Non-violence is a victim of guns

Elise T. Chisolm

January 12, 1993|By Elise T. Chisolm

Jay Pitel can't believe his good luck. Neither can his friends. On Dec. 11, when three gunmen entered his store to rob him, he resisted and was shot in the head twice.

He was rushed to Maryland's Shock-Trauma Unit, released a couple of days later and went back to work.

Born in India and raised in Uganda, Mr. Pitel is owner of the Country Corner Store in Oella, a small community tucked away in the hills between Catonsville and Ellicott City.

One sunny day after Christmas he wanted to talk about the gun epidemic.

While I buy bread and milk he tells me, "Americans don't deserve this. Even in India where people are much poorer, they aren't killing each other with guns for no reason. Even in the Third World there aren't as many guns as in America. Guns are everywhere here, but this is a good country. Most people are good, why should they suffer? I think God has saved me, and now I tell the people here: Get rid of the guns, now."

The day we talk he looks well, even with one bullet still in his jaw.

Jay has been a globe-trotter. He was a helicopter pilot in Singapore. But after he married, his wife begged him to quit flying: "It is too dangerous, she tells me," and he smiles.

Jay is a quiet-spoken man of 43. He likes Baltimore, where he's been since 1979, and is proud of his store and his community.

I ask him why he didn't have a gun, as the store is somewhat isolated.

"If I kill I become the criminal. In my country the people don't shoot their brothers and sisters, and in Singapore the police don't even carry guns. I was raised a Hindu and to be non-violent. In India, gun and drug dealers are hanged."

He has security now, but not a gun. The suspected gunmen were caught, charged and jailed.

While I have watched the arming of America, I wonder about the solution. Every American should be thinking of a solution.

Baltimore had its 335 homicides for 1992, a record. that's almost one shooting a day, and 22 percent were by teen-agers. Kids can buy guns on the street. It's that easy. Maryland law makes it too easy to buy and sell guns. We almost had a couple of laws to regulate guns, but the National Rifle Association -- one of the most powerful lobbies in the country -- shot down proposals for more legislation.

Most Marylanders, like Jay Pitel, favor gun control, but until we get

it, the innocent will suffer.

A law enforcement friend who has also been in the military recently suggested we should repeal the Second Amendment, which was written when we were a frontier society to provide for a well-regulated militia and to give individuals the right to keep and bare arms. He says we already have a mighty war machine -- one we spend millions on each year. He says the right to own a gun should be repealed.

As I see it, we need quick action in the form of more gun buy-ups and gun amnesty, and we need to make it impossible for just anyone to buy a gun. Guns and drugs are a lethal partnership, a terrible mix.

Winning back the streets of America may not happen in my time, but I would like to see laws passed to make it safe for my neighbor and me to go to a store to pick up a loaf of bread without getting shot. Jay Pitel's store is just half a mile from my house.

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