I have Dudley Shimmel’s NRA lifetime membership pin. It’s all I have of him. Thinking of Dudley today.

I remember the day Chief Clark called me from Lawrence Township Police Department. Strangely, there was only one number in Dud’s cell phone; Wayne, a friend of mine in Michigan. Wayne told Doug to call me with the news of my dearest friend’s passing.

At this very moment, Scott Crago is stopping what he’s doing in heaven and going, “Whaddyamean ‘dearest friend’?” Okay. It’s a tie. Both were outsized participants in my life.

I met Doug, who was a classmate of mine in the state police academy back in 1991, at Dudley’s house. They’d broken in because Dudley had not come to work that day at Jim’s Sports Center, where he sold hunting equipment. It wasn’t like him to miss a day at work.

I found George –I always called him by his first name –lying on his couch staring at the ceiling.

I mean, I knew the deal. As a state trooper, you deliver this news countless times over your career. It can be brutal, but you get used to being stoic so that you can help those people who look at you helpless in the middle of the night as they realize their lives are irreparably changed.

I sat down on the couch with him.

“Oh, George,” I breathed out. I leaned over and kissed his cold forehead and closed his eyes. There was no next of kin. I suppose I qualified. Many friends, Dudley had so many friends, helped with arrangements.

In going through his things, looking for insurance policies and such, I came upon a yellowed letter he’d put away thanking him for his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association. There was a pin in a tiny zip-lock bag. I took that. Didn’t think he’d begrudge me anything in the world.

I laughed to myself. Dud was a staunch second amendment guy. They never got his guns. In fact, his gun safe was so secure we couldn’t get into it to sell them off to raise money for his burial.

George Dudley Shimmel and I, best friends, disagreed on this issue. Well, not in the right to keep and bear arms. We agreed on that. But not on the notion that “they” were going to come and take your guns.

Friends. I am 59 years of age. I have been hearing this empty rhetoric all my life. Has not happened yet. Lately, given the hateful geopolitics, I’m hearing it again. A democratic president is going to come and take your guns. Friends. There are so many problems right now that taking your guns is about the last thing on anyone’s agenda. Nobody is going to take your guns. When someone closes my eyes, you’ll still have your guns.

The only thing to staunch the endless procession of mass shooters in this country has been the COVID virus, not some act of Congress.

Nobody is coming to take your guns. It is an emotional argument. It is not a factual one. It plays on your fears, not your rational mind. In 59 years of living, I’ve never seen it happen. That’s empiric evidence. Has anyone taken your gun from you in your life?

Go out today and buy a nice Glock 9. Hurry. Promise, they’ll still be on the shelves.

You know, I really don’t think a new president is going to change anything. I hope for systemic change, but, sadly, Joe Biden is not the avatar of the changes I think need to happen. And those changes have nothing to do with whether or not you own guns.

One change we can maybe make, you and I, that would be hopeful, is that we treat each other with love, kindness and respect and not barricade ourselves behind emotional arguments that really have nothing to do with our lives.

George Dudley Shimmel and I disagreed on something that did not change our love for each other.

I have Dudley Shimmel’s NRA lifetime membership pin. It’s all I have of him. I turn it over in my hands and for a moment I have him back again.

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Shawn Inlow is an English major out of Slippery Rock State University when they were still called “The Rockets;” a former Journalist for the Courier-Express and The Progress and WOKW radio; a soccer coach since the ’70s; a founding member of the Clearfield Arts Studio Theater (CAST); a Pennsylvania State Trooper for 20 years. He is retired now and building a new theater in Philipsburg.

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