A reminder of the bad old days

For those of us of a certain age — 50 and above — the fatal shootings in Tuscon, Ariz., Saturday brought back unpleasant memories.

I was in kindergarten in Brookings on Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot. I was 9 years old and living on our family farm when both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed in 1968. RFK had just won both the South Dakota and California primaries the night he was shot.

In 1972, I was walking to the house after getting off the bus when our mom told us that George Wallace had been shot. And I well remember the two attempts on President Ford in September 1975.

The shooting of President Reagan days after he took office in 1981 added to the perception that Americans all too often decide things by the bullet and not the ballot.

That rash of shootings slowed, thankfully.

But the crazed attack at a Tuscon grocery store parking lot Saturday morning was a chilling reminder of those tragic days. Rep. Giffords is still battling for her life but six others are dead and 13 others were wounded.

In South Dakota, our senators, representatives, governors and other officials are very accessible. We see them at events they organize and they also try to maintain a semblance of a personal life, attending ballgames and going out to eat in public places. Will that be reduced as they deal with the fear of another insane person with a gun?

Have our officials been too trusting? Do they need increased security? Or are they perfectly safe in our state, where guns are common but shootings relatively rare?