It was a balmy, sunny, summer day, and I stood in front of an outdoor pavilion, savoring a freshly roasted garlic treat. A soulful saxophone riff coming from local blues-band artist Tommy Castro floated past me, then seemed to echo back from the Gabilan Mountains.

That was Gilroy’s Garlic Festival, July 2001. Families, friends, locals, and visitors flocking from afar. Living in nearby Hollister at the time, I was enjoying this splendid, celebratory occasion. Life was good. California. A place where your dreams can come true.

Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 2019. The same friendly, happy, joyous gatherings of people loving life, and each other. A band named Tinman begins closing out the festival with their musical encore. Then dreams become nightmares.

Since the Gilroy tragedy, two more mass shootings in America. El Paso. Dayton. All with semi-automatic instruments of death. Presidential primary candidate Beto O’Rourke makes an emotional plea, after his hometown of El Paso was targeted by the gunman, “Keep that ... on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities.”

Try telling that to the NRA, or to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or to our NRA-darling state representative, or to my local newspaper editor here in heartland Minnesota after he rejects my Reader Opinion letter proposing gun common sense for universal background checks, because, he says, you “essentially recycled your past opinion", and you should “write something original for consideration for publication.”

Dear Editor: If it takes more than once to get it right, to get it right and save lives every single, damned week in America, then get it right.

It’s about human decency. It’s about life -- for loved ones, and for ourselves.

“This is no way to live. We can change this. We can save lives” -- Gabby Giffords, Aug. 4, 2019, Giffords PAC.

Steven Olson

Brainerd