Pubdate: Sun, 21 May 2006
Source: Kelowna Capital News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006, West Partners Publishing Ltd.
Author: Stockwell Day
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


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 at attention with 
tears rolling down to their faces hit me with such impact.

Special Const. 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 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, it's not my problem, I'm off duty."

But Const. Atkinson wasn't wired that way.

Just in his 30s, he'd already seen too many young lives ravaged by 
merciless drug dealers who care little for the destruction they cause.

Atkinson approached the two teenagers 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 teens was 
carrying an illegal hand gun?

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 tussle-haired son clinging to his newly widowed mom, I 
thought I knew 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 her husband's mile-wide grin and instead staring 
into the ashen faces of two trembling comrades.

As I stood by my chair waiting for the ceremony to begin, a 
six-foot-three, crisply uniformed, thirty-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 Const. Atkinson, I thought as I stood and voted.

And I guarantee there's a little girl and a tussle-haired boy 
clinging to a young widow tonight who might be wishing we'd done it sooner too.

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Stockwell Day is the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla.
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