By Lucas McCain
Not long ago I had a conversation with someone that is radically opposed to firearms. When my presentation of actual facts, naming of my credible sources, and comparisons to airbags, fire extinguishers, and handguns as all being smart precautionary tools became too much for them, they blurted out something along the lines of “I don’t know anybody who has ever used a gun to defend themselves or ever needed to use one!” My reply was simply, “Well, now you do.” And I left it at that. They were practically frothing at this point, so I just walked away . . .
I’ve seen similar comments online recently, so I thought I would share four stories. Let’s start with the most recent of the four, which happened in my neighborhood, maybe 2½ blocks from me, about five years ago as of this writing.
A woman had just stepped out of her shower when she heard her doorbell ring. She wasn’t expecting anyone, so she began to towel off, thinking it was probably kids trying to sell something for a fundraiser or similar. But then the ringing was repeated rapidly, and she thought maybe a neighbor was having an emergency so she reached for her robe. Before she hit the top of her stairs she heard the front door being kicked. At that point she realized what was happening: someone was trying to break in.
She ran to her bedroom to get her phone when she heard glass break. She had a steel door in a steel frame, and when the guy could not kick it down, he grabbed a rock about the size of a small cantaloupe from the landscaping in front of her house and smashed the sidelight next to the door. As she reached the top of the stairs she saw his arm reaching through the broken glass, trying to unlock the deadbolt.
She dropped the phone and grabbed a heavy brass lamp from the table in the entryway and began to pound on his arm, hand and wrist. He tried to grab her or the lamp and somehow knocked it out of her hand. As soon as it hit the floor he went for the deadbolt again, but she grabbed his arm, twisting for all she was worth. This caused him to cut his arm on the broken glass and he withdrew. Then she picked up the dropped phone and called 911.
While she was describing what had happened to the 911 operator she heard him trying to open her back door. She ran into the kitchen and saw him pick up a chair from her deck and raise it to smash the mostly-glass back door. She screamed “I have my gun now and I will shoot you dead!” at the top of her lungs, and the guy dropped the chair and ran. Somehow she had managed to disconnect the 911 operator, so she dialed again and got the cops coming her way.
Here’s the plot twist: she didn’t own a gun. Just the verbal threat of a gun, however, stopped this particular bad guy. When asked by one of the cops what she would have done had the bad guy called her bluff, she said she would have run out the front door and looked for help. He suggested she should actually buy a handgun, take some classes, and any time she was not home keep it locked in a well-hidden and well-secured gun safe so it wouldn’t be stolen.
This happened in a neighborhood where homes start at a quarter of a million dollars and go up from there – not some sketchy, “transitional” part of town. The epilogue is that she took the cop’s advice, but ultimately she and her family moved because she never felt safe there again, even though she had a gun and knew how to use it.
Story #2: We go back many years, now, to when I was 10 or 11. I was raised with guns, taught to shoot when I was 10, and we had loaded guns in the house, because my Dad believed “You just don’t know what might happen.” Dad was uncompromising on safety rules and responsibility, and consequences were severe, so we never had any firearm “accidents” in our home. Ever.
On this particular summer day, my parents and I were in the kitchen. It was supper time; I was setting the table and my Mom had just put a roast on the table for my Dad to carve. Our back door was open, so we could enjoy the breeze coming through the screen door, and we heard a neighbor shouting as he approached. I’ll call him “Smith” for the purposes of the story.
Smith was shouting obscenities aimed at my Dad, telling him to “get out here and fight like a man.” I honestly don’t recall what set Smith off – it could have been anything. He once punched another neighbor for mowing his lawn too often. He was a drunk and a wife abuser with a short fuse, and was notorious for starting bar fights. He often bragged about once breaking a guy’s back in a fight.
In any event, he came storming towards the screen door and my Mom reached over and locked it. He pounded at the door, telling my father he was going to turn him into “a complete cripple instead of the half-crippled stumblebum you are now.” My Dad had a degenerative nerve disease that made walking very difficult for him, and he had to use two canes to walk any more than a few steps.
Smith was 20 years younger and in good health, but that did not make my Dad hesitate one second. Dad walked right up to the screen door, calmly telling Smith to go home, sober up, and they would talk about this later. Smith kept pounding on the door, telling my Dad to come out or he was going to break the door down and drag him out. In a matter of seconds his anger had escalated to the point that my Dad told us to go into the other room. Ever the pragmatist, he said to my Mom, “Take the roast with you. It wasn’t cheap, and I won’t eat it with his blood all over it.” She grabbed the platter with one hand, me with the other, and we went into the next room.
About that time Dad’s right hand went into his right hip pocket – that’s where he kept his little Colt semi-auto – and came out again, remaining behind his hip. I don’t know if Smith caught a glimpse of the Colt or not, but he screamed, “What’s in your hand? Are you a coward? You got a gun?” Dad extended his left hand, showing it was empty. Smith shouted “Show me the other one!” and Dad replied “If you want to see what’s in that hand you will have to make good on your threat to break down my door and assault me in my own kitchen,” and stepped back as if to give Smith room to crash through.
Then he told the guy to get off of our property or follow through on his threat because our dinner was getting cold. Without taking his eyes off Smith he told my Mom to get ready to call the police and tell them there is a dead guy in our kitchen. Smith left at that point, spouting a stream of threats and obscenities as he went. When my Mom asked if we should call the cops, Dad said “No, the guy has a wife and three kids counting on him; he just needs to sober up. Is the roast cold?”
We finished the meal as if the incident had never happened. Within the next year we found out Smith was abusing his wife, and around that same time he lost one of the bar fights he had started and was severely injured. He lost his house and job, god divorced, yada, yada. My Dad and I had several conversations about the incident, all very educational for me, but that’s another story for another time.
Story #3: This happened to me when I was 14. Same house, but what had been a “working class” neighborhood was now a “transitional” neighborhood. I think that term was how our local officials described the parts of town that were gradually becoming ghettos. We weren’t there yet, but that was the direction we were headed.
Anyway, a friend and I were fixing his bike in my driveway when we were attacked by four neighborhood thugs for some imagined offense. They were older, bigger, all had been in and out of jail several times, and were well known in the area. Almost immediately after jumping us, the four began to focus on my friend. They had him on the ground, curled into a fetal position, and were kicking and stomping on him, shouting that they were going to kill him. I ran into the house and grabbed a .410 shotgun my dad kept loaded and hidden near the front door. I ran back out, shouted, and when they all looked up and saw the gun, they ran.
My friend staggered up and ran home, but one of the attackers decided to come back and go after me as soon as I turned and went back into the house. He was about to come through the door when I heard him. Luckily, the .410 was still in my hands. I managed to turn, raise the gun, and pull the hammer back again by the time he had taken his first step into the entryway.
I was a scrawny little 14-year-old and he was a big, muscular 18-year-old with years of street fighting under his belt. He could have, very literally, beaten me to death with his bare hands and I would not have been able to stop him. Having the shotgun changed the dynamic.
Once he saw the barrel, up close and personal, as the saying goes, he stopped moving. I don’t recall the exact exchange of words, but the gist of it was him telling me he didn’t think I’d pull the trigger and me disagreeing. He backed out the door saying he and his thug pals would “get me” someday, and then he ran off in the direction the others had gone. The police were never called, although we did end up filing a report through a cop that was a friend of the family. (Times were very different.) I don’t think arrests were made regarding this incident, but I do know that none of the four thugs ever came near me again, and they all eventually ended up in jail for other crimes.
Story #4 takes place in the same house, years after I had moved out and married. The neighborhood had really “transitioned” by then and my parents told me cops came to some house or another on their block five or six times every week. I begged them to sell the place and move somewhere safe, but Dad said he wasn’t leaving until he left in a pine box. By that time he was in a wheelchair and he and Mom were in their late 60’s.
One evening my Mom went out onto their screened-in front porch to water some plants when one of the neighborhood drug dealers came charging into the yard. He was screaming something about how he knew my Mom had called the cops on him and she was about to pay. She foolishly stepped right up to the half-wall of the porch, next to where he was now standing, and said she had not called the cops but would then if he didn’t leave.
He shouted that she wouldn’t have the chance because he was going to “climb up there” and beat her “brains out,” and began pounding on the screen and trying to climb up the outside of the porch. There was a pair of French doors that opened onto this screened-in portion of the porch from the living room where my Dad was watching TV. He heard the shouting, rolled up to the French doors and yelled for my Mom to move so he would have a clear shot. She got out of the way and my Dad pointed the .38 he kept in his wheelchair right at the guy. He scrambled away and ran into the house next door. Mom came in, they called the cops, and the guy ended up in jail.
Any one of these situations could have ended with the criminal committing murder or aggravated assault, had there not been the equalizing presence of a firearm (or the perceived presence in the case of the first story). I have told very, very few people about any of these instances. I know of many other similar tales told to me by people who trust me to keep them to myself.
The overwhelming majority of the people who have had to defend themselves with a gun don’t really talk about it to casual acquaintances. So there is a good chance that many anti-firearms people actually do know someone who has defended himself with a gun; they just don’t realize it. And regardless of how they feel about defensive gun use, it’s not their right to decide who gets to have the potential to save themselves or a loved one by using a gun and who doesn’t. That decision is up to each individual to make for themselves. I choose to have my guns because I know from personal experience what could happen without them.