Guillermo’s Birthday

Twenty-four years ago today, Guillermo Rodriguez Sanchez was born.  His mom posted about it this morning on facebook.  

The name may be familiar to you.   Guillermo was 17 when he, along with Rafael Encinas Rios, also 17, were murdered during a robbery at the Subway Sandwich shop where they worked. 

I never met Guillermo or Rafael, but I have gotten to know Guillermo’s parents, Guadalupe and Jose.  We attend some of the same events raising awareness on gun violence.   

Every time I hear them speak of Guillermo, I cannot help but think about my own son.  Just 13 at the time of those murders, my son is in college now.  Time marches on for the rest of us while Guillermo and Rafael remain frozen, stifled at 17.  I think of the grandchildren that will never be born, the dreams never realized.  The pain of their loss is nearly unimaginable. 

I always swore that if I were ever put in charge of the universe, Rule One would be that no parent would ever have to bury their child.   

Yesterday and today, Lupe gave voice to her grief in a couple of rare facebook postings.  Yesterday and today we in Phoenix are experiencing bleak grey skies, cold rain drops slide down the windows like tears.  It feels connected; as though Nature, a mother herself, acknowledges Lupe’s pain. 

Happy B-Day Guillermo ,you would have been 24 gosh how time passes and it seem like yesterday when you were taken from me i miss you dearly ,i will always love you and keep you in my heart ,i love you my baby boy .Te Amo mi Flakito y te Extrano muchisimo.”

I cannot fathom a world where her loss makes sense.  I cannot understand a rational, connected, thoughtful universe where two boys go to work and never come home. 

It’s crazy to me that Guillermo and Rafael underwent far more governmental oversight in order to make sandwiches for minimum wage than did the transactions that ultimately put those guns in the hands of the robbers.  Guillermo and Rafael had to pass a test and become licensed food handlers. 

In Arizona we take food safety very seriously. 

Guns, however, are a different story. 

No tests. No licensure. 

Arizona gets squeamish about any oversight that might stand between us and our firearms.  In this state, anyone over the age of 18 can walk in to an establishment that sells firearms, make a purchase and leave with the gun.  No background checks. No waiting period. 

It’s more difficult to get beer at 18 than a gun. 

The murderers weren’t criminal masterminds.  They weren’t well-connected crime lords with infinite resources.  They were boys themselves.  Boys who had no trouble acquiring weapons.  Weapons used to kill. 

There’s a logic disconnect. 

Guillermo and Rafael needed to be tested and licensed in food safety to make sandwiches for minimum wage.  There is no testing or licensure required to own a gun in Arizona.  I cannot make that make sense. 

Twenty-four years ago today, Lupe and Jose’s beautiful boy was born.   Six years ago, he was murdered by the blast of a SKS assault rifle through his 17 year old chest. 

I’m not suggesting we round up all the guns and abolish the Second Amendment.  But Guillermo’s right to life is at least equal to the right to own a gun. 

I am both the victim of gun violence and a gun owner myself. 

I know this is complicated.  But we must do better.  We need some modicum of common sense when it comes to guns in Arizona.   We need leaders who can have a measured, thoughtful conversation about balancing the rights of public safety with the rights of gun ownership instead of devolving into partisan talking points and party lock-step.   We have to create some measure of sanity around the types of weapons and ammunition one can purchase. 

We do need to honor the Second Amendment.  Surely Lupe’s right to see her boy graduate high school and mature into manhood must have some equal value.  Surely her right to hold the grandbabies who will never be born has to count too. 

Can’t we stop this insanity?

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