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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.

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  1. Glad to hear T is well again, and forgiving. Your historical journey reminded me of the things I had nearly forgotten, but never should have. Thank you.

  2. again, i know you pulled the trigger and that must have been terrible, but T’s father bears most of the burden of the blame. he left two teen age boys unsupervised with loaded handguns.
    when you met with T did the question of whether or not he owned guns come up. did you find out if his family had turned their backs on guns?

    • Hey jwm, it was a different time in the seventies. After all that transpired, lets leave that ghost alone shall we? T’s Pop was and is today a great man and a good father. At the end of the day, I knew to check and had been taught to check. I didn’t check. The buck in this case stops with me.

      • bill, i remember the 60’s, 70’s and even a little of the 50’s. believe me when i agree with you it was a different time. hell, compared to america today it was a foreign country.
        but i think you carried a huge burden of guilt that was only partly yours to carry.

    • I don’t think leaving the boys alone with firearms was the problem, not instructing them on firearms safety was.

      For som perspective, I’ve owned a handgun since I was 18, which is legal in CO, me and my friends never shot each other. We open carried, and this was in a suburban area, again we never shot anybody, because we respected the gun as a tool, and now we have jobs where firearms are just one tool in our tool box.

  3. This has been a really good story. It is interesting to see the journey Bill has gone through. I don’t think I have ever hated guns, I have always enjoyed them in some form or another. I guess with regard to US gun laws I never paid much attention to it, until I made the decision that I wanted the option of armed self defense.

    For me living through and almost loosing my first wife and mother in law to two terrorist bombings in Israel sort of drove home, and reinforced my belief in armed self defense.

    I have found two separate arguments regarding gun control. One is “sensible gun control”, and the other is no guns no way, mass confiscations. Both however maintain a common thread of ignorance.

    One is the fixation on the gun itself, as Bill has mentioned. One can gain insight into a crime by understanding ballistics and other facets, but this almost delirious fixation on what type of gun, and how many bullets it has does not provide any true answers about the crime. It also detracts from the victims which really should be the focus here.

    They also seem to focus their attentions on objects which really have no effect on the real problem of crime and violence. Take our beloved sporting rifles for example. Regardless of personal emotions, or ideals like no one needs a semi automatic rifle, lets look at facts. Long guns in general, this includes shotguns, bolt action hunting rifles, and yes even our AR or AK sporting rifles are used in less than 7% of all crimes involving a gun. Sporting rifles despite being the most popular platform for a rifle in the US today probably accounts for less than 1% of those related crimes.

    So if we willing hand over our AR’s and AK’s tomorrow, will it solve the real problem of violence and crime. Of course it won’t, and no one can dispute that. There is a lot of emotion and fear in an anti debate. Some simply think that putting their faith in government to protect them is all they need. Some are so scared of guns that if they saw one they would probably run the other direction screeching in fear and terror. If we forced each anti to go and take a gun course, and learn to shoot, I bet not all of them would fear guns anymore, sure some of them might not like it, but at least then they would have some small tad of education on the subject they feel so strongly about.

    Leland Yee for instance has an almost perverse abhorrence to any black scary gun. I honestly don’t even think he has ever even fired an gun, and doesn’t know a whole lot about them. To that affect most of the legislature in California is gun ignorant, and voting out of fear.

  4. Bill and I served our country at almost the exact same time and period, imagine that.
    Lately people are asking me about gun ownership in general and specifically what it takes to carry. No one denies times are tough and the street is getting tougher.

  5. Thank you for sharing that story.

    I too am a reformed anti-gunner.I wrote my fair share of college term papers in southern Illinois supporting gun control. Family problems forced my return to Chicago before graduation. The year was 2008, and the economic sh-t had just hit the fan.Ivy league graduates were slinging mochas at Starbucks, and they were the lucky ones. For me the legal employment options were a lifetime in retail or a more fulfilling career with Uncle Sam.

    After choosing the latter and leaving my first post in Mississippi, I went shooting with my section leader the very day I PCS’ed in. Great times were had and my eyes were opened to the world of legal gun ownership-note that up until basic training I never so much as held a real firearm.Being raised in Chicago, IL , the only time I saw a gun was when Boss Daley had ’em on a table at the occasional TV press conference. The seed was planted, but I had my mind on other things as a young Airman.

    Thus one weekend I was partying at a trailer with some new military friends, at a place so far in the sticks I could see the stars from the front door. Music’s blasting, people are drunkenly dancing, and its just another Saturday morning when a girl stumbles in with a bloody face.Guess she shoulda laid off the vodka shots.


    Thats as much as the owner got out before sheer pandemonium broke out. Everyone split like it was the Fast and Furious film set, leaving me standing at the door with a lady Airman who took the news somewhat worse than I did.

    I go out the screen door, girl in tow, when I come around to the back and see a crowd of people between us and her SUV-and theres a good 10 feet of clearing between the car and where we’re standing. Shit.

    As the girl’s trembling and laughing in fright, im thinking just what the f**k am I gonna do if that nutjob comes around the corner. I didn’t even have a pocket knife. I knew with a certainty if that shooter came around the bend, I was a goner and so was she. Dial 911? Assuming my cell phone even got a clear signal this far away from civilization, just what was LE going to do to keep me alive? There was nothing for miles around, and even if the Sheriff had a helicopter i’d be a dead man before he got there.What stuck out to me was the fact that I was utterly helpless to prevent my own demise if the flag flew. That’s a feeling I don’t wish on my worst enemy.

    That Monday morning I went to the BX and bought a Walther P22 handgun.It was all I could afford on that short of a notice, and ill never forget the snide imbecile next to me at the counter who said “you’re buying a .22 for self defense? That’s dumb, at least get a .380”. Well moron, I nearly died last weekend and my broke E-2 self needs money left over for practice ammo. Not the best impression I got of gun owners, but even if everyone who owned a gun was a jackwagon I was never going to be caught defenseless again. Thus began my journey into the world of concealed carry, and not but 2 years after that weekend I was in a DGU. I felt a lot of emotions during Round 2 – but helpless wasn’t one of them.

  6. Bill Frady,

    Thanks again for sharing. I would challenge anti-gunners to refute your experiences with their own writings, but I imagine that we would only endure more of the emotional and irrational screed that has become the status quo for the “common sense gun control” crowd. I’ve met many people who view self defense as a totally foreign concept, and know that they will never wake up in that regard. Regardless, it is heartening to see renewed interest in 1st and 2A freedoms, and I sincerely appreciate your efforts to that effect.

  7. Thanks for the part 2. I can see why you’d want to own and carry a gun. But, when you think about it, your conversion is very much like the person who turns to gun control after a tragedy, you know the ones you and your friends never tire of ridiculing?

    In your place, I’d have moved to a better neighborhood, which I’ll bet you already have, and I’d try to stop worrying about imaginary things that could happen. If a person takes proper precautions, the likelihood of their needing a gun to save the day is less than the chance that a gun mishap will occur at some point.

    That makes it a bad decision.

    • ask the petit family of conn. if living without a gun was a wise choice. except that aside from mr. petit there’s no more petit family.
      follow mikeybmumblers advice if you wish. if you do you give your fate over to the mercy of whoever decides to visit you in your nice neighborhood. remember that we’re a mobile society.

      • Guns do more harm than good. For every dramatic story like the Petit’s, there are 100 cases of gun mishaps, some as tragic and dramatic.

        But you don’t care about that. You have your mind made up and no amount of logic or thinking or reason can change it. And when questioned about it you get nasty.

        • Right back atcha.

          And Mike you really do need to start thinking about backing-up your claims with facts and evidence. If you can prove that there are more gun mishaps than Defensive Gun Uses (many of which are never reported), I will publish that information. If you rely on “common sense” to make your point you lose. Again. Still.

        • ” If you can prove that there are more gun mishaps than Defensive Gun Uses (many of which are never reported),”

          Now, wait a minute. By that, do you mean DGUs are many times not reported but all gun mishaps are?

          Or did you mean,

          ” If you can prove that there are more gun mishaps (many of which are never reported) than Defensive Gun Uses (many of which are never reported),”

          You never stop spinning it, so you?

        • Point taken. But . . .

          Dude, YOU choose. Any stat comparo you like. JUST USE FACTS. See how that works for you.

        • and you keep missing the point, mikeybmumblers. because person a is unable to defend themselves with a firearm does not mean person b should be denied the right to try.
          you’ve questioned my intellect more than once. what does it say about your intellect when you keep espousing a system that does not work, will not be tried in this country and by your own “common sense”standards of proof is a failure before it launches?

      • the 68 gca, the awb, and thousands of pages of laws restricting guns and their owners and you say gun control hasn’t been tried yet? i see that your”logic and common sense” isn’t.

    • You dont know when to stop do you Mike? Bill and his friends dont ridicule people who want to carry a gun for protection so dont presume things you know nothing about. I dont believe anyone should carry a gun who has not been properly trained, that is why we have classes here! FYI, people get shot in affluent neighborhoods too. I live in such a neighborhood and if someone tries to hurt me or my family I will shot them. Taking proper precautions does not stop crime.

      • Mike my philosophy has always been to live and let live. When I was of a not wishing to own a gun mindset, I never thought of imposing that on anyone else. There are a great many things left out of parts one and two, but suffice to say if you dont wish to carry or own a weapon, that is your individual right. However your rights pertain to you and you alone as to who whom they should be imposed on, and while I respect, and would defend to say whatever you want, wherever you want, you are an anti gunner of a different breed. You would see me stripped of my right to own, to carry, to defend. I respect LEO’s immensely, but one day I may not have the luxury of time to wait on them. I hope not, but preparation is key and if I have to defend myself I will. But hey, by all means keep linking to to this great TTAG action.

        • Bill, It’s a damn shame that you would be disqualified under the strict gun control system that I would like to see someday, but let me ask you this. Of all the people who made that kind of mistake you made with a gun, do you think your story is typical? Do you think most of them grew up to be responsible and intelligent gun owners who could be trusted to never repeat their youthful mistake?

          I don’t. In most of the cases drugs and/or alcohol was involved, in some cases extreme stupidity or apathy was operative. Your case is an exception. If we disqualified all you negligent guys after one mistake, it would be a shame for you, but we’d be much better off.

      • The sad reality is you, Kelly, make your family less safe by having a gun. Unless you live in a bad neighborhood or service ATM machines at night, your chances of experiencing random violence are less than your chances of having a gun mishap one day. That’s what I call a bad decision based on fear an paranoia.

        • Someone in a similar conversation a while back put the decision to have guns for self-defense in an interesting light. Everyone agreed on the same evidence, but the people in the gun forum couldn’t understand why this one lady stuck to her guns (so to speak) on not owning guns. To them her resistance was crazy, and to her their firearms looked like paranoia.

          The likelihood of anyone having to use a gun to save their own life is really very low. We can probably all agree on that. But the way you *think* about those odds makes all the difference.

          For a lot of people it’s perfectly reasonable to say that if only 1 in every 2 million people will be murdered (just for instance; I don’t know the actual number), they’ll continue trusting the millions of people who aren’t murderers rather than worry about that one bad apple. The odds are hugely in your favor, after all.

          The other viewpoint is that even if rare, these things do happen. And the stakes are the highest possible: your life. Even if the odds are highly in your favor, if you gamble and lose then you lose permanently. So the people who see the situation from this side have guns not just because they’re paranoid delusionals, but because they want to be able to do something about it if probability decrees that they’re one of the minority who wind up in the target zone.

          This website is full of people who tend to think not in optimistic terms of how unlikely it is to lose your life to violence, but in terms of what there is to lose if violence finds them. They also tend to be people who think not in terms of what there is to lose from a potential firearms accident, but in terms of how their own individual behavior can mitigate the risk for themselves and everyone else.

          They also tend to be people who believe that the choice to own and carry firearms is an individual choice — a choice we all have the inalienable right to make.

          The facts are what they are, but it is our response to them that makes them meaningful. It’s a conundrum, but it really is possible for two people to reach opposite — and equally valid — conclusions from the very same evidence.

          So maybe rather than bashing each other for our choices and trying constantly to prohibit this and that, we could try to just live and let live. (Easier said than done, I know…)

        • @Ing
          A year late but hey what the heck.

          I think gun owners and those who support legal carry are in fact the greatest optimists of all. We see enough good in our fellow man to trust them with the literal power of life and death at their immediate disposal. That is seeing a lot of good in a stranger and putting a lot of trust in them. Sounds pretty optimistic to me.

    • TROLL! I hope you never need a weapon and dont have one, and if you ever do I hope you survive to change your mind.

    • By that rationale, if you drive safe, you’ll never need seat belts or airbags. Why worry about the rare occurrence of a potential accident? You know why you wear a seat belt? Why get homeowners insurance? Because s*^# happens and you can’t stop some idiot from doing something that might hurt you and you can’t predict or foresee everything. Accidents happen due to negligence, houses catch on fire, life happens. You take the precautions you can take because some things are so important, you’d be devastated if they were taken away from you.

  8. All you pro gun and anti gun folks out there, I date back to the early FIFTIES! My first gun, a Colt Huntsman .22 semi auto bought at age 14 at a local hardware store, is still one of my prized possessions. I learned to shoot with that gun, associating with people older than me, some of whom were WW II veterans. It did me well for when I went into the US Army late in the 50’s, and had more fun on the shooting range, even helped some of the guys who had never seen much less fired a gun. I even was naive enough to not realize there was such a thing as an anti-gun person. After the JFK assassination however, they began to crawl out of the woodwork and all that led to the passage of GCA 68. I was well established in my career by then, mostly with folks who liked guns and hunting or were indifferent, but NO anti gun people then did I know. I could not understand how it was that in the USA our politicians and the Congress could even THINK about restricting or banning guns, or make us justify wanting to buy one. Believe me, Mikeyb, my eyes were OPENED. Ever since that time there have been numerous events and flare-ups in the gun control landscape, and until concealed carry really got started it seemed like gun rights were going into the toilet. I became a CCW holder at the first opportunity, as did my wife, who is not a rabid gun person but still understands it all. Over the years I have joined with other gun people at gun shows and gun clubs who have become more active and even ANGRY about the attempts to deny EVERYBODY, not just pro gun people, their self defense rights. Those who don’t like guns, don’t want to have one (or many) should not and cannot force their opinions and misguided efforts on the rest of us. I am hoping for people like Mikeyb to have an epiphany some day, but not holding my breath.

  9. Hi Mike, your comment on your having an epiphany on gun ownership interested me.
    Your personal choice to not own a firearm sounds logical if you’ve had a bad experience.
    There is a portion of the gun ownership argument that isn’t being addressed here.
    I believe the 2cnd Amendment is there for one real purpose, toe give the People the opportunity to defend themselves against a government that has grown abusive to its’
    citizenry. I own firearms, i don’t hunt, and i don’t carry one for self defense . but i do believe responsible citizens should keep a rifle, securely kept, against the day if and when they are needed for just such a time.

  10. Over the last 50 years progressives have successfully indoctrinated a large number of people into fearing an inanimate object, a tool. Fear is emotional, logic does not apply.

    I spoke with a young, single mother. She was afraid because she lived in an apartment in a bad neighborhood because she couldn’t afford something better. I suggested she get a gun for self defense. She said she could not possibly shoot someone. I asked if she had thought about what an intruder might do to her and her small daughter and she said yes. She didn’t know what she would do but was still adamant she would not have a gun.

    Logic does not apply.

    • Did you ask her why she was adamant about not getting a gun?

      Just off the top of my head I can think of a number of logical reasons why she would be still anti-gun:
      – Perhaps she had no way to safely store it (or couldnt afford to) and feared her child might get a hold of it.
      – Perhaps she feared someone might get the jump on her and use her own weapon against her.
      – Perhaps she felt the consequences of a physical attack would be less severe than the consequences of litigation following the shooting.
      – Perhaps she just couldnt mentally bring herself to shoot someone.

    • Addendum: I missed the part where you stated she claimed that she couldnt possibly shoot someone. My apologies (it happens when I’ve been up for +48 hours, I really should get some rest).

      Still, I see her point. If she knows herself well enough to know she couldnt bring herself to pull the trigger, then I’d agree that she shouldnt have a gun. The attacker could rush her grab it and use it against her and her daughter.
      Sometimes compliance is a person’s only option. It sucks, but that’s life.


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