I can make a colorable argument that I once defended my life with a shotgun.
I was still a newlywed, and John and I had purchased a house in the woods north of Wasilla, Alaska. I was home alone, out in the yard splitting wood, when a car came down our cul de sac, turned around, and left. This wasn’t completely unusual; we were one of only two houses out that far, but people sometimes take a wrong turn. I noticed them come back around, driving more slowly this time. Maybe they were looking for a different street.
The third time they came around, they stopped, blocking my driveway, and sat there staring at me.
It was two men, but I couldn’t see any details beyond that, the driveway being about a seventy-five feet long and the car dappled with sun and shadow. I was suddenly aware that there was no one else within half a mile of me. I stood there with the splitting maul in my hands, looking at them and making sure they knew that I knew they were there.
When they didn’t budge, I walked in the back door, picked up the shotgun, and walked out onto the front deck, ostentatiously ratcheting a shell into the chamber and taking a wide, alert stance.
They took off, not to be seen again.
Maybe they never would have worked up the nerve to get out of the car. Maybe their intentions weren’t actually dangerous. But the maybe balancing the other end of that scale is quite dire. And I never again chopped wood on my own without that shotgun sitting within arm’s reach.
From that, you might assume that I am a great advocate of guns as home defense. But let’s unpack the incident just a little bit more.
If those men had been motivated victim-seekers, I would never have stood a chance. They could have driven right up the driveway, gotten out of their car with a friendly greeting, and I wouldn’t have even moved toward the house until it was too late. A gun is rarely an effective deterrent–it’s far more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.
Furthermore, my gun was a Winchester Defender repeating shotgun. I had five slugs in that thing, which would do plenty of damage to any would-be assailants. I was not in need of a semi-automatic weapon to protect my life and property. The notion that anyone does need such a weapon is ridiculous and one more straw man in the attempt to intelligently discuss gun control.
I do not fear guns. Living in Alaska, they were tools, protection against wild animals and a method by which meat came home for many. I do not believe that we should confiscate all guns. They do have their place.
But I strongly believe that we can and should regulate the hell out of guns. There are weapons that should be illegal and should be confiscated or bought back. There should be registration and insurance requirements. Background checks without loopholes. If a gun I own is used in a crime, the police should be showing up at my door and asking some pretty tough questions: if it was stolen, why didn’t I report it? If I sold it, why didn’t I do a title change? If I don’t have good answers, then the claim for damages goes against my insurance.
Yes, there are millions of guns in the wild that will be hard to track. But there are thousands of meth labs in the back woods that police can’t locate and no one throws up their hands and says, “Oh well, I guess there’s no point in laws against them.” Laws we make now won’t pay off this year or this decade. But they will pay off for our grand children.
It’s time to get real about the future.