Pubdate: Wed, 17 May 2006
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Penticton Western
Author: Stockwell Day, MP, Okanagan-Coquihalla


Crying doesn't come easily for most men. That's not a  sign of 
weakness or dysfunction as some pop  psychologists might suggest. 
It's just the way we're  wired.

That's why the sight of dozens of men standing to  attention with 
tears coursing down to their jawbones  hit me with such impact.

Special Constable John Atkinson had finished his shift  last Friday at 2 p.m.

He was fueling up at the local gas station before going  home to be 
with his young wife and two kids. He could  have ignored what looked 
like a drug deal going down in  the near empty lot.

He could have said, "Hey not my problem, I'm off duty."

But Constable Atkinson wasn't wired that way. Even  though only in 
his 30s, he'd already seen too many  young lives ravaged by merciless 
dealers who care  little for the destruction they reap.

He approached the two teenaged men with his smile and  his badge both 
gleaming. How could he have known he was  smiling for the last time 
in his life?

How could he have known that one of those men was  carrying an illegal handgun?

As I sat at his funeral with thousands of citizens and  police 
officers, I wondered what his last thoughts were  as he lay groaning 
on the pavement as the pair of thugs  ran off.

As I sat there looking at his little daughter clinging  to her teddy 
bear and his toussled-haired son clinging  to their newly widowed mom 
I think I know what his last  thoughts were.

As I looked down the row at the brave men and women  with whom he 
patrolled every day I wondered which ones  had been chosen for the 
awful task of going to his home  that Friday afternoon to bring the 
news that families  of police officers never want to think about, but 
always think about.

I found myself wondering what thoughts would have been  racing 
through his wife's mind that Friday afternoon as  she opened the 
front door expecting to see John's  mile-wide grin and instead stared 
into the ashen faces  of two trembling comrades.

As I stood by my chair waiting for the ceremony to  begin, a 
6-foot-3, crisply-uniformed, 30-something  officer introduced himself 
to me and thanked me for  coming.

"We enrolled in the Police Academy on the same day 15  years ago," he 
said quietly. "We became fast  friends..."

Then his voice sort of cracked and he looked away. I  put my hand on 
his crisply-uniformed arm and looked  away too. I guess that's what 
men do when we force back  tears.

So that's why I stood in the House of Commons this week  to be 
counted as supporting a new law which will bring  in mandatory jail 
terms for anyone using a firearm in  the commission of a crime. 
Whether somebody gets shot  or not, you pack a gun for nasty purposes 
you're going away for a long time.

"Not fair," shouted some who oppose us.

"Too harsh," exclaimed some criminologists.

"Too late for Constable Atkinson", I thought as I stood  and voted.

And I guarantee there's a little girl and a  toussle-haired boy 
clinging to a young widow tonight  who might be wishing we'd done it 
sooner, too. 
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman