So when last we left, I had put out a call on facebook for someone to teach me about guns. I knew I had at least a few friends who were gun users but I hadn't expected the strong response I received. The thing that most struck me was that there are a hunk of people who are gun owners, who aren't extremists, who would just like you to learn about their interests. There are a hunk of people who realize that if we stick with our current plan of relying on the most vocal and extreme to dictate the entire discussion about guns, we will wind up with policy that is, at best, *not* of the people- at least not of *most* of the people simply because *most* of the people have no idea what is being discussed. *Most* of the people don't even have the basic vocabulary needed to enter the discussion. Most interestingly, there was general interest among *non* gun owners. I didn't get any of the flames or condemnation I expected but instead, support- or at least curiosity, from all sides. But, that is for the next post. For this one, I thought I would touch on the more personal.
I have offers from 3 friends to come and learn. So far, I've managed to visit with 1. I handled 2 handguns, 2 rifles, and 1 shotgun. I came away fairly certain that if I ever owned a gun, it would be a shotgun, which really wasn't what I was expecting. I came to the conclusion that I felt a shotgun allowed for the absolute least moral ambiguity. You probably could shoot a shotgun by accident (and I'm sure that if I googled, I could find just such an instance) but I suspect the circumstances would be extreme. Shotguns are big and heavy. I struggled to hold this one steady- I can't see a child lifting one up and waving it around with any sort of ease. You can get manual shotguns fairly easily (rather than semi-automatic) which means you have to manually shift a shell into the chamber, every time. This one, at least, wasn't especially easy to load. The pieces were heavy and a little awkward. The trigger is stiff and requires significant pressure to fire. This is a gun that you can only fire with some deliberation- especially if you store it unloaded.
Shotguns also aren't really designed for covert use. While I'm sure you could theoretically use them for covert offense, this one, at least, would not be my first choice. We've all heard of shotgun weddings and I'm sure that they have been (and perhaps still are?) carried off to war. But, my general impression of a shotgun is that they are generally a defensive weapon and a weapon of last resort, at that.
In short, if I were to use a shotgun against another person, it would be in a very upfront manner. There would be solid visual and auditory warning before a shot was fired. It is a weapon that is forthright.
Plus, it does have some multifunctional value. We do get the very occasional bear and somewhat frequent foxes and coyotes. If we do decide to raise chickens, I have heard that rubber bullets can come in handy in such cases. And, it can, after all be used to actually hunt for food should a series of really odd events occur.
The thing is that the only time I have ever wished for a gun, I don't think it would have been of any use.
When Charlie was 4, Megan 2, and Noah less than a year, I had set the children up in the kitchen with their afternoon snack. I went into the next room to retrieve a forgotten yogurt container and heard something odd. When I returned to the room, Charlie asked who the funny man was on our deck.
This is when you get very clever, very quickly.
I asked Charlie if the man was wearing a hat and what it looked like and glanced at the (private, gravel) road to see if there was a work truck. Every once in a while we'll get a meter reader or the like.
He wasn't a meter reader.
Penny (our dog) was napping and hadn't noticed anything amiss.
This is what you think when you realize a strange man is wandering around just outside your home...
Our home was not designed for defense.
Our house has 6 doors and 3 levels. The children were sitting in the middle of a sliding glass door and I had been standing in front of a picture window. 4 of the doors have windows, including 1 slider and 1 mostly window door, with 2 window panels adjacent. The safest location was the master bath simply because I could put 2 locked doors between them and an intruder but the locks are flimsy and the master bath far from childproof and small. We were trapped if he found us. To get to the master bath, we had to pass 3 large windows and go up a flight of stairs. Megan was iffy on stairs, Noah had to be carried and neither could manage to be quiet for any length of time. I couldn't carry a butcher knife, a squirming baby, and hold Megan's hand all at the same time and none of the doors in our house would hold up against a bullet. It would take 5 minutes for the police to arrive. I couldn't see the man.
That put the man at the other end of the house where he couldn't see the carport. It was a sort of long walk around the backside of the house and once he was in the front of the house, the van would no longer be an option for escape but if we were in the van and he was at the front of the house it would relatively simple to run him down or run away.
The door to the carport is adjacent to the kitchen. If the man was going to just pick us off, he would have done it by then. The children had been framed, alone, in the sliding glass door for at least 30 seconds.
I was very willing to use my minivan as a deadly weapon. It offered some protection to the children- metal probably being better than hollow core wood doors. It offered an opportunity for escape. I could transport all 3 children- none of whom would be able to really run and hide effectively on their own.
I told the children we were playing a game and they got into the van quietly and everyone was buckled by the time I counted to 20.
We drove to the police station.
The time from Charlie reporting the man to driving away was well under 5 minutes- probably 2-3. Still long enough for something awful to have happened but also about as efficient as could possibly be expected.
After investigating, we discovered that the man had been a person looking at buying the house behind us (we live on an acre). He had done similar things on other house tours and seemed to have no impulse control nor understanding of personal property boundaries. Happily, he didn't buy the house but he did get a visit from the police.
The thing is that at no point in that scenario would a shotgun have made a material difference. It's unlikely we would have kept a gun in the kitchen. I likely would have had to go to a different room to get the gun- needing to hide the children in the process. We could have hidden in the bathroom, my initial thought, but we still had the stairs and 3 windows to navigate. I could have defended the bathroom but children that young couldn't be expected to remain quiet enough for it be a hiding spot- it simply would have been a fort. I still had the problem of where to physically *put* the children while I was holding the shotgun. Noah was just mobile enough to get himself into trouble in a place like a bathroom with razors and such and Megan was 2, not an age of the best judgement around such items *or* her baby brother and highly mobile. Plus, there was still the possibility that I would shoot, the suspected robber would shoot and the children would witness their mother and a strange man bleeding out on the floor and be unsupervised in a home with a loaded gun sitting out until the police discovered them.
Granted, there are scenarios that would have put us at a slightly higher vulnerability but it was pretty high up there in worst case situations. I was a mother, alone, with 3 very young children- none old enough be anything other than a liability. There was an attacker invading from an unknown direction using an unknown level of force and no hope of immediate assistance. The only source of intelligence was a somewhat reliable 4 year old. Would a shotgun have been useful if there had been 2 adults or even just an 8 year old floating around? Yes. Would a shotgun have been a practical response if the same thing happened today with children 7, 5, and 3? Yes. But, the fact is that at the time I would have been mostly likely to expect to use one, it wouldn't have made a material difference in my response. So, it makes me wonder if what I expect to be true and helpful in other crises is really what would be useful. While I am more confident that I *would* be completely willing to injure or kill or behalf of my children, via gun or other weapon, I am left wondering at the logistical realities. While we generally assume that you would hear the clink of broken glass, the alarmed barking of the dog, and creep towards an attacker in the dark of night, from your bedroom, is that what is really likely to happen? If anything, it made me *less* likely to want to own a gun which is really *not* what I would have expected, presented with this as a hypothetical. While I understand that guns can and have been used for home defense I have to wonder if it's really an option for *me* which is the only factor that really matters. Perhaps a panic room is a more practical option for mothers with babes in arms? At any rate, it's a tabled discussion for now but not one I would have had before last month.
Next up, learning the lingo... All the stuff I thought I could define but couldn't.