Commentary

Saunders: Y'all, pipe down - I'm just a Gomer, not a gun-toting hypocrite

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJune 9, 2014 

Chill, homes. I wasn’t going to kill him.

I was merely – in the immortal words of the self-deputized Gomer Pyle when Barney Fife made an illegal U-turn in his squad car – going to run behind him yelling “Citizen’s ARRAYEST! Citizen’s ARRAYEST!”

Honest. That was the plan when I grabbed my gun and drove off looking for the man who broke into my home after midnight on Labor Day several years ago.

When I recently wrote a column chastising gun-right activists for lambasting a Durham restaurateur who prohibits guns in his restaurant, hundreds of people attacked me. Imagine. Others – some gleefully – insisted that this “no guns allowed” sign is what made the restaurant a target of the armed robbers.

Some, somehow, took my defense of restaurateur Greg Hatem banning guns from his joints if he wants to as a universal condemnation of all guns. Nonsense. How could I, a proud veteran, be opposed to guns and the freedom to own them?

OK, I’m not actually a military veteran, but my dad is – of two wars – and I have seen “Apocalypse Now” 12 times and the execrable “Platoon” one-half time.

Our freedoms

Heroes who really did serve fought for our freedoms, one of which is the freedom to own a gun if we want to. Another is the freedom to forbid guns in our restaurants if we want to.

Despite that unassailable view, some people assailed me, accusing me – ME!!! – of hypocrisy.

Why? Because I wrote honestly of the time I armed myself and set out looking for that burglar I caught burgling my home.

“Why should you be able to have a gun and nobody else can?” one reader wrote. “How hypocritical can you be?”

Another writer, I’ll call him “Bill,” wrote to “News & Observer Management”:

I was recently directed to the Barry Saunders column ... “Reveling in The Pit’s robbery is shameless behavior.” While I don’t agree with Mr. Saunders’ views, I am writing to you about a question more pressing than a mere difference of opinion. It seems that Mr. Saunders has not only admitted a great hypocrisy, but his own words suggest that he may have committed a serious gun crime. It’s time for the News & Observer (N&O) to relieve Mr. Saunders of his duties.

In the May 28 column, you’ll note that Mr. Saunders admits to chasing a burglar from his home, meditatively retrieving a gun, and then leaving his home to track down the fleeing man. Not only is this a glaring admission of hypocrisy from the N&O’s anti-gun columnist, a columnist who consistently argues that citizens cannot be trusted with defensive weapons outside the home, but Saunders’ own actions, as described by him, may be illegal.

It’s true that gun owners have already suffered far too many insults from Mr. Saunders, but his recent admission on the very pages of the N&O is surely the last straw. Your anti-gun columnist has now admitted that he, himself, may be a gun-criminal. For the sake of common sense, I must insist that you end Barry Saunders’ term as a columnist with your newspaper.”

“Last straw” this.

Instinctively, not meditatively

First of all, I didn’t “meditatively” retrieve anything. I instinctively retrieved it – which is what anyone would likely have done when their family and home are threatened. It’s also a good reason not to have a gun in one’s jammies at all times, because I’d have likely shot him instinctively had I been armed and startled upon descending my stairs to get a bowl of Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries. (My doctor had told me to eat more fruit.)

Of course, had he been armed, he’d have likely shot me, too. Neither of us was armed, though, and the ugly situation turned out less ugly than it might have.

Second of all, when have I ever insulted gun-owners? If I’m going to insult anyone – which I never would – it would be a non-gun-owner.

True, I was probably wrong to go hunting the crook after I tossed him off my porch and he no longer posed an immediate threat. Again, though, I wasn’t going to kill him: I only aimed to apprehend and hold him until the law arrived, to make, a la Gomer, a “Citizen’s ARREYEST!”

Fortunately, I saw a cop parked on the side of the road and told him what had happened. He instructed me to take my dumb ass home, and his colleagues and he caught the guy within an hour – fixing to break into another house, a cop told me.

As for me being anti-gun, I defy that letter-writer or any of his pistol-packing compatriots to find an instance of your humble serpent calling for guns to be denied to licensed, law-abiding citizens.

There is a huge difference between having a gun in one’s home to protect your family – and being able, as the legislature has now enabled, to carry them in parks, bars and other places that have no business being militarized zones.

Guns in bars? At Little League games where irate dads insist that pitch should’ve been “strike three”? Gee, what could go wrong with that?

Bad things happen in life, but as happened at The Pit and at my crib, sometimes adding guns would only make them worse.

An ex-cop from whom I heard – I won’t use his name – wrote to tell me that only people who’ve never fired a gun at another human being are gung-ho to do so. He said that in more than 27 years as a a cop, he’d had to draw his weapon under duress only once – and his hands were sweaty and shaking so much that he doubts he’d have been able to hit anything had it come to that.

Knowing that, the last thing anyone wants – OK, the last thing most of us want – is the inevitable carnage that would result from a restaurant full of self-deputized diners, possibly already angry because their shrimp and grits dish contained only three shrimp, trying to heroically take down armed robbers.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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