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Ten years ago, on Nov. 18, 2003, Al Isham of Elizabethtown died. Many readers of The News-Enterprise remember Al as the one who wrote copious letters to the editor and kept the gun control debate alive with his thoughtful musings and informed arguments. Others may remember him as a liberal upstart trying to limit gun owners’ rights.
I remember Al Isham as a father that I never fully got to know. He was a distant, sometimes even cold man. But although immature emotionally, my father was a reliable provider in large part because of an unwavering sense of duty when it came what he believed was right.
Were Dad alive today, he most likely would be continuing the good fight for responsible gun legislation. Even though gun violence certainly was a problem 10 years ago, my father didn’t live to see some of the most atrocious gun brutality experienced by our nation.
Dad very likely would agree with former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who sustained a critical head injury in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that brought six others to the ground:
“This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we’re not even trying — and for the worst of reasons.”
In all likelihood, Dad also would echo the outrage and passion of David Wheeler, whose son Benjamin was blown away one morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.:
“Thomas Jefferson described our inalienable rights as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – the rights with which we are endowed, for the protection of which we have instituted governments. I do not think the composition of that foundational phrase was an accident. I do not think the order of those important words was haphazard or casual. The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine, and keep them in their home, is second to the right of my son to his life – his life; to the right to live of all of those children and those teachers, to the right to the lives of your children, of you, of all of us – all of our lives – it is second.”
And Dad surely would concur with a statement about the Fairfax, Va., NRA made by U.S. John Yarmuth of Kentucky:
“The National Rifle Association has spent untold millions of dollars instilling fear in our citizens and our politicians. That organization, which regularly fails to represent the responsible attitudes of its members, wants us to believe that the best protection against the irresponsible and lethal use of guns is for everyone to be armed. And while no specific gun regulation may have prevented the deaths of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary children — 6- and 7-year-old children — the answer simply cannot be a gun in every elementary school lunchbox.”
Dad was a clear thinker and chose his words carefully. He wasn’t the type to fly off the handle in his written material about gun laws. His eloquence, tenacity and sense of duty got him pretty far in life.
He received his MBA from Harvard Business School and as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, his last assignment was working on the procurement budget at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was by no means a slacker.
Ten years after his death, I can without a doubt say I respect my dad for the commitment that he had and his sense of duty to help make things right in so many areas of life. And 10 years later, I can proudly say I agree with his stance on gun control.
If he were alive today, I bet he and I would be allies in this debate and the letters to the editor at The News-Enterprise would be flying.
I love you, Dad.
Kerry Isham, one of four children of Al and Christine Isham, is a Louisville resident.