ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — So I almost bought a gun.
Let that sink in for a moment — that’s addressed not to you but to me, because I never would have expected to write those words until last week.
I was raised in an unarmed household where hunting was not seen as sporty and protection was a butter knife kept under the pillow.
My years as a crime reporter turned my gun ennui to gun disdain. It was my job to write up the latest shooting. My job to intrude upon the grief of another family torn apart by bullets. My job to annually compile the number of homicides in the Albuquerque area and calculate how many were killed by firearms.
Every year, that number was the same: most of them, too many of them.
If you’ve looked into the shell-shocked eyes of enough bereaved parents, seen enough bodies with holes in them, enough blood, enough senseless death, violent moments of rage, foolish mistakes, it’s easy to conclude that no good can come from a gun.
And yet there I was last week with a very patient salesman named Alberto at Sportsmen’s Warehouse trying out firearms as if I was trying on shoes.
Why? I’ll spare you the details because frankly getting into specifics could be dangerous. Suffice it to say that someone dear to me has finally found the courage to leave a horrific relationship.
Domestic violence advocates say the most dangerous time for an abused partner is when he or she (mostly she) leaves. That’s played out in the headlines again and again, and on Aug. 21 it appears it happened again with the shooting deaths of Kirsten Landeau and her 20-year-old nephew, Dillon Cearfoss. Brian Pulliam, whom family members say Landeau had broken up with the day before, is accused of shooting them both in the head in her Albuquerque home.
Cearfoss was likely just an innocent bystander.
And so I began to think that, given the similarities between the Landeau case and the one that has thrust me and my family into a tumultuous drama we never asked for, maybe it’s time to think beyond the butter knife under the pillow.
I’ll be damned if I’ll allow any of us to become the next “innocent bystanders.”
There are other reasons I’ve mulled over for years: Because I live in a remote mountain area that law enforcement can’t always reach in time should there be a bump or a beast or a burglar in the night.
Because I am the sole protector of my household.
Because of the line of work I am in and my general outspokenness, I have made enemies.
My children, who have been a major reason for not allowing a gun in the house, are older now and, while I would not say they are wiser, I can say most of them are ready to appreciate the grave responsibility of gun ownership — though, yes, the gun safe I went ahead and purchased requires a key, a code and my fingerprint to open.
Besides, as many of my friends tell me, it’s fun to hit the shooting range.
Of the some 50 friends who offered their advice on what kind of firearm to purchase and where, only one had misgivings: my sister, who suggested I consider a squirt gun instead.
I promised her I would always lock up the gun, take classes and never underestimate the lethal power of a careless mistake — as if I could.
I’m not sure I convinced her.
I chose a 9mm Ruger. Those of you who have never legally purchased a gun may be surprised — or disturbed — to learn how easy it is. You show a valid ID, fill out paperwork, answer a few simple questions (have you ever been adjudicated as a “mental defective,” convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, been dishonorably discharged, etc.), wait for the salesperson to call the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and if it all checks out you walk out of the store armed.
As it happens, the NICS was not so instant. Something on my records generated a “DELAY” and requires an additional check. I have no idea why.
As I write this, I am still without a gun. Which is to say that, under our current system, folks like the gunmen at Virginia Tech and a Tucson shopping mall were able to get a gun easier than I.
Yes, I am aware of studies indicating a gun in the home is more likely to be stolen, used to commit suicide or accidentally wound or kill some unintended victim than it is to be used in an assault upon the home.
No, I do not relish the notion of shooting somebody, nor do I believe I must stock up on arms before the Obama administration takes away my rights or all the other nonsense preached by gun nuts who have plagued me for years.
I want a gun because I live in a crazy world that suddenly got crazier. Because I am one of the good guys with a bunch of good people and things to protect. Because a butter knife no longer seems enough.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment to Joline at 823-3603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
— This article appeared on page A2 of the Albuquerque Journal