This is not the time to debate gun control. It’s been just a few days since the last massacre of ______________. (Please insert one of these: high school students; grade schoolers; adults at a gathering; a friend; my relative; your spouse; their child.) We should not debate while family and friends grieve, and their grief can last a lifetime, so there is never a good time to debate. So, let’s change the subject. I have a story for you.

I grew up in an undistinguished neighborhood in mid-century Illinois near the Wisconsin border. But, the kids in my neighborhood? We all knew we had it good. Pickup games at Ridge Park, rickety tree forts, adventures in the sumac jungle—the ties that bind. It was idyllic. Perfect. Almost.

I was ten. My friend’s sister was Amy, or we’ll call her that. Some of her family members may still be living. An active, precocious two-year-old—two houses down, one block over—Amy.

If you’re a parent, or the child of a parent, you get this one. A parent lives with a small itch in the back of the brain. What have I forgotten? So much danger lurking. My child is so precious. I will do whatever’s necessary to nurture and protect. And then, it happens.

Scissors have a life of their own. These scissors were probably on the dresser top, out of the way. But when you’re that young, you have new skills just popping out on a daily basis. Today it was climbing. Amy was on the stairs in a flash, laughing, teetering down. Early walkers tend to drag their toes, a little trip here, a wobble there. No big deal—unless it is. This time it was.

The news lunged at all of us—gored all of us. The whole neighborhood shuddered as shockwaves washed over our lives, young and old. I don’t know if the happy mom I knew before that day ever made it back to where she always deserved to be. I doubt it. Grief and guilt are relentless twins, one holding you down, the other breaking your spirit.

Of course, I was just a kid from down the street—a couple degrees of separation distant, growing up at the edge of a smoking crater of loss and what-if. I could only imagine, and sometimes observe, the torment at the epicenter. And, all of that over a common household necessity and a momentary lapse of foresight.

Fast forward to today and the most recent massacre at __________. (Please fill in with the newest site of carnage.) Now, much larger craters are spewing damage everywhere. The acrid smell of gunfire is in the air. And, this time, it’s no accident.

We’ve placed the biggest, sharpest, nastiest scissors we have in the center of the playroom and then turned away. Assault rifles, high-capacity magazines—you name it.

So, this is truly not the time, not the time to be baited into arguing against the bogus talking points of the bought-and-paid-for. Instead, it’s time to find out who among your local, state, and federal representatives are guilty of backing this horror.

Then, volunteer them out, starting now. It’s time to back candidates, the ones who actually give a damn, with your time and money. Elections are coming up. The craters are getting deeper, coming closer.

And, there’s a kid a few houses down, or a block over, who should never have to be remembered the way I remember Amy, who should never have to remember you that way.