot me? No way. That can’t fucking happen. No way. Not in public.
He took a few steps closer. I could see that he had been drinking and was not in a clear state of mind. Why they let him in with a gun is beyond me. But that’s Arizona law.
I called out, “Tom. Get out of the pool. Let’s go!”
“That’s what I thought. Fucking pussy.”
“Yeah. Suppose so.”
“What’d you say?! Hey! What’d you say to me?!”
He lunged forward, stumbled, and knocked me to my back. He tripped over my prone legs and fell on top of me, his pistol drawn and in his hand. When he put his arm out to brace his fall, the gun went off and there was silence. No one in the pool moved. Then a woman screamed.
“No! No! Oh my God no! My baby! You shot my baby! You shot my baby!” She ran to the edge of the pool and jumped in, screaming hysterically she choked on the water in attempt to find her feet, fully clothed.
The man rolled off me and to his side, looked over me to the pool where red water was mixing with blue. My legs, shoulders, and arms struggled to find purchase while a knot grew on the back of my skull. I could not see clearly but I recognized my son’s voice as he ran up to me, asking if I was ok.
The man pushed him aside, knocking him over as he found his own feet again. He started to realize what had happened, looking at his gun as though he had never seen one before.
Everyone was climbing out of the pool, save two life guards who dove in to pull the girl from the water. Even face down I could see that she didn’t have a chance, dead before she ever had a chance to drown.
The father’s kid was in shock, frozen in disbelief. His father was yelling at him to get his things. His voice rose as it was becoming apparent he intended to leave.
Two other men and one woman pulled guns from their day bags and blankets, warning him to not move. He didn’t listen, grabbed his kid, waved his gun at them and turned to run.
Two more shots were fired. The father fell to his knees. Everyone else lay flat on the concrete, the life guards holding their heads just above water at the edge of the pool, abandoning the girl’s body for their own safety.
The father turned to fire back but was hit a third time in the head. His son came alive again and screamed so loud people looked up from their prone positions, thinking he had been hit too. Tears streamed from his eyes as he ran to his father’s body, holding his bleeding, limp head in his hands.
He looked to my son Tom. I will never forget the look on his face.
It didn’t have to happen this way. There was no real danger and no reason for guns. But it nearly became reality, were it not for the second year vetoed by the governor of Arizona, keeping court houses, senior centers, public buildings and swimming pools free of firearms … for now.
Charles Heller, co-founder and spokesman of Arizona Citizens Defense League, said the group “expected better from someone who was rumored to be an ally of freedom.”
“We wish she would show more respect for Arizona’s constitutional provision about the right to keep and bear arms,” he told Reuters, moments after learning of the veto.
I am not against owning firearms, for hunting is a traditional means by which healthy, natural meat may be placed on the table for those families willing to work a little harder than driving their SUV to the local grocery store. If you feel the need to protect the interior of your home with a gun, it is not my place to dissuade you.
But the intent of this bill makes no sense. Nothing good can possibly come of this law. There is not a single scenario, not a single example in which everyone, anyone being allowed to bring a firearm into a public arena makes sense.
To defend the Second Amendment for the sake of defense alone is to tell the parents of the children and the children of the parents in a story not unlike that which I have imagined, that the Constitutional Right, written two hundred years ago in a very different time, is more important then the lives of those who will die.