After my unfortunate role as the teenage trigger man in a negligent discharge that almost claimed the life of my friend, I was forced to deal with what happened alone. Not because my parents didn’t care, but simply because I internalized what happened. In 1976, there was no Internet. Cable TV was in its infancy. I had never heard of Jeff Cooper. I was in a new city with no friends. There was only me and I blamed the gun, as well as myself . . .
After all, if there hadn’t been a gun I wouldn’t have shot my friend. And I wouldn’t have felt so guilty and ashamed. Ipso facto.
My first step on my journey towards becoming a gun rights advocate happened in October 1983.
Terrorists bombed the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. Suicide bombers detonated two enormous truck bombs claiming the lives of 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and three Army soldiers. The blast injured sixty Americans, some of them horrifically.
Like all anti-gunners, I believed it was OK for the military to train with and use firearms. I was mystified as to why the guards at those barracks were carrying weapons but no ammo. A warning flag dropped inside my mind. I ignored it.
Whatever the reason, I believed war was on the horizon. With the draft still a relatively fresh memory, I decided to enlist. I figured that by volunteering, I would have a little input as to what I would do while working for Uncle Sam.
Fast forward to April of 1986. The US had just bombed Libya We who were stationed in Europe were put on alert. It was never proven, but the bombing seemed to lead to some retaliatory incidents for those of us who lived off post. About a week later, I experienced my first DGU (Defensive Gun Use). But I didn’t play the part of defender.
Parking my car—with it’s US Army Europe tags—outside of our apartment was like a neon sign advertising that a soldier lived there. Three Libyan males tried to gain entry to our apartment. They were met by my landlady, the jovial and maternal Frau Wagner. And her trusty Walther PP Super.
The visitors decided to turn tail. Having been on duty for the previous 24 hours, I slept through the entire encounter. While I was thankful Frau Wagner had a gun to defend my life and the lives of my comrades, I still didn’t feel the need to arm myself. Not yet anyway.
My Road to Damascus began in February 1985, when I learned about the Long Island Railroad shooting.
A man named Colin Ferguson boarded a commuter train and opened fire on unsuspecting passengers. Ferguson murdered six people and wounded nineteen.
During the media hysteria that followed, the press put Ferguson’s Ruger P89 front and center. Like so many spree killers, Ferguson purchased the gun legally (including a 15-day waiting period). He had high-capacity magazines (15 rounds)! He carried 160 rounds of ammo!
But it wasn’t the gun. After watching Ferguson defend himself in court, I knew the shooter was insane. I kept picturing myself on that train. Would I have been as brave as Michael O’Connor, Kevin Blum and Mark McEntee, the men who tackled Ferguson and stopped the bloodshed?
I asked myself a simple question: why didn’t anyone shoot back? Statistically someone should have been armed. Relying on courageous disarmed citizens to stop the bloodshed during a break in the slaughter didn’t strike me as “common sense.”
I knew New York gun control laws—laws that I had supported— had left Ferguson’s victims virtually, practically defenseless. They were lambs to the slaughter. And all the media could seem to talk about was the gun.
After I was honorably discharged from the military in July, 1990, I went to work in the delivery business. Milk, beer, bread, early morning hours. I worked alone.
In 1993, a criminal abducted one of my customers from a convenience store.She endured a horrific two-day sexual assault. She was taken five minutes after I’d left.
I wished I’d been there to help her. But what could I have done? Anything I could have.
I felt the same guilt I’d felt when I’d shot T decades earlier—only different. In this case I wish I’d have been there to stop a crime. Ready, willing and most importantly able to do so. I didn’t know it at the time but I was heading towards sort of tipping point.
In 1994, my wife and I bought our first house in what turned out to be a neighborhood crack hub. Trouble never knocked on our door but it was all around us. I couldn’t sleep thinking about the possibility of someone mistakenly—or intentionally—invading our house. I couldn’t let my wife suffer the same fate as my customer had endured the year before.
My anti-gun fervor was gone, melted in the crucible of my own self-interest and my desire for other law-abiding Americans to be able to protect themselves from criminals and crazies.
I knew, better than anyone, that guns are dangerous. But I realized that life is dangerous. And some dangers are worse than others.
I bought a Glock 22.
I know most of you believe in keeping gun ownership on the down-low but I let certain people in the neighborhood know that I was legally armed, trained and prepared to defend myself and my family. I’m sure it was a deterrent.
As a conservative talk show host focusing on gun rights, I know that violence can strike anywhere. Closer to home, I’ve received credible death threats. Everyone in my family carries now.
In 2009, I finally hooked up with the boy I’d shot, thanks to the magic of Facebook. T’s forgiven me. We’re still tight to this day. I feel very so fortunate that the ND wasn’t any more damaging than it was.
It’s been a long road becoming the pro-Second Amendment, pro-gun, pro-freedom man I am today, but I finally know the truth about guns. They are a tool that must be respected. Without firearms we, as a people, as individuals, are defenseless. And that’s no place to be.