The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

July 12, 2013

Some bullet points

In the newspaper business, they tell the apocryphal story of an old boy who was publishing in Northwest Georgia when a customer showed up one day with lips pursed, jaw set and fit to be tied over a mistake in her advertisement that had appeared in that morning’s edition.

There isn’t much wiggle room in this business. The mistakes are there in black and white on paper that won’t disappear for a few lifetimes. They curse you the morning you make them. They haunt you until the day you leave town or merge with eternity.

So this old publisher began the dance of the damned with a sincere apology, an offer to correct the ad and run it again — at no charge.

Not good enough, said the customer.

How about if we run it twice?

She shook her head.

We will place the ad such that we can include color ink, again, at no charge, offered the publisher.

Nope. Jake (the salesman) said he would get it right and there it is, wrong, said the lady.

I know Jake is as sorry as I am that we made this mistake, said the publisher. Should I have him come in and apologize in person?

Him! I never want to talk to him again, said the lady, her anger ever more visible. Jake made this mess. He should pay for it.

Ah! Jake would share the responsibility, the publisher assured, explaining that sales people make no commission on ads that are wrong and unpaid.

Not good enough, she replied.

Then it dawned on the publisher. The customer wanted the publisher to fire Jake.

I see, said the old boy. He then opened a drawer on the side of his desk. He reached in and took out a pistol.

The lady’s eyes widened. She sat back. “What? What are you doing with that?” she demanded.

“C’mon,” said the publisher. “Let’s go shoot Jake.”

We now have a rule preventing that. We have a sign on every entry declaring that guns are not allowed indoors. An insurance company lawyer must be a great believer in signage.

So far, it seems to have worked.

One night, some kind of alarm tripped and a city police officer came to the door after hours and knocked on the glass to see if everything was okay. The lady working downstairs on pages and who knew the rule about guns wasn’t sure she should let the nice policeman come in. He evidently had a gun.

In the great gun debate — nobody or everybody — I have migrated over the years toward “everybody.” That comes from getting to know a little more about guns, how they are used by people who train with them and from realizing how increasingly vulnerable society has become in an age of uncertainty, rife with violent media, growing disaffection and unmedicated mental illness.

If we are all going to be parked in crazy for a while, it makes sense for everybody to have the same tools.

After the Shady Hook Elementary massacre, after the sobering memorials, after a pair of the loyal-NRA gun Senators were unable to improve background checks, it became clear that the culture had shipped out for George Zimmerman-land, leaving little kids and their teachers to hope that the locks will hold.

During that period, I had conversations with local law enforcement, gun owners and gun shops. Pennsylvania is way better at sales, distribution and permission to own, carry and conceal than it is at encouraging safety and training.

There was an obvious opportunity for public service or private enterprise to teach best practices and legal parameters to the armed, unregulated militia expanding into the vacuum of public safety.

This, too, has been recognized by Union County Sheriff Ernest Ritter and his staff (570- 524-8716), who are organizing a “concealed firearms familiarization course” for all residents 21 and older who hold a concealed-carry gun permit.

For $40, participants get four hours of information and instruction in classes limited to 25 students. Firearms are not a prerequisite. No ammunition is allowed. Classes are filling up.

If we are all going to be here for a while, you might want to register.

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Gary Grossman
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