I am going to buy a gun.
I want one for personal security. I live in rural Orange County, and, despite the excellence of the sheriffs deputies working my area, I figure the response time to a 911 call could be as long as 10 minutes. That, literally, could mean a lifetime.
I also believe personal security is an individual responsibility. For the most part, Ive been able to take care of myself physically and through the use of my wits. More importantly, I avoid situations and people who could lead to trouble. The police have a lot more important things to do than to save my skin.
If intruders come into my home, I have escape routes planned. But no plan is foolproof. If forced to confront intruders, I would want the option a Georgia mother had earlier this month when a burglar entered her home. She took her children and hid in a crawl space with a handgun at the ready. She called her husband, who recited lessons learned on the firing range.
When the intruder opened the door to the crawl space, the woman emptied her magazine. Police later found the bloodied and wounded suspect.
But heres the important part: The woman and her children were physically unharmed. Regardless of what one thinks about firearms, there is no doubt a gun can be an effective force equalizer.
Ive been thinking about acquiring a gun for a long time, but my own ignorance has kept me from taking the first step. Theres a lot to figure out.
Sportsman friends have always told me that a double-barreled shotgun is best for self-defense. Ive balked at that suggestion because I don't know whether I could handle a shotguns recoil or maneuver it in tight places. Since my gun friends are hunters, their expertise on handguns and self-defense is limited.
I also didnt trust the advice I received from clerks at big-box department stores. Local, independent gun shops were no help, either. The guys behind the counter treated me more like a shoplifting suspect than a customer.
Consequently, when the radio company I work for offered me an opportunity to do commercials for a shooting range, I lept at the chance. Last week, after instruction in rules and technique, I shot clays with a shotgun. More significantly, I entered the world of guns, a world I wont leave.
I now understand why some people fall in love with firearms. Theyre beautiful in form, much like cars, and their function is simple and efficient. I also appreciate why some people hate guns. It didnt escape me that the thrill and accomplishment I felt after blasting a clay target to smithereens would pale in scale to the rage, fear and, perhaps, sorrow I would experience if forced to shoot a fellow human being.
After firing a gun, I now have a better understanding of the passionate arguments on both sides of this debate.
There is no denying that gun control measures are indeed limits on personal freedom. But so are mandatory helmet and seatbelt laws. There is also no doubt guns are designed to destroy animals, property and people. But that doesnt absolve the people who fire guns from the responsibility and consequences of their actions.
And when a disturbed person wreaks havoc, public officials must stop favoring gun control laws over fixing our dysfunctional mental health delivery systems.
Despite the political rhetoric that surrounds firearms, I view guns for what they are: mere tools. Over the next months, Ill learn which gun or guns are right for me. Ill get fully trained, buy the proper support equipment and storage, and decide where in my home to store my gun. A concealed-and-carry course and permit are probably in my future, too.
I pray I never fire a gun in anger because that will mean I or a loved one is in mortal danger. But Id be a fool not to be trained and prepared to pull the trigger.
Contributing columnist Rick Martinez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is news director at WPTF, NC News Network and SGRToday.com