Thoughts on gun violence and where we go from here

three images consisting of black and white photo of gun at point blank, worms eye view of holy buildings, and statue of soldier with American flagGuns – We are all familiar with the saying “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” I tend to agree with that, but with a small modifier – “people kill people, but guns make it easier.” As a young Marine, I was trained extensively in the use of firearms. For anyone who has seen the movie Full Metal Jacket, it accurately depicts the relationship that a Marine has with his/her rifle – it is an extension of that Marine, it is to be respected, and it should never be used except as a last resort to defend our freedom. Columbine painfully demonstrated to all of us that not everyone shares that philosophy. The video and audio clips showing innocent and unarmed kids being murdered in their school were impossible to comprehend. Outrage swept over the country, and since then we have been embroiled in a debate about how to “reasonably” limit a clear constitutional right to “bear arms.” Yet, notwithstanding all the debate, legislation, and litigation, we find ourselves no better off than we were on that morning of April 20, 1999. And I don’t know about you, but I am really angry: angry that innocent and unarmed people are continuing to be murdered; angry that we do not seriously focus on mental health issues, thereby allowing these unstable people to continue to slip through the cracks; angry that we have passed many laws that were supposed to help protect us and some nutjob, who went to jail for beating his wife and child, was dishonorably discharged from the military, and was in a mental health facility, was still able to “legally” purchase weapons; and angry that as a former Marine, if I am ever in this type of situation, I have no real chance of protecting myself or the other innocent victims. While police responders are to be admired, they simply can’t be everywhere (the average shooting spree lasts about 5 minutes, while the average police response is about 11 minutes). And while I don’t think the answer is for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to have a private arsenal, I am fully opposed to any solution that further limits the rights or abilities of innocent citizens to protect themselves and their families, until we are confident that our elected officials are taking these issues seriously and finding ways to make sure their basic task – ensuring the safety of our nation’s citizens – is fulfilled.

On Being Catholic – I am going to be 50 next month, and no matter how I slice it, I am teeing off somewhere on the back nine. Certainly, I have much to be grateful for, as I have a very rich life and have accomplished much in the secular world. Spiritually, however, I am completely disconnected from any community. Although I was born a Catholic, went to church every Sunday as a kid, made all my sacraments, and even taught religion, I have no connection today to the Catholic Church. I have a lot of well thought out and logical reasons why I don’t – the mass to me is antiquated and uninspiring, the leaps of faith seem unreasonable, scandal, many priests do not speak English as a primary language and therefore can be very difficult to understand and connect with – but the truth is that I gave up on being Catholic simply because being Catholic, truly Catholic, required more of me than I was willing to give. I am not particularly proud of that, but am willing to admit it. While all religions require investment to reap the rewards they promise, Catholicism to me seemed incredibly rigid and unwilling to evolve in its dogmas and practices, making it much easier for me to stop practicing it than to keep trying. I certainly don’t blame the Catholic Church; a religion is not to be confused with a democracy. I just wish there was some flexibility, something I could hold onto. I am jealous when I meet people who are devoted and connected to their churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship. There is a sense of community in those settings that is truly more intimate than you can find in other social settings. I just don’t know how to get there as a Catholic, and wonder if I ever will. Changing course to another religion does not seem right to me either, as how does one change what one is? One thing that is clear, however, is that I am running out of time to take up Blaise Pascal on his wager…

AROUND TOWN

On Tuesday, we had an HIA-LI board meeting, where we continued our discussion about development of our strategic plan. To help facilitate the process, we are working with Michael Smith of Linx Communications in Smithtown. Talented guy…

Speaking of talented people, on Wednesday we filmed our latest episode of CMM Livefeaturing Terri Alessi-Miceli, President of the HIA-LI. Terri gave us a terrific overview of all the great things happening with the organization, but more importantly shared with us very personal stories about her journey as a female business leader. A must-watch! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORL2FFuqeXE

Thursday evening, I had dinner with Appellate Division Justice Leonard Austin and about 30 first-year Touro Law students to discuss business law. It was a terrific evening, and a shout-out to my good friend Professor Lynne Kramer for including me.

I spent Saturday at Fordham’s Homecoming football game at the Rose Hill Campus, where we Rams had the privilege of watching our team get shellacked by the visiting Holy Cross Crusaders.  I found extreme comfort afterward at Mario’s on Arthur Avenue.

And finally, November 10 marks the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Wishing a very happy birthday to my Marine brothers and sisters! Semper Fi.

And to all veterans, thank you for your service.

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