I might buy a gun.
I’d need a permit. And lessons on how to shoot, a place to keep it safe, and a way to overcome the fear that I’d shoot myself.
I’m not a natural gun owner. I’m more likely to be holding a knitting needle than a Glock — but recent events have made me rethink my natural aversion to weapons, an aversion that has nothing to do with philosophical opposition and everything to do with my own physical incompetence. I’m the one they picked last for all the intramural sports in grade school because I have the precision vision of Mr. Magoo and could trip over a non-existent wire. If my life were a western movie, it’d be called “Have Gun, Will Unravel.”
But it’s time to take my life into my own hands, forget about all of the anti-gun rhetoric that I hear bandied about by those who exploit tragedy for their own political purposes, and make 2019 the year that I stop expecting others to look out for me.
I think it started with the election of District Attorney Larry Krasner, which brought me the realization that in our current society, it can often feel like victims are left to fend for themselves. Krasner’s policies, developed over years as a defense attorney, seem to give him an affinity for the accused over the victimized. Recent stories about how his office has neglected to keep victims informed of plea deals strengthen my beliefs. It feels like victims don’t get the same amount of respect as, say, the fellow who stabs a young real estate agent in the back, or the guy who shoots a grocery store owner in the hip, or the fellow who bites off the ear of an innocent bystander.
And it’s not just Krasner. It seems that we’ve become a society where criminals and alleged criminals are given an outsized amount of sympathy. Even President Trump just touted his criminal justice reform package. While I don’t think the solution is an old-style Dodge City shootout, it’s dawned on me that I might need something more than my persuasive personality as protection.
Then, the other day, a fellow who called me a fascist posted something on my Facebook page that transcends First Amendment protections. It never used to bother me that the swampy comments sections of this and other websites are filled with toxicity. The great Chuck Stone, legendary columnist for the Daily News in its halcyon years used to run a regular section called “And the Angels Sing,” in which he reprinted some of the letters he would get. Fortunately for Chuck, and sadly for the rest of us, he operated at a time when the internet was still young and you had to identify yourself with a signature and contact information.
But the person who posted on my Facebook page shared a photo of a young boy standing over a priest he’d just shot through the forehead. He also made some comments that I found personally threatening, and I called the police. It was the first time I’d ever done that.
The following day, I heard helicopters overhead and looked out the window to find Broad Street filled with police. I later learned, a murder suspect from Delaware was on the lam just a block or so from my office. “Armed and dangerous” was the description on some news sites. As I write this, he hasn’t been apprehended.
It occurred to me that this is how so many people in Philadelphia live their lives, looking out the window and watching the police scour the streets for a shooter. There are children who cannot play on the corner, as I played on the corners of Logan a half century ago. It’s too dangerous.
Many years ago, my aunt’s ex husband came to our house looking for her. When my mother told him she wasn’t there, he put a gun to her forehead. By the grace of God and superhuman calm, she talked him down.
I used to believe that kind of courage was all I’d need. Not anymore.