Papa’s Got a Brand New Gun

Jim Knipfel, New York Press, Dec. 15

WHEN I WAS growing up, we never, ever kept a gun in the house. Everyone else in town did, it seemed. All my friends had guns, often as early as age 11 or 12. But not us.

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That’s why I was so shocked when [my father] told me that he was driving down to Dieter’s place again, and that he was bringing a handgun back home with him. Before I could ask him why the hell he was doing such a damn fool thing, he and my mom were on their way.

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What the hell did they need a gun now for? Were drunken biker gangs running wild in the streets of their suburb? Did they want to use it to assassinate the crows and squirrels that have found refuge in their backyard? I had no idea, and the whole prospect worried me a little bit. So on the Saturday after they returned from Dieter’s, I picked up the phone and gave them a call.

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“Yeah,” I said. “Fine. But why’d you get a gun in the first place?”

My dad took one of those deep breaths he always takes when he’s about to explain something he finds unpleasant, or that he’s not completely comfortable with. It was the kind of breath he always took before passing along bad news.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, “I look around the country, at all the things that are happening these days, and it’s crazy. Even over in Howard [a small town a few miles outside of Green Bay] they just had six break-ins. People just barge right into the house. And this is Green Bay, for godsakes!”

Then, as I sort of expected, the Mexican issue came up. Over the past several years, Mexicans and other minority groups have been flooding into Green Bay, and no one can quite figure out why. This has made long-term residents uneasy. Not helping matters is the fact that the local crime rate has gone up considerably.

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