Personal connection reminds me of guns, deaths

We talked nearly every day for a year about the subjects of our editorials. Gerald Fischman was the editorial writer for The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland, when I arrived in December 1989 as the new editor.

I paid little attention last week to the news about deaths and shootings at The Capitol Gazette in Annapolis – beyond noting that I had been to the paper’s office three or four times during my short stint in Westminster. Gerald was one of the five who died.

You can’t work for a newspaper for long before wondering why people don’t more often charge through the front door with guns blazing.

Ironically, the three times I remember being threatened because of a story I wrote, the instigator was a public official. I was threatened twice with a beating and once with “being disappeared.”

I was sitting at the dining table Sunday, listening to “Meet the Press” and it clicked. Chuck Todd had the photos of those who died and I saw Gerald’s picture. I probably had not thought of him more than two or three times since I left the paper to go to a weekly in Kentucky.

I was not sure it was the man I knew. Like me, he had gotten older and heavier. He no longer was the young guy I joked with as we considered topics for an editorial.

Gerald was younger than me – only about seven years – but I thought of him in Westminster as a “kid.”

I read a feature story on him Sunday – after recognizing his picture.

The most familiar terms I read were “quirky” and “brilliant.” He certainly was both.

Gerald was among the half a dozen best writers I have read. His breadth and depth of knowledge in a wide range of fields intimidated me.

In the slightly more than a year I worked with him, I often complimented his writing by telling him I was jealous. And I was. I learned from Gerald the importance of words – sometimes small ones, sometimes grandiose ones.

It tells me I’m more jaded than I thought that it took me until Sunday to make our connection.

We were not buddies. We did not socialize. We were not compatriots at our jobs. We did enjoy word play and dry jokes with each other. He was much better at both.

Unlike much of the country – at least according to cable news – I do not, and have not, followed the minute details of the dozens and dozens of shootings the U.S. has suffered through.

I am one of those old fogies who dismissed the Florida youngsters as know nothings and hopeless idealists when they proposed changing the makeup of the Congress.

I hope they are idealists. I hope they hold to those ideals. Old fogies (I have a different term for us) like me are unlikely to ever change much of anything. I hope they can and do.

Thanks to two right-wing, gun-nut buddies, a former boss and a political friend, I have come to appreciate the Second Amendment and guns. However, unlike them, at least to a degree, I also look at the U.S. and our mania about guns with a very jaundiced eye.

The combination, it seems to me, of fewer guns, stricter gun laws and adequate mental health services (notice I’m not demanding a mental health clinic on every corner) would help reduce our deaths from guns.

I am as concerned with the number of people who are shot one at a time, not in mass shootings, as I am with those five people killed last week.

I suspect Gerald would agree with me.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter with Mainstreet News. Send him email to He is the former Publisher/Editor of The Courier News.