Category Archives: Gun violence

Gun Number Two

After Gun Number One was stolen, it was about ten years before I bought another one.  I would like to have had another one just like the first one, because I was familiar with it, but they didn’t have one…because I bought it at a gun show.

The reason I bought another gun is that I was getting ready to move from Memphis to New Orleans, and I thought of New Orleans as this very dangerous place.  How funny.  Because I already lived in one of the most dangerous cities in the country.  But I didn’t know.

This time I bought another Smith & Wesson with a 4-inch barrel.  Technically, I bought it, but.  At the time I was friends with, and sometimes dated, an ex-police officer.  It turned out that I would have had to go through the background check and 15 day waiting period, but ex-police officers did not.  (What is wrong with this picture?)  So we put the gun in his name and I took it home that day.

I moved to New Orleans in August of 1992, and in January of 1993, I bought a house.  A couple of guys who worked with me at McDonald’s helped me move my meager possessions from my friends’ house where I’d been living.  At the end, I was about to write them a check, and they said they would prefer to get paid in cash.  No problem, I said.  Sit tight, and I’ll go to the ATM.  It never dawned on me to be concerned that I was leaving them alone in my new house.

Certain things I moved myself…my jewelry and my gun and other personal items, so they never even saw the gun.  But as I later guessed, leaving them alone gave them time to search.

I had an alarm system installed.  Two or three months later I got a call from the alarm company, saying the alarm was sounding.  When I got home, the glass in the front door had been broken (it was a very old door and the top half was glass).  There were a couple of people hanging around on the sidewalk trying to be helpful.  They said they had seen a guy in a hoodie standing in the doorway.  He just waited until the siren quit sounding and strolled away.

I was at least smart enough to wait for the police though before I went into the house.  It took them forever to get there.  One of the arguments people make for gun ownership, and I think it’s a good one.  Depending on where you live, you can’t always wait for the police to get there.

When we went inside, only one thing was missing.  You guessed it, the gun.

So now I’ve had two guns, and both of them were stolen.  I wasn’t scared of guns.  I knew how to use them.  I had gotten past the “can you kill somebody” point.  But for months, I was afraid.  I was afraid the people who took my gun would come back and hurt me, kill me, or take everything else.  I vowed I would never have another gun.  It’s been 20 years now, and I’ve kept that vow, and slept more easily.

Since then, I’ve had dogs.  That isn’t a foolproof method of protection, since an armed burglar can shoot the dog.  In fact, during this burglary, the burglars hurt my dog. He had recently had surgery for a broken leg and when I went inside, he was bleeding at the hip, where he had pins.  They had to remove the pins and let his leg heal as it might.  You could make the argument that that killed him, since later in life he had such severe arthritis that he had to be put down.  For that alone, if I’d still had my gun and knew who had done it, I would have killed them.  How could you hurt a helpless and injured dog, who probably only barked in a feeble effort to protect his territory?

Now.  The gun enthusiasts on Facebook think I am somehow against the 2nd Amendment, that I am for coming to take away their guns, that if I’m not with them I’m against them, that I’m a Liberal who wants government control of all your individual rights, etc., ad nauseum. I just get lumped in with with people who have never owned guns and don’t understand why anyone would want to.  This is not true.  If the gun enthusiasts are listening, I hope this will clear some of that up.

The problem is they aren’t listening.

We need better gun control, and it will take everybody to accomplish it.

Whatever Happened To Gun Number One?

I kept that gun for about seven years, but eventually fell upon hard times and pawned it.  Some weeks later, I went back to retrieve it.  The guy behind the counter acted shifty, and I didn’t realize until later that he was stalling.

Because before I knew it, I was surrounded by the police.  One was positioned at the door (to keep me from getting out), two others positioned themselves on either side of the room, and the fourth came up and talked to me.  He said, to make a long story short, this gun is listed as stolen  on the NCIC (the National Crime Information Center), so where did you get the gun?

I was so scared I was practically speechless.  I eventually managed to squeak out that I bought it at American Firearms, or whatever it was called, that I had gone through the background check and the waiting period, and that if it was stolen, I had no idea.  Which brings me to my first question about gun control (which I’m for, but I have questions.)  Why, during that 15 day waiting period, did they not figure out that the gun was stolen?  Because they were more focused on me than on the gun?

Unfortunately for you, the officer said, American Firearms is out of business.  But lucky for me, he knew the guy who had owned it and called him at home.  The guy had all his records at home and confirmed that I bought it legitimately.  I was off the hook.  But this brings up other questions.  Why was the guy out of business?  Was that voluntary?  Why did the police officer know him (and his home phone number)?  How lucky was I not to go to jail while they sorted it out later?

I was free to leave, and once we were outside, the police officer who had been talking to me said, We’re pretty sure that the pawn shop stole your gun. That made sense to me.  The officer said they couldn’t prove it, but would continue to investigate and let me know.  I never heard another word.

So somewhere out there is a stolen gun with my name attached to it.  This was my first inkling of several issues. Was the gun shop owner a fence?  Is that why he was out of business?  Why he was reachable by the police and so cooperative?  (But thank you, gun shop owner.)  It was also my first inkling of how much attention the police pay to pawn shops.  I’ve avoided them like the plague since then.

The NRA, which I hate, makes some good points.  The problems are not necessarily fixed by the proposed solutions.

Gun Number One

Or, Why I Don’t Own A Gun Anymore.

I bought my first handgun when I was in my mid-twenties.  Here’s what happened.

I was living on the top floor of a quadruplex in midtown Memphis.  It was a “shotgun” arrangement.  Bedroom in the front, bathroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, all lined up in a straight line from front to back.  For some reason I can’t recall, I decided to sleep in the “dining room”.

It was a pretty neat place.  On the other side of the top floor was a young married couple, the woman was named Claudia.  Claudia and I had much in common, and became friends.  We had balconies outside our “bedrooms” which were accessed by a set of floor-to-ceiling windows rather than a door.  We filled our balconies with houseplants from spring through fall.  We also loved flowers, and spent many Saturdays going together to junk stores, searching for flower vases and decorative “frogs”–the things you put in the bottom of vases to separate flower stems. Then we would go to a sort of flea market, have barbecue, and buy fresh flowers for the week.

Claudia also loved cats, as did I.  She had two Burmese cats, the youngest of which we referred to as the watchcat.  If you knocked on her door, the watchcat would proceed to howl in that strangely human way they have, like Siamese cats do.  He was also an attack cat.  Once the door was opened, he would attack your ankles in spite of the fact that you were being welcomed into the apartment by his owners.

I too had a cat, and one day she had kittens.  Sometimes I would put them on the bed and play with them before putting them back in the closet where they were born.  Then one day, I was sitting out on the balcony, and a guy next door, who lived in an identical building, on the side next to mine, said, How are the kittens?

I said, How do you know I have kittens?  He said, I’ve seen you through the window, playing with them on your bed.  Oh. My. God.  So I bought a gun.

First I sought advice from an ex-military acquaintance.  His first question was, Can you kill somebody? Because if you can’t, there’s no point in you buying a gun.  And don’t answer now.  Go home and think about it.  We’ll talk later.

After many sleepless nights, I went back and said, Yes.  I would hate it.  I might have nightmares for the rest of my life.  But if it was down to me or them, I would always want it to be them.

He said, then you’re ready, and gave me advice on what to buy.  I bought a snubnose .38 Smith and Wesson.  The advice was, buy something light enough for you to handle, but something with stopping power.  No girl guns.  I bought it at a gun shop called American Firearms or something like that.  I had to undergo a background check and wait 15 days to get the gun.

My acquaintance, whose name I have sadly forgotten, promised to show me how to use it.

Lesson Number One:  Dry-firing.  Unloaded, point the gun at things and pretend to shoot them.  You will get the feel of the gun and its trigger, and lose your fear of the gun.

I did not grow up around guns.  When I was a small child, my father used to hunt, so he must have had a shotgun. One day I came across him and his hunting partner gutting and cleaning a squirrel they had killed.  I was horrified.  I burst into tears and ran back into the house.  My father never hunted again.

Once I got the gun, my Saturday flower-hunting was replaced by Saturdays at the shooting range.  (In addition to the feel, you have to get used to the noise, which is startling.)  My acquaintance/teacher taught me gun basics.  Don’t ever point it at anyone unless you intend to shoot.  Don’t ever shoot unless you intend to kill, because you are never going to be good enough to aim to wound.  Aim for the central mass of the person.

Slowly I absorbed these lessons, and it became about accuracy.  My gun did not have much of a range, so my targets would be like 25 feet or closer, and my acquaintance/teacher’s targets would be like 50 or 100 feet.  He said I didn’t need anything closer than that range, because if I ever had to use the gun, it would be when somebody was already in my apartment.

Next post:  So whatever happened to that gun?

Yes, Let’s DO Talk About Gun Control

And right now.  No, now is not the time to wait for a while and mourn.  Now is also the time to get mad.

You’d have to be living in a cave at the moment not to know that yesterday, a gunman entered a K-4 elementary school in Connecticut and murdered 20 children aged 5-10, and six adults.  Then himself.  And prior to that, his mother, at home.  So counting him, 28 people.  As far as we know.

11 days before Christmas.

The weapons he used were two semi-automatic handguns:  a Sig Sauer, and a Glock 9mm.  He left the Bushmaster .223 M4 rifle in the car.  Not enough hands, I guess.

If the assault weapons ban in the U.S. had still been in place, his mother (to whom the guns were registered) would not have been able to purchase them. At least not from a federal or state licensed dealer.  Gun shows, transactions between individuals, doesn’t count.  They were classified as assault weapons because they are capable of firing up to 32 rounds using an extended clip.  But it requires a trigger pull each time it fires, as opposed to fully automatic, which only requires one trigger pull and keeps firing until you let go.

The meager gun laws we do have in the U.S. already do say that you can’t buy a gun if you’re an ex-felon, or if you’re mentally ill.  The latter prohibition is big enough to drive a truck through.

I’ve read of gun dealers who refused to sell a gun to someone who acted strange, even when the buyer’s background check was “clean”.  We need more people like that.

Which brings me to the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Whom I hate.  But first:  I’ve owned handguns.  I know many, many people who own weapons of various kinds, and who are members of the NRA.  The NRA does a very good job–and they may be the only organization that does–at teaching about gun safety, even to kids.  They conduct classes and training, for children and adults.  But somewhere along the line, the NRA has gone off the rails.  Now they are a major lobbying organization, and they have adopted a “slippery slope” philosophy:  ANY gun control is a step toward banning guns for everyone.  So they vigorously fight any response to even the most heinous gun crimes.

But control is not a ban.

You would think they would understand this, but logic is not involved here.

One of the arguments put forth regarding the ban of assault weapons is that as long as criminals and crazy people can still get them, you, as a law-abiding citizen, must be free to buy evermore increasing firepower to match what the criminals have.  What about the concept of preventing criminals from having that firepower?  Then you wouldn’t need it yourself.  You could (eventually) de-escalate.  It will take time.  Because the criminals can still buy those weapons at gun shows and from each other.

The assault weapons ban in the U.S. expired in 2004.  It’s time to bring it back. But improve on it.  It was wimpy in the first place.

Only in Florida (Or Maybe Not)

Due to our friends, the NRA (with special thanks to Marion Hammer), last year the Florida legislature enacted a statute saying that all gun laws are the province of the State.  Any counties or cities which had their own ordinances were required to repeal them and were prohibited from enacting any others.

So an interesting development has taken place.  In the Meadow Hills neighborhood in Tallahassee, a guy named Lear is complaining about one of his neighbors, Cowart.  Cowart is shooting squirrels in his back yard with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot.  Lear says this is dangerous.  Cowart says he only shoots squirrels on the ground, not in the trees.  Lear and other neighbors dispute this, and say they are finding buckshot in their yards.  It used to be illegal to shoot a firearm in residential areas here, but no longer.   A slight oversight on the part of the State legislature.

So this year, the Florida legislature enacted an amendment to the statute, saying it’s illegal to “recklessly or negligently discharge a firearm on any property used as a dwelling”.  When that happened, Lear complained again.  And you can guess what happened.  Nobody knows what “reckless” or “negligent” means.  For the most part Lear is complaining to the wrong people.  He’s complaining to local authorities.  He did get one thing right.  He complained (filed an affadavit) with the State Attorney’s office.  You are always better off to ask a State law enforcement agency to enforce a State law.

For instance, murder is a State law.  Local authorities are allowed to investigate and arrest suspected murderers.  But only the State can charge and prosecute them.  People, for the most part, do not understand how government works.

The State Attorney cited a State law that it is legal for people to shoot nuisance, fur-bearing animals which cause damage to private property.  And Cowart says the squirrels are eating his wiring.  (I wonder if anybody proved that?) So Lear lost again.  For now.  He needs to get to the right people with his concerns (the legislature).  And just in case you think Lear is some kind of pacifist squirrel-hugger kind of guy, he is a Navy veteran and a member of the NRA himself.

Which brings me to the NRA (again).  I hate them.  If they had a lick of sense, as we say in the South, they would support reasonable gun-control measures.  Instead, they have been hijacked by the all-or-nothing people.  ANY gun control or registration is like the promise of some future Armageddon.  They oppose all efforts to regulate guns, and operate on the Slippery Slope Theory. “When you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns”.  What about the concept of trying to keep guns out of the hands of outlaws?  Granted, that will be imperfect, but it would help.

I decidedly don’t hate gun owners, or hunters. or hunting, or personal protection with guns.  The people I know who own guns are fanatics about safety and aren’t fanatics about regulation, and are members of the NRA.  They would NEVER shoot squirrels in their neighborhoods.

The NRA is in a perfect position to advise and help construct reasonable gun control regulations.  Instead, their position is that no such laws are acceptable.  (See:  Slippery Slope.)  Somebody needs to stage a coup.  What we need is a regime change at the NRA.

Political Differences

It’s amazing to me how many people I know or encounter casually who think that politics don’t matter in their personal lives.  I marvel.  Now of course, we have the tea-partiers who have suddenly woken up to the fact that politics do matter, and that they have a right to speak out about things they disagree with.  No matter how stupid and uniformed they are.  They have the right to be stupid and uninformed and protest about the things they are stupid and uninformed about.  That’s actually quite fine with me.  I’m not fine at all with people carrying signs that say, “We came unarmed…this time.”

But I am really talking about the disconnect between people who are able to have relationships with others when their political and social views are completely opposed.  What does it matter?, they say.  It’s only politics.  I can’t even grasp that. 

Let’s just take for example my friend Brenda, who has recently become involved with a guy who is originally from New York state.  After a couple of months now, she’s discovered that he’s a racist.  Her solution was to say…don’t say things like that around me any more.  Problem solved, right?  As long as we don’t talk about your personal racism, we can’t have a conflict.  I cannot get that.  Even if you don’t talk about it, it’s still there. 

Now let’s take me for an example.  I’ve had a friendship with a guy for 6 months who initially described himself as a Conservative.  (Kiss of death in my book.)  The last time I saw him, he said he isn’t really a Conservative.  He’s more of a Libertarian.  He’s a Conservative with Libertarian leanings.  (Can you have a double kiss of death?)  And the time before that, he informed me that I’m not really a liberal.  I’m a Conservative with Liberal leanings.  This so amuses me.  You could practically see his mind whirring, trying to redefine me in such a way that he could accept me.  And remaking himself.  Perhaps he thought that Libertarian would be more acceptable to me.  Please!  Spare yourself! 

Maybe this is why I am so bereft of relationships.  You have to agree with me intellectually first.  Everybody else I know seems to be able to put that aside.  So I guess it’s just me, but it is for sure me.  We have to be there first, otherwise I’m totally uninterested in how handsome, sexy, and attentive you are.  Not that handsome, sexy, and attentive is much of a combination I encounter often.  I can usually get two out of three…but no more.

Go FAMU, and So Sorry FAMU

Florida A&M University in Tallahassee had it’s opening game at home yesterday against Delaware State and won 21-12.  It was a great opener.  As I recall, the newspaper said that FAM had not won a game against DSU since 2003, so it is a great going-away present for FAM’s seniors.  Here’s the only problem.  About an hour after the game, there was a shooting on FAMU’s campus.  (On campus!)

One of the star players in the game, Levontae Page, was peacefully walking across campus with his mother (his mother!) and his 14 year-old cousin, when a bullet richoceted and shattered a bone in his wrist.  His mother was uninjured, but his cousin was grazed on the chin.  As the news continues to come in, it’s said that Page is out for the season.  I’m not a big football fan, but I wonder if this won’t end his career.  He’s a running back.  My limited knowledge of football causes me to guess that your major job is to catch the ball.  Seems like a fully functioning wrist might be important to that. 

And in further news, the shooter has been arrested.  He’s a 17-year old.  Whose target was a 26 year-old in a car, whom he shot three times in the abdomen.  No word on how the intended victim is doing.  What in the hell is a 17-year old doing on the FAMU campus?  Unless he is a student?  (I started college at 17…so….)  But I realize it’s hard to keep track, especially during a celebration. 

I guess it could have been drugs.  But that doesn’t explain everything.  Neither does the availabiliy of guns.  We seem to be commited in this country to making guns available to whoever wants one, so you can’t approach the problem from an availability perspective.  You have to teach people not to want to use them, even if they can get them.  It’s a psychological problem or a social problem in my view. 

So what is the problem?  Well the availability of guns to young, immature men is certainly an issue.  But we can’t fix that, at least not in the current environment.  So we have to try to make them not want to use them.  Which brings me to a TV show I saw about young men in juvenile detention facilities.  Both black and white, and what they said was, dead or in jail is not the worst thing that can happen to you.  Being disrespected is the worst thing that can happen to you.  You might as well be dead or in jail, because if you allow somone to disrespect you, you’ll be there soon enough anyway.  It’s like a preemptive move.  I say…you gotta get smarter than this.  Your diginity is not all there is to the world.  It ain’t all about you and the respect you get or don’t get.

But I will defer to a quote from the Tallahassee Democrat:  

Katrina Starks, an elementary-education senior at FAMU, came to the game with her 1-year-old daughter, her 4-year-old step-daughter and other family members. She left the stadium before the shooting and didn’t know about it until contacted by a reporter Sunday on campus. 

“It’s really ridiculous and scary,” said Starks, who said she’s familiar with gang activity because she’s from Compton, Calif., outside Los Angeles. “They’re trying to be gang-bangers out here.”

She said young people need to learn when to walk away from a fight. 

“When you learn to walk away, you walk away from a lot,” she said. “You walk away from jail. You walk away from death.”

Walk away.  What a concept.

Don’t Mess with the Feebs

So one day I was peacefully sitting in my office, when the FBI walked in.  My first reaction was, Holy Shit!  What have I done now?  This isn’t about that parking ticket I refuse to pay, is it?  You know, the one I got parked in front of my own house, but supposedly less than 8 feet from the corner?  Like who knew that was a rule, anyway?  And how do you know it was less than 8 feet?  Are the parking enforcement people carrying tape measures around with them now?

But fortunately, they weren’t there for me.  They had come to let me know that on Saturday they would be setting up a sniper team in the garage just outside my office door.  Just outside the garage was a statue called the  Liberty Monument, which is a bit like Orwell’s 1984 Ministry of Truth, which was responsible for propaganda.  The Liberty Monument commemorates the massacre of black citizens by white police.  Every year, the Klan holds a ceremony at the Libery Monument, and on this particular occasion, David Duke was scheduled to speak.  The FBI was there to protect him from assassination and to protect everyone in general from any violent acts.  Plus, I think they were kind of hoping they would catch David doing something arrestable, like inciting to riot.  So I said what anyone would in my situation:  Can I watch?  Sure, they said, Come on down! 

I arrived maybe an hour before his speech.  In addition to the snipers in place in the parking garage, there were others on the roof of the aquarium across the street.    Once the crowd started to gather, they had undercover agents mingling with them.  It was a pretty disappointing turnout, I doubt there were even as many as 50 people there, and most of them were from the Alabama Klan.  The snipers’ boss was there with binoculars and he was pointing out to me several attendees from Alabama which he knew by name.  Now that is kind of scary. 

The speech contained the usual drivel, but it was very short, and Duke hightailed it out of there as fast as he could go when it was over.  He seemed nervous, maybe it was all those rifles pointing in his general direction?  In any case it was all very anti-climactic.  I was kinda hoping for one of those scenarios like in the movies, where someone shouts “Gun!” and then everybody bites the dust, but alas, it was not to be. 

Too Much Drama

This has to do with two seemingly unrelated stories.  Story Number One:  On Monday, July 20th, I arrived at work and read the local newspaper as usual.  The top headline was about a hostage situation the previous day  in a relatively affluent neighborhood.  I say “relatively affluent”  because it’s a “planned community”.  A planned community in the best sense of the word, in my view.  The developers did a good job in this case.  They didn’t develop a gated community, where the rich are insulated from the riffraff.  There are million dollar homes there, but they exist side by side with more modest homes, townhouses, and even apartments.  It’s more “real world”. 

The hostage situation described a standoff in one of the apartments, where a woman had allowed a man she knew from the Internet to move into her apartment.  The initial report said he had hit her in the face with a shotgun, but she managed to escape and was taken to the hospital and treated for “minor injuries”, then released.  Hold up, here.  How do you get minor injuries after being hit in the face with a shotgun?  I’m thinking broken cheekbone, broken nose, broken eyesocket, missing teeth.  One of two things happened here–the newspaper got it wrong, or she exaggerated what happened.  Maybe both.  In any case, after she escaped, the guy barricaded himself in the apartment for 3 1/2 hours but was finally talked out by the police department’s tactical team. 

Story Number Two.  About 15 minutes after I finished reading this story, “Brian” walks into my office.  “Brian” is a guy I previously made famous in my Flirting With Fakename series.  He’s been out of town since June 26, and he hoped to be gone permanently, but due to a glitch in the project he was in charge of, he has had to return.  Before he left, he told me he planned to spend a week in British Columbia, which I assumed was a vacation.  In the interim, a third party informed me that it was not exactly that…”Brian” was performing a chivalrous deed by accompanying a woman of his acquaintance to British Columbia where she was getting a divorce from a Canadian citizen.  She needed moral support.  I said, “I’m having a hard time putting ‘Brian’ and ‘chivalry’ in the same sentence.”  Third party guy says,”You think?  I think he is very chivalrous.”  Let that be a lesson in trusting other men to define what is and is not chivalry. 

My first words to “Brian” were, How was British Columbia?  His eyes got all shifty.  At last he says, British Columbia was beautiful, but the trip was hell.  He explains that he went with this woman to provide moral support while she got a divorce.  And he went because he said she isn’t “wrapped too tightly” and “never could have done this on her own”  and needed help.  During the course of the story, it becomes clear that he paid for her plane ticket and hotel room for a week. 

That’s another of your Hold up, Here moments.  How do you get a man to fly with you over 3,000 miles to a different country, and pay for it, and you are only acquaintances?  And you’re crazy too? I myself am only mildly crazy, and I can’t even get a man to take me to Starbucks!

Of course, you don’t.  At the conclusion of the week in BC, she announced that he was next….that if he did not accede to her wishes, she was going to accuse him of being abusive toward her, just like she had just done with her husband during the divorce.  He handled that by never being alone with her, and by reporting to security at every airport they landed at during the long trip home.  Then he said, Did you read the article in the newspaper this morning?  It was the same woman.  He said, I don’t know all the details, but I suspect she had something to do with driving that train.   

Later in the week, more details emerged. She alleges that the man in her apartment did not hit her in the face with the shotgun, but instead stuck the barrel in her mouth and asked if she was ready to die.  They met in an online support group for cancer victims:  she is a breast cancer survivor, and his ex-wife recently died of cancer.  He was clearly depressed and maybe suicidal, as several postings on his Facebook account implied.  She was just trying to do him a favor.  According to him, the whole incident began when she asked him to help her move a table.  When he refused, she began slapping him repeatedly.  Not that there is any excuse for what he did, but it’s probably not a good idea to provoke unstable people.

So now we know why “Brian” never asked me out for a drink.  He was “busy”.  If he ever does, I will have to decline, on the grounds of not being crazy enough for him.  I think he should take up hang-gliding or bungee-jumping, or some other less dangerous sport.

Guns At Work

Many companies, if not most companies, including my own, have a prohibition against possession of firearms by employees on company property. 

But in 2008, the Florida Legislature in its infinite wisdom passed a law called the Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act, commonly known as the Guns At Work law.  In a nutshell, the law states that persons with a concealed weapons permit may keep weapons in their vehicles while at work.

The law was heavily pushed by the NRA, specifically by Marion Hammer, who is a Florida lobbyist and past president (and first female president) of the NRA.  Opposed were the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, Disney, and Wal-Mart, all of whom are powerful interests.   That being the case, I’m surprised the law passed.  It’s also a sign that hell has frozen over when I’m on the same side as Wal-Mart.  Actually, I have mixed feelings about the law.  But frankly speaking, as an employer, I don’t ever want to be concerned that I may piss off some employee who goes to his car at lunch and pulls out a weapon.  I already go out of my way to be respectful, even if I have bad news (like “You’re fired”) but that’s good practice anyway. 

On Monday, I learned the following information about an employee who had been with us for less than a month:  he was feeling discriminated against; he’d been admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment twice last year; and he had a handgun in his truck.  Which he pulled out and displayed to a security guard at my workplace.  It wasn’t so much that he had the gun, it was the context.  My boss, who operates in another city but was in town, said, “He has to go” and volunteered to handle it so as to take the focus off me and my second-in-command person, who was the true target of this person’s paranoia. 

I insisted on calling the police to be present.  My boss said he didn’t think that was necessary.  I insisted some more, and whined, so he finally agreed to humor me.  From the minute I called the police, it was clear that they took the situation very seriously, perhaps in part because the security guard was so specific about the weapon…I was able to tell them it was a Taurus .357 Magnum.  So this was not a fantasy, we think he may have a gun.  It was, he has a gun and this is what kind. 

Two officers showed up, one of whom was wearing his bulletproof vest outside his shirt.  That is a very fearsome and intimidating sight. 

My boss planned to tell the employee that since he was in his 90-day probationary period, it just wasn’t working out.  I lobbied for telling him we knew he had a gun, but I was overruled both by the boss and by the police.  Much of what I know now I learned since this incident, and the main thing is that the operative word in the law is “concealed”.  Assuming he had a concealed weapons permit, it is a violation of the law to take it out of concealment for any reason except to use it, and that has to be guided by strict definitions of self-defense. 

In any case, my boss delivered the news with no mention of the gun.  The employee handed his keys to me.  Then he asked me to go with him to a storeroom where he had some personal items.  The police said, “No.  She can’t go.  We’ll go.”  My boss went too.  Once in the storeroom, the employee pulled a knife from his pocket which he intended to use to cut some twist ties, but who knew that?  That by itself tells me what poor judgement the guy had.  Had it been me, faced with two armed police officers, I would have asked permission to pull my driver’s license out of my wallet.

Apparently the reaction was swift.  My boss said the next thing he knew, one of the officers pushed him out of the way and said “Stay behind me.”  The two officers arranged themselves in an L-shaped formation, to prevent crossfire, and my boss said he heard a sound he’ll probably be hearing in his dreams for some time to come–the sound of both officers simultaneously unsnapping their holsters. 

In the end, the guy left peacefully and everyone was safe.  But it could have been otherwise. 

Oddly enough, the same day this happened, Timothy Egan of the NY Times posted an entry on his blog called The Guns of Spring.  Here’s a quote: 

“If it was peanut butter or pistachio nuts taking down people by the dozens every week, we’d be all over it. Witness the recent recalls. But Glocks and AKs — can’t touch ‘em. So we’re awash in guns: 280 million.”  I don’t know the answer.  There is something to the NRA slogan, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.”  And yet, Egan notes that he lost a nephew to gun violence and can’t help but take it personally.  This week, it became personal to me.