In light of today’s tragedy in Newtown, CT, TNB is re-running this essay, originally published on August 28, 2012.  Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and survivors. —Editors


Early in the morning on June 25th, about a week before I arrived in my new hometown in western Pennsylvania, police here opened fire on a car of three black man speeding towards them, killing the driver, 27-year-old Elip Cheatham.

According to eyewitness accounts, the events of the night are as follows: A shooting occurred at Edder’s Den, a bar in what most of us would euphemistically call a “rough” neighborhood. One of the victims was a friend of Cheatham’s. Cheatham and another friend loaded the 20-year-old with a leg wound into the back of Cheatham’s car and drove towards the hospital. Blocks away, they encountered a police blockade, and this is where accounts begin to splinter.

Originally published by Press Media Group & The Lynchburg Ledger. Reprinted with permission.

A sad turn of events took place Friday when 27-year-old, Tim Davis, a local Charlottesville disc jockey with the radio station, WNRN, was taken off life support after being gunned down on the Blue Ridge parkway by another paranoid maniac with a gun, allegedly Ralph Leon Jackson, 56, of Augusta County, who was taken into custody Wednesday, April 7, 2010.

Picture a beautiful sunset, the sun falling below the horizon. The sky is turning a haze of orange and a fiery globe is sinking behind the sculpted stone structures of God’s hands. A friend is by your side and you watch, and she watches, one of the most beautiful scenes of life unveiling before your eyes. In an instant, both of you are struggling to even take one last breath, to live even one more second.

None of us knows the thoughts that went through Tim Davis as he laid there, a sitting duck by a gunman he could not see, whose gunshot he never heard because by the time the echo shouted across the Blue Ridge horizon it was already too late. We only know another headline in the papers, at the top of the hour on the news, that, in a sense, we have almost become numb to – another senseless act of violence, another shooting in the Commonwealth. Another death that, as soon as it takes place, someone makes a point to be the spokesman for gun owners this country over stating on a news website message board, on Facebook, on the television screen, “It wasn’t the gun. It was the person behind the gun.”

What if I told you that it was perfectly legal for you to purchase a gun out of the back of someone’s trunk at a gun show in the state of Virginia without a background check?

Would you think I am lying? Because I am not.

According to a 60 Minutes segment from July 26, 2009, Gun Sales: Will the ‘Loophole’ Close?, despite a 30% increase in FBI background checks in 2009 compared to 2008, “The number of FBI background checks does not reflect all the gun sales, because of something called ‘the loophole.’ In Virginia and more than 30 other states, people who aren’t gun dealers can sell firearms at gun shows without conducting background checks . . . Actually, these private sellers can peddle their guns anywhere: at shows, in their private homes, or out of their cars” to convicted felons, to the mentally ill, to any old Joe that appears off the street with a wallet in his or her back pocket or pocketbook.

We do not do extensive mental health checks in this country for a number of reasons. The number one reason is because of political pandering and the wealth and influence bought by gun advocates and organizations who do not take into account the 2nd Amendment right they so love to quote was created at a time when cannonballs still existed, when knives were still molded onto the ends of guns.

Another reason is economic. It does not pay to do extensive mental health checks – not enough resources, not enough manpower to carry out the task.

Tell me, how much is a life worth? Is it not worth it to undertake this humane initiative to curtail at least one act of senseless violence? Sure, there is no way to stop every act of senseless violence in the U.S. It would be ignorant and idealistic to think so; but if you can stop one—just one—then we have saved the grief and lives of many.

When the Appomattox shootings took place on January 19, 2010, which took the lives of eight people including three teenagers and a four-year-old, I didn’t write that a friend of mine, the boyfriend to my wife’s youngest sister, who I have known for years, lost his mom, sister, and stepdad that day because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, dropping a friend off at her home, a home that would become the scene of a very devastating disaster to the communities and families of Appomattox, forever a fixture in so many memories.

I first heard of the Appomattox shootings from my wife via a panicked phone call while I was at work. Her sister was in the emergency room with her boyfriend. His stepdad, Jon Quarles, 43, was the man found in the road that had been shot in the head and was still alive when the paramedics arrived.

My friend frantically tried calling his mom and sister over and over again but could not get in touch with them. Almost a day passed before it was confirmed that they too had perished just as his stepdad did while they were in the emergency room at Lynchburg.

I do not know what it is like to have a family member die in such a way, to not know their fate and to have to sit and think the worst possible thoughts for so many hours that seem like an eternity. I only know what it is like to lose a close friend to brain cancer and to lose a dad to leukemia – to see their suffering, to pray with all I have that I can take away their pain and suffering. Then to know I cannot; and it pains me to see others in such a helpless situation and it is the emotions of anger, frustration, and love for these people I know and for these strangers which I do not, that fuels this article.

Honestly, what will it take for this state and this country to wake up to common sense gun laws? When will the day come that in order to purchase any gun, big or small, we will invest in extensive mental health checks? It’s more of a pain in the behind in this country to get a new photograph for my driver’s license at the local DMV than it is to buy a gun, an object with the potential to take another human being’s life.

Somehow, a certain segment of our population believes that certain politicians have an agenda to strip away the constitutional rights of gun owners. This is ludicrous. I hear relatives and friends claim that Barack Obama, the Democrats, the liberals, anyone and everyone that is not a card-carrying member of the NRA, would love to strip them of their 2nd amendment rights, that these people salivate in simply thinking they could one day bust into their homes and take away all their guns and ammunition.


Paranoid, ludicrous nonsense.

For starters, gun rights have sadly been expanded since Barack Obama took office. Not only can you take a gun with you to a national forest now (when you could not two years ago), now you can stroll onto Amtrak packing heat so long as you have a gun license.

I did not learn this until after the fact when I went to Washington, D.C. for a performance at The Kennedy Center to see Young Frankenstein. Considering the tragedy of September 11 and the strict enforcement at airports, I thought to myself while boarding the train, “Are they really not checking luggage?” Then when I got home, I looked up the laws surrounding baggage checks on railways.

They do not exist.

I thought about how I sat on the train, cramped with hundreds of other passengers, the stench of sweat and the food cart being wheeled down the aisle, literally sitting ducks if someone decided to go bat shit crazy with a gun of any kind. It would have been a massacre and a massacre no one could have stopped because shooting victim headlines come and go with the news.

We may not forget about the potentials of stopping these heinous crimes as soon as another story takes its place but we sit idly by and do nothing to voice our protest after the fact. We do nothing in our legislature to prevent this from happening again, and Virginia, unfortunately is leading the pack in this regard.

We grieve. We feel saddened for the families and victims. Then we live to see another day. They don’t.

And another Tim Davis down the road will be another senseless victim because we don’t even know what to be outraged in this country about anymore.

Another Virginia Tech will take place sometime, somewhere because another Seung-Hui Cho can buy guns off the internet any old time he pleases. Another Christopher Bryan Speight will take his government conspiracy theories to the next level believing that someone is going to steal his land and his guns. Another Ralph Leon Jackson will sit camouflaged on the mountainside choosing innocent young adults as his day’s target practice to pick off.

And what do we do?



Our political discourse in this country oftentimes amounts to a hill of beans. Is Barack Obama a socialist? Is the U.S.A turning into the U.S.S.A? How could Tiger Woods do such a thing? I can’t believe Heidi Montag had plastic surgery again — anything and everything that distracts us from reality, from really sitting down and making new laws that protect us and our families from the cold reality of the world we live in and seem to ignore when we wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. Alive.

We make the same pathetic arguments that you could kill someone with a knife, a pencil, or a piece of broken glass; but riddle me this: how many people can be killed at a distance with a knife, a pencil, or a piece of broken glass?

Two weeks ago, coming from a training class on the Adobe Creative Suite from McClung based in Waynesboro, Virginia, I stopped by the same stretch of road that Tim Davis met his fate on. I looked across the Blue Ridge mountains and felt the cold chills run up my arm. I felt the presence of a being more powerful than myself.

“I know you’re seeing this,” I said to my dad who died last May. The music was turned down and I gazed across the mountains taking in their beauty. It’s hard to believe less than a week later, someone could stand there just as I and meet their death in a time of great beauty as the sun fell behind the peaks.