http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/15193409.htm John Grogan | Time to unload on gun stupidity By John Grogan Inquirer Columnist The funeral, all these years later, sticks with me. There had been an accident involving two boys and a loaded handgun, and I had arrived early for the service. Outside, the undertaker paced, waiting for the family to arrive, and a priest smoked a cigarette, ready to pray. Inside, I stood alone beside a small casket holding an 8-year-old boy, shot through the forehead by his best friend. The details of the death should have been shocking, but they were numbingly familiar: yet another gun brought into a home for protection, only to be found by curious children. The boy's name was Ronnie Diaz, and I stood over his simple pine box, thinking it was a school day and he should be in class, learning about rain forests and fractions. The boy's teachers should have been in school, too, believing in the future. But here they were, arriving red-eyed to say goodbye. That funeral was in Florida in 1996, but I have been thinking about it a lot these past couple of weeks as history repeated itself yet again, this time 30 miles east of Pittsburgh at the home of a popular state legislator. Sen. Bob Regola (R., Westmoreland) was in Harrisburg with his family July 21 receiving the Legislator of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Sheriff's Association. A boy and a gun He had left a key to the house with a 14-year-old neighbor boy who was pet-sitting. According to police, the boy found Regola's unsecured 9mm pistol. The boy's body was found the next morning in a woods behind the house, a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun beside him. Investigators still have not determined whether the death was an accident, suicide or homicide, a state police spokesman said yesterday. District Attorney John Peck has said Regola will not likely face criminal charges. This much is certain: Another child found another gun. And the drumbeat of senseless loss goes on, resonating across the American landscape. Regola, a member of the National Rifle Association, surely is asking himself painful questions in the aftermath of the death. What if he had kept the gun in a locked case? What if he had secured it with a trigger lock? What if he had removed it from the house for the weekend, knowing an unsupervised teenager would be there? What if the father of three simply had decided a home with children is no place for lethal weapons? Perhaps Louis A.J. Farrell would be alive today instead of a statistic. Is the right to bear arms really worth this price? The price of our children's blood? Blood on the streets of North Philadelphia? Blood in the woods behind the home of a respected member of the legislature? Someone tell me, please, what right are we protecting? The right to bear unbearable grief? What freedom? The freedom to place ourselves and our loved ones in needless peril? A national embarrassment When it comes to controlling guns, Pennsylvania is a national embarrassment. Our legislature proudly refuses to place even the most superficial of restraints on gun buyers and owners. After a suicidal man bought a shotgun at a Horsham Wal-Mart in 2003 and shot up his former workplace before killing himself, I tried an experiment. I walked into a Bucks County Wal-Mart and tried to buy a shotgun. By answering a few rudimentary questions and submitting to an instant background check, I had my gun - or would have had I agreed to pay. The entire process had taken 27 minutes. No required safety courses, no cooling-off periods. No trigger locks. Not even a limit on how many guns one person can buy in a month. Insanity. I know I will hear from the gun nuts and firepower freaks, and they will scream the same old bellicose rant. I'm tired of hearing it. I'm tired of standing over coffins. Of seeing schoolchildren caught in the crossfire and little boys killing playmates. Of teenage pet-sitters found with bullet holes in their heads. This state has a problem its political leaders are happy to ignore. Now, that problem has come home to roost, right at the doorstep of a gun-supporting lawmaker. How many more wake-up calls will it take?