The question gnaws at me every time I think of the tragic confrontation between Trevor Dooley and David James.
What if Dooley didn't own a gun?
As he played basketball with his daughter on a court in Valrico's Twin Lakes neighborhood, James welcomed a skateboarder to share the space.
According to deputies, Dooley, long frustrated with skateboarders violating the rules, took exception and came out of his home with a gun in his waistband.
Moments later, James was dead.
Without the gun, might the dispute have ended without someone dying? Without the gun, would a veteran still be shepherding his family? Without the gun, would an unassuming man still be driving kids on a school bus?
Without the gun, would this subdivision be free of all the questions that have come in the wake of the tragedy?
I think I just heard an audible groan from gun advocates. National Rifle Association members just instantly called upon one of their favorite cliches: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
And for once, I'm going to say they may have a point.
Don't get me wrong. Generally, I favor some form of gun control, but I'm beginning to think we need to focus more on anger control.
According to the National Rifle Association, the total number of guns in the hands of Americans is believed to exceed 300 million, and we're only a nation of approximately 307 million. The estimated number of households with guns ranges between 40 and 45 percent.
If guns already permeate our lives, we need to challenge gun owners to be more responsible instead of trying to limit the distribution.
It's time to move this discussion from minimizing firearms to minimizing bad decisions. We need less overheated political debates and more rational discussions.
I'm told good gun courses diligently instruct new owners on these topics. Good. Now what else can be done, because we can't stop there. Not if we're going to continue to be plagued by these kinds of tragedies.
Some might even argue that if James was armed, he would still be alive.
But that's not the answer. We're not truly evolving as a society if we promote idyllic neighborhoods being engulfed in an atmosphere of threats and intimidation. Anger and fear don't mix with moss-covered trees and kids playing in the park.
We have to modify behavior, no matter how daunting. Look at the ripple effects of David James' death and tell me why we shouldn't try to meet the challenge. Two families have been irreparably broken, a docile subdivision has been scarred and daily fears have elevated to new heights.
A gun can be a tool to protect and a possession that offers security. I don't want to deny anyone that constitutional peace of mind.
But every day, I hope people recognize how much damage can be done when that weapon gets brought into the wrong situation with a misguided temperament.
In the year 2010, it's a realization we should all possess. Reminders shouldn't be necessary.
But if you need a refresher course, you can talk to a widow who longs for her husband or a daughter trying to get to heaven to be with a father.
That's all I'm saying.