National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the NRA Annual Meeting of Members in Indianapolis in April.
National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the NRA Annual Meeting of Members in Indianapolis in April. (Michael Conroy/AP)

It had been a week since my father died from a heart attack while playing poker at a Miami casino. My mother, shocked and shattered, insisted that my siblings and I purge his belongings from their condo, “Take what you want and give the rest to Goodwill.”

Following her orders, we tore through closets, shelves and drawers, dumping Dad’s clothes, shoes and knickknacks in large green garbage bags for donation. We left the top drawer of their mahogany armoire until the end — it’s where he kept his personal belongings.


When we could no longer procrastinate, I opened the drawer and one-by-one removed that which defined my father. I caressed the silver-plated Timex that my mother had engraved “with love,” the opal ring we gave him for his 80th birthday, his driver’s license (no smile), social security card and VIP cards from various casinos.

Reaching into the back corner for a final sweep, I came across a brass, 2-inch, oval pin. Along the top it read, “NRA Life Member.” Etched into the foreground was a rugged man holding a rifle. On his right was the Capital; his left, the Second Amendment.

I took a step back.

I am a liberal, Jewish, intellectual woman. The pin represented all that my cohorts detest. Yet, at the same time, it was the coveted possession of the man that I loved. I slid my thumb over the “N,” the “R” and the “A” and wondered, “should I throw it away or keep it?”

I shouldn’t have been surprised; guns were a part of my father’s life. He had been in the firearms business, and, for protection, he kept a revolver in his nightstand and another in his glove compartment. His guns —like scotch, Camels and Clint Eastwood movies — were part of his identity.

Dad was a patriot. He was the first to jump out of his seat at sports events, place his hand over his heart and sing (off key) the “Star-Spangled Banner.” On July Fourth, he dressed in red, white and blue. For family vacations he flew us to D.C., to tour monuments and learn history. At Disney World, he dragged us through The Hall of Presidents.

My father demanded that we honor freedom with responsibility. True to his convictions, he took us to parking lots to learn how to drive and firing ranges to learn how to shoot. He taught us to ascertain if a firearm was loaded and to avoid pointing even a toy gun at anyone.

Dad maintained, with only a few exceptions, that people were law-abiding. The exceptions — especially those who committed criminal acts with firearms — should be subjected to mandatory incarceration, he said. Society should not tolerate violence.

He was my hero.

And then, President Kennedy was assassinated when I was still a child. For the first time, I questioned Dad’s stance on guns. But, like the bumper sticker on his car, he stuck to his principles: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

“Dad,” I countered, “A gun killed our president.”

His response went something like this: “Honey, if some meshuggana wants to kill, they’ll find a way. They’ll make a bomb, poison a drink or use a knife. When a reckless driver kills a pedestrian, should we outlaw cars? ‘If guns are outlawed — only outlaws will have guns.’ Would you want a sign over our front door saying, ‘There are no guns in this house.’”?

I thought about the safety of the grocery store owner who works late into the night and the doctor, who leaves before dawn, driving through crime-ridden neighborhoods.

And I remembered when one of the boys at school threw a spitball at another. The teacher made us all put our heads down on our desk and skip recess. I had been outraged. I did nothing wrong, why were my rights to recess revoked?


Now, decades later, we are experiencing a proliferation of mass murders. I’ve modified my childhood position. This is not a complete list: I cannot justify assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, nor bump stocks. I’m in favor of universal background checks, raising the minimum age for ownership to 21 (with a military exception), 72 hour waiting periods, Red Flag Laws and mandatory safety training. Anyone who previously used a firearm in unlawful or violent acts should not own a gun.

I like to think, given the current state of our union, my father would have agreed.

I kept the pin.

Laura Black, (www.laurablack.net) an attorney and business woman, is working on her second book, “The Weight of a Woman: A Memoir of Pounds, Power, Pressures and Purpose.”