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January 26, 2011

Roy, Trigger and Me

Norman M. Covert

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins won’t be issuing concealed gun carry permits to Frederick County applicants this year – probably never will, as a result of the decision to drop the proposal from Frederick County’s 2011 legislative package. It wasn’t going to gain traction in Annapolis anyway, considering the statewide implications.


The reality of the proposal, though, isn’t lost on those who view the need for Maryland to be a “shall issue” state. Self-defense should be an option considering the huge number of criminals who are armed without anyone’s permission. Their guns come with only the requirement of cash and carry.


My first guns were faux engraved Colt Peace Maker, single-action revolvers, carried in a double holster rig, which adorned my Roy Rogers cowboy suit. I could get ammo – a roll of caps – at the grocery store after exchanging empty soda bottles for the two cents deposit return fee. My neighborhood was filled with desperadoes foraging for bottles.


Toy stores rarely stock toy guns and outfits in favor of today’s “super heroes,” none of whom uses guns – lasers perhaps, but not guns. That would be a dangerous example to set for our innocent children.


Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys and Silver Screen, exists now as a purveyor of roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken; Dale Evans and Trigger, “Smartest Horse in the Movies,” exist only in the memories of adolescent senior citizens and the growing population of Western Cowboy aficionados.


My pals and I could escape to the movie theater “over town,” where we were card-carrying members of the Roy Rogers Riders’ Club. Excited kids took part in on-stage games, entertainment and prizes. Then came a couple of movie serials to get us ready for the “feature attraction” starring such Western heroes as Roy, Gene Autry, Wild Bill Elliot, Rex Allen, Bob Steele – the stable was full of stars.


The feature unfailingly showed a posse chasing bad guys, guns firing at will with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition. Horses never tired; good guys wore white hats, the bad guys wore black. Cable TV’s Western Channel rates these movies usually as “mild violence.”


Nostalgia for the innocence of youthful fire fights is offset by the heartbreaking reality that today’s children grow up far sooner than they should. They are bombarded with multi-media broadcasts of real guns, violence and blood.


Children in low income neighborhoods are beset by thugs of all ages, brandishing weapons that often kill innocent bystanders as well as street rivals. These drug dealers and assorted small-time criminals play a deadly game. Their arsenals include assault rifles and urban machine guns, often a step ahead of police procurement.


Frederick is just as likely to have illegal gun violence as Baltimore, Prince George’s County, or Washington, D.C. Our Sagner, Hillcrest, Heather Ridge and Key Parkway neighborhoods have had their share of violence in which illegal firearms were used.


Robert Lee Murphy is awaiting his second trial next month, accused of killing Stephen Mauk, a driver for Frederick Yellow Cab. Murphy apparently was driven from Frederick to East Baltimore, where Mr. Mauk’s body was discovered in January 2009. Charges include use of a firearm in commission of a crime. Apparently Murphy didn’t bother to apply for approval to either purchase or carry his 9 mm Glock.


The demand for pistols and rifles, whether for recreation, hunting or self defense has not relented among the law-abiding populace. One dealer said whenever there is an inkling of more gun ownership restrictions, the public increases its demand for both firearms and ammunition.


My first experience firing a real gun was at Camp Skimino, VA, where Boy Scout instructors introduced me to shooting and safety with a .22 cal. single-shot rifle. My country cousins dubbed me "Deadeye" for my display of erring accuracy while joining them on hunting safaris in the Virginia foothills of Orange County.


My first gun was purchased in 1962 from the Woolco discount store. The military surplus 6.5 mm Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was inexpensive and was dubbed the “firein-shpittin-loudnboomer.” Made in 1933, it was used in several iterations during World War II and later was the weapon of choice for President John F. Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.


Mr. Oswald defected to the Soviet Union after his dishonorable discharge from the U. S. Marine Corps. He was a confused Marxist and rabid supporter of Cuban Premier Fidel Castro. He has been described as an emotionally and politically troubled young man. He attempted the assassination of political activist Gen. Edwin Walker in April 1963, and then succeeded in November 1963 with the shooting of President Kennedy, Gov. John Connolly and police officer J. D. Tippets in Dallas, TX.


The description of Mr. Oswald parallels in many ways the persona of Tucson, AZ, shooter Jared Lee Loughner. He jump-started this latest raft of gun commentaries with his unprovoked attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., AZ) and the other innocent people who fell under the hail of his gunfire.


Those of us who co-exist safely with firearms share our joy of shooting with other law-abiding citizens and continue to be in the majority, albeit not by much in the halls of Congress or the Maryland State House. We must encourage and support legislators who understand the Second Amendment to the Constitution and, as much as anything, the threat we face from armed criminals.


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