Your Fear is Infringing on My Freedom

So now that the ‘gun issue’ is part of the American dialogue, I get to add my two cents from personal experience. Last night, while in my office, I noticed two shapes lurking in the hallway. My office door is the type of glass where you can’t see a person, but you can see a shape when someone is standing in front of it. One of the shapes pushed my door open just a bit, then let it close again. I then heard whispering behind the door.

First of all, let me say that I’m not a scared person. I don’t have a gun or carry weapons of any sort, and that’s not because I live in a small town. I have lived in Manhattan, Queens and some seedier parts of Jersey City and have never carried a gun. I’ve traveled the world, and refused to carry a weapon. I refuse to walk around frightened of everyone else and I refuse to put myself or others in danger by carrying around a weapon that could go off accidentally (let’s not pretend that doesn’t happen, as numerous gun shows have shown us) or have it stolen (which we know occurs all too often) or have it used against me (which we also know is more likely as opposed to against that scary burglar who supposedly is trying to get into my house every night to steal my freedoms).

Let me also say, my town isn’t exactly safe; with it’s massive drug problems, meth labs, unemployment, screwed up justice system and sad school system. Of course, I don’t need to tell you what town I live in, because in today’s America, I have just described too many towns all across this land.  My point is that I am aware, I pay attention and I don’t think shooting someone – criminal or otherwise – is really something I care to have on my conscience the rest of my life.

And before I go any further, I am not against guns for sport, collecting, hunting or self-protection – when used properly, regulated, stored safely and not owned by maniacs, guns are a part of America and I get that.

So there I was, in my office, with two shadows outside my office door, testing to see if my door was unlocked. So, I walk to the door and throw it open, figuring I will catch whoever it is off guard. Staring back at me are two cops, wearing bullet-proof vests, pointing their guns at me. One at my stomach and the other at my chest.

If anyone ever wonders what their lasts words might be before they are shot, let me just say that it’s interesting to actually ‘know‘ what those last words actually are. Mine are, apparently, the following: “Whoa! What the fuck? Don’t point those at me?”

They lowered their weapons. To which I added, “What the hell is wrong with you? Don’t point guns at me!”

One of the cops smiled, I later found out he thought my response was ‘interesting’ being that guns were being pointed at me and it actually made me mad. The other cop, who is known in my town as Robocop – due to his lack of emotion or sense of humor – proceeded to tell me that I needed to produce identification immediately.

After they discerned that I actually worked in the building, they explained that the alarm had been tripped and they were investigating. Apparently the maintenance guy was in the basement, building something, and the dust had set off the fire/burglar alarm. I asked them if they usually will go into an office building, whose front door was unlocked and lights were on, with guns drawn, just to check things out? They said, you can’t be too careful.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think they did anything wrong. They are faced with danger every day, and if they felt in any way they needed to have their weapons out to investigate a possible burglary, God bless them. If they were startled by me throwing open my door, I get it. If they had shot me in that moment of fear, well, that’s where I would have had an issue with them to be honest.

But you see, here’s the thing, they didn’t shoot me. You see, these were police officers.

These were two men who had been properly trained, psychologically evaluated, taking rigorous tests and have shown they are competent in not only how they treat their weapon, how to use their weapon and most importantly, WHEN to use their weapon. If anyone was going to draw a gun and point it at me, if it must happen, at least it was from someone who I knew was going to be held responsible for their actions. I realize not all cops are wonderful, not all are honest and some may be too full of bravado at times (I told you we had our own Robocop). I realize there is always some risk as we don’t know if a cop has slept the night before, is having family issues, is angry or depressed, etc…but I do know one thing, officers of the law carry weapons not because they think everyone is a bad guy or because they are afraid of everyone, they are using them to protect the rest of us, from those who are bad guys or are afraid of everyone.

That’s where I started thinking about the gun issue in America. These people who walk around with their guns, so convinced that there will be a moment in their day, when they will get to act like Dirty Harry. Fact of the matter is, these people are not always properly trained, they are not psychologically evaluated, have not taken rigorous tests or have had to show they know how to treat their weapon, use their weapon and most importantly, WHEN to use their weapon.

If those had been two ‘scared Americans’ who are always screaming about how they are afraid of all those bad guys out there, or their tyrannical government coming to get them,  walking down a quiet hallway with no idea if that next door was hiding a Socialists,  a Secret-Muslim, a Terrorists or some other horrible person who was looking to take away their Freedoms…and I threw open my office door, what do you think might have happened?

I don’t really want to think about it.

Of course, if I was one of those scared Americans who was so afraid of all the what-ifs out there, and was so worried about everyone coming to get me and take away my guns, and out of that fear, or the idea that I need to protect myself enough to carry a gun on me, what do you think would have happened that night when I threw open that office door, my gun drawn, coming face to face with two nervous cops, with guns drawn? Would I even be typing this today?

I guess we’ll never know.

Or, we can look at all the statistics we have concerning accidental shootings. The man who accidentally shoots his wife who just got up at night to get a glass of water, or their teenager, who was sneaking back in the house. Or those kids who find their parent’s gun and accidentally shoot their friend, while showing it off. Or that hunter who accidentally shoots his friend in the face, while hunting. Or those innocent people, who get shot at a gun show, when one idiot doesn’t know how to safely store their gun. Statistics show us that nearly 50% of gun deaths in the home are not an American protecting their home against an intruder, it’s an American shooting someone they know, either out of mistake or anger.

So as I type this, less than 24 hours from when I had two guns pointed at me, one at my stomach and one at my chest, I am glad the two people holding those guns were at least trained to not shoot first and ask questions later…but someday I may not be that lucky. Instead, it could be just two scared Americans who feel so afraid of everyone else out there, they are putting my life in danger, just so they can feel a little safer about theirs.

And for me, to live in fear of  you and your unnecessary fears, that’s not Freedom, nor is that Liberty. A gun doesn’t make a fearful person brave, it only makes you a fearful person with a gun…and I can’t think of a worse combination in this society for the rest of us. That’s why I support treating a gun the way we treat owning a car or buying a box of Sudafed, like it may just be a big enough deal to have a few rules, since they have the power to end an innocent life.

More than 12,000 a year, to be more precise.

Vincent Yanez is author of the book Einstein’s Shutter, among other works.

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