By DIMAS M. CHAVEZ
Formerly of Los Alamos
As a former Los Alamos resident who now resides in Potomac, Md., I wish to comment on the letter to the editor submitted by Mr. Robert Visel, titled “Stop Blaming Inanimate Object”. Allow me to take you for a walk down memory lane regarding Los Alamos.
I moved to Los Alamos with my family as a 6-year-old child Aug. 15, 1943. Upon arriving at the Main Gate we were greeted by fully armed Military Police, and a huge Army Tank that stood like a sentry on a hillside just behind the security gate with its large barrel pointed down towards the entry point of Los Alamos. Once you were given authority to proceed you had two check points in which you had a specific period of time to travel from the front gate to the first check point. If you failed to arrive on time a group of fully armed Military Police would descend on you to investigate as to why you did not arrive by the prescribed time.
In addition to the MP’s we had the armed security guard force on foot, horseback, and at all the sensitive technical areas that occupied much of the county. During the day we heard continuously the sound of explosives being detonated throughout numerous canyons where the scientific and technical personnel were testing the various detonators that would eventually be used for the Atomic Bomb.
Hunting was a huge pastime and countless families participated in deer and elk legal hunts throughout the area. As children we were taught by our parents and teachers about our needed security and the rationale for armed personnel stationed throughout our community. Where Barranca Mesa is presently located, this was a bazooka and tank range used by Army personnel with live ammunition to hone their skills and a pistol range was put into action for target practice by armed personnel who protected the workers and families living in Los Alamos as we were in the thick of World War II, and Los Alamos at the time was the most secret city in the world.
We had two very active Boy Scout Troops of which I belonged to Troop 22. As we climbed the ladder in our scouting from Tenderfoot to Eagle we had to earn various merit badges, and one was marksmanship. At the age of 12 we used armed .22 rifles for target practice and testing in hopes of earning our merit badge. During hunting season it was not uncommon to walk into the Rio Grande Cafe in Espanola and see hunters wearing a gun in holster. No one complained or wrote their Congressman. As youngsters many would get a .22 rifle for Christmas, or a Red Ryder BB Gun.
We had parental oversight 24/7/365 that helped shape our responsibilities and build on a foundation that would take us into adulthood. At NO time during this adolecence phase did anyone go off half cocked and shoot up Central School where grades 1-12 were all co-located under one roof. As the first elementary schools came into operation, Mesa, and Canyon, no one carried an armed weapon into a classroom. When we opened our first high school, which had the sixth, seventh and eighth grades as well, no one ever opened fire on the students. In fact I recall one student who was into Cowboys who actually wore two play cap guns with a fancy holster to his classes. We were all into GI Joe with all the paraphenalia such as .45 cap pistols, cap rifles, and all the garb we viewed our Army personnel wearing in the newsreels at Theatre No. 2.
We had strict law and order in our community that no one questioned. We had stay-at-home mother’s, God Bless them, who were always at home when classes were over. We had obiedient children because they knew that if we went off course, we had Mom and Dad to face or strict teachers who kept us in line during our classes with full parental support. We also began each day in our classrooms reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance.
No matter how you wish to weave this gun control issue, it all begins at home.