Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

I was a witness of gun violence. Although it was nothing like the mass shootings we are seeing in the national and state news nowadays, gun violence is not new and has been a part of mankind ever since someone had a grudge with somebody else – for whatever reason – and decided to settle it via a firearm.

I was a witness of gun violence when I was in elementary school. Let me start by saying that in the sixth grade I had a very strict teacher – my intention is not to point any fingers, so I will just say that this did not happen in Del Rio. He was old school and he strongly believed in corporal punishment.

Numerous times our legs, buttocks and thighs tasted the sweet taste of the teacher’s dreaded aluminum ruler wrapping around our limbs as he punished unruly behavior. If you were caught distracted or otherwise misbehaving, off we go.

His method was simple. He’d make us stand on the chair while whipping our thighs in an effort – valid or not I couldn’t say – to correct unruly students. He’d normally issue a fair warning before starting the whipping session “don’t put your hand in the way because I could break your fingers.”

I look back at those days and although I actually was on the receiving end of such treatment a couple of times – maybe more if you ask my classmates – I do not blame or hold any grudge against the teacher. He did what he did because he thought it was the right thing to do. Those were different times and our parents and teachers were educated under a different light.

You may be wondering by now: Where is the gun violence? Well, after providing a little context to my story, let me address the gun violence part.

One of these days a classmate, a kid who was not particularly smart but he wasn’t challenged either, was called out by the teacher.

I do not know exactly what he was caught doing, but I do remember the fear in his eyes when the teacher announced he was about to punish him.

The kid, more scared than a stray pup, took off running and left the classroom. It was the last day of school before the summer and nobody made a big deal out of it – some of us used to walk to and from school back in the day. Soon the bell rang and everybody went home, including the teacher.

A little later, I was sitting inside the school grounds, waiting for my father to come and pick me up. That’s when I saw the kid, he was coming back to the classroom and he was carrying a rifle with him.

Fortunately for everyone there was nobody there and the kid left the school grounds the same way he came in, frustrated and upset. The police were never called, nobody was hurt – other than the kid’s pride – and the story went on to become just an anecdote.

Years later I ran across the kid. We were both adults and plenty of water had passed under the bridge. After exchanging a couple of stories remembering the good ol’ days, it was me the one bringing up the incident. I asked him if he really wanted to hurt the teacher and if the rifle he was carrying was a real firearm.

He said at the time he was very angry. And although he said the rifle was a 30-06 caliber firearm, if you ask me it looked suspiciously similar to a Red Rider BB gun.

My takeaway on all this is: first of all, I am glad nobody was hurt. But then again I can’t stop thinking about the what ifs. Had the circumstances been different, such as the kid having access to a different type of firearm, maybe the story wouldn’t have had such a happy ending.

Way too many incidents of gun violence have been rocking our country lately, with an emphasis on innocent unarmed people paying the consequences.

I am not saying I have all the answers, but I do know something needs to be done. Whether it is more regulations, enacting security measures and even starting from square one by looking at schools to educate our children in tolerance and inclusiveness, these are proactive measures that will be paying off in the long term.

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters killed by senseless gun violence in El Paso, Dayton, and Illinois.

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