The tale of Lee Pumroy, Felix Sparks & the NRA

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As I watch our local and national news everyday, I’m getting numb to all the mass shootings AND senseless violence in our schools, churches, public buildings, etc. “As long as it doesn’t happen to me or my family” seems to be our attitudes and nothing seems to be getting better. Our politicians are quick to offer condolences but slow on any response to the tragedies that occur on a daily basis. Their current response at least in Idaho, is to allow 18 year olds to now carry concealed weapons; a response I question. Throw in the NRA’s position on these subjects and I don’t really see this country becoming any safer. As I’ve read many book on World War II in Europe, I came across a veteran who saw it was time to change the gun laws in his state. Here is his story:

In 1993, a 16-year-old named Lee Pumroy was shot in the back of the head and killed in Denver, Colorado. The shooter was another 16-year-old boy, intent on killing the driver John Virgil. Lee was in the wrong place at the wrong time. At that time in Colorado it was completely legal for a teenager to carry a handgun at all times. A 15-year-old kid could walk the streets of Denver with a handgun in his bag and no one could do anything or say anything about it.

It was this personal tragedy that sent Brigadier General Felix L. Sparks back to the battlefield, at war this time with the NRA. You see, Lee Pumroy was his grandson.

In the year of this incident, more young Americans had died from gun violence in the U.S. than had died under his command in the second world war. In World War II, Felix Sparks started as a rifle company commander with the 157th Field Artillery regiment and the 45th infantry regiment of the United States Army, also known as the “Thunderbirds.” The war would take him from Africa to Sicily, from Sicily to Italy, from Italy to France and from France to Germany. Over 500 days of combat he would fight through the horrors of Anzio, Monte Casino, and the Battle of the Bulge. He was the commanding officer when his regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. The entrance to Dachau contained 39 boxcars full of dead bodies. Few American divisions would suffer more casualties than the Thunderbirds. 3,650 fellow Thunderbirds would never again return to America, 1,400 from the 157th.

Of all the death he had experienced in the war, nothing affected him as much as losing his grandson. At the age of 76 Felix decided he would try to change the gun laws in Colorado to read: “Anyone under the age of 18 could not carry a handgun.” His biggest fight was against the NRA and their belief that everyone in America, no matter what age should brandish whatever firearm they wish. Being a former Colorado Supreme Court justice and with the support of 132 men who had served with him in the 157th Infantry unit in Europe he would be successful in changing the gun laws in the state of Colorado. He saw the horrible evidence of one of the most tyrannical governments the world has ever seen up close, in Dachau, and still he believed that “a citizen’s right to bear arms” had its limits.

In the second world war, regular everyday Americans had to resort to violent acts to stop the senseless killing of millions. Today the NRA would have you believe that regular Americans should go out and arm themselves with assault style weapons designed for war with far more firing capacity than those used by the GIs in World War II. Their actions in supporting the easy access to firearms and especially deadly accessories such as high capacity clips have been very detrimental to the lives of so many people in this country.

Looking forward 30 years and a society that has changed dramatically since 1963, maybe it’s time for all parties to look at some reasonable gun control messages in this country. Either that or just change the channel on our TV sets and hope gun violence doesn’t happen to someone you know.

JOHN NITCY

Sandpoint

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