By D.A. Nguyen
Growing up the child of parents who relocated to this glorious country from Vietnam, life as a second generation immigrant was a lesson in learning cultural differences, acceptance, and being accepted. My family, like many that came to America, started off as outcasts within our own community. We struggled to find neighbors that understood why we didn’t put out candy on Halloween night, friends that wouldn’t hate us for not knowing to bring gifts to a baby shower, and peers that believed in the same family values we hold so dear. After a few years, we learned of these new customs and were able to establish long lasting friendships and niche within our community. My parents had trusted friends from work, temple, and my siblings and I found friends through school and extracurricular activities. Whenever there was a problem . . .
we were able to count on each other for support and ways to solve it. We protected one another from disappointment, heartache, and anything else that would get in the way of us achieving our American dream. A tight knit community was our way of ensuring that we survived and thrived in this new land of opportunity.
As I got older I learned to appreciate the gossip that spread within our community. I also realized that those same people that gossiped the most also looked out for us the best. They always knew whose son was playing what sport and which teenage girl was staying out past curfew. They looked out for us and protected us every step of the way.
When I went off to college, there was less of that community around. I felt like my parents when they first stepped foot onto this foreign land. I immersed myself in making friends and establishing my own community in college. But I found that it was more difficult than I thought. Friends graduated and left. Classmates moved away and got married. I was alone once again, and felt unsafe without the comforts of friends and family.
After a few years, I too found a wonderful woman and got married. We decided to stay in the town of which we both went to college. It was a town we were familiar with and felt the most sense of security within this community. I had made new friends and found my sense of community once again.
But crime had been getting worse in our town. There were home invasions every week. People were getting robbed at gunpoint as they went out for a night on the town. The judicial system in our town did little to keep us safe. Criminals were let out on parole and/or probation instead of being incarcerated. We found ourselves trapped in our homes as we were afraid to go out after sunset, for fear of being victimized.
In order to feel less unsafe, I decided to travel with a baseball bat in my vehicle. I enjoyed going to the batting cages and played little league growing up and it seemed natural to keep it in my car to protect myself while travelling. One evening after getting off work late, I sat at a red light oblivious to my surroundings listening to the radio. A man opened my car door and shoved a knife in my face and demanded my wallet. I looked for the bat, but it was in the back seat and I couldn’t reach for it fast enough.
My only reaction was to step on the gas and take off. Fortunately it worked and I was able to escape unharmed. But I thought to myself as I drove home, what would happen if I wasn’t able to floor it and make my escape? Worse, what would happen if I was followed home by multiple people with the intention to do me and my wife harm? Take away everything I had worked so hard for? If we were victimized, the only defense we had was to call 911. By the time they arrived, we would likely be dead. I couldn’t take that chance any longer. Nobody else would keep me safe except for myself. The police were too busy to look out for us. They had their own priorities.
No longer wanting to feel like a victim, I saved my money up for a permit and a handgun. Meanwhile, until I had enough money for a gun, I decided to go to the range and find out which gun would best suit my needs. I rented several and practiced until I could no longer afford to for that weekend. I also took a gun safety course as well. I sought out the advice of many of my co-workers and friends that were gun people. I asked every single question I could think of. Sometimes I knew that I was bugging them, but I had to know the answers.
The day came when my carry permit came in the mail, I had enough money saved up, and the local gun shop was having a cost sale. I decided on a fine American-made gun with reliability and a name that was trusted amongst gun owners. I bought a Ruger and was supremely happy. The sense of safety and security felt familiar to me once again. That day I took my new gun and my wife to the range.
With that gun in my hand and my ever-growing knowledge and training, I no longer was afraid to go out for a meal with the wife. We could go to the movies after dark and were not worried about being mugged on the way back to the car. Most importantly I no longer feared being a victim. Being unarmed and a target was no longer as much of a concern. I no longer had to live my life avoiding certain activities at certain times of the day.
Now I was free. Free to do what I wanted, to go where I wanted, to be secure when and where I was. I accepted that the only way to be safe was to provide my own safety measures. I was now free to be an American and to live out my American dream.