Alibi V.24 No.50 • Dec 10-16, 2015 

Opinion

Standing My Ground

A gun ownership fantasy

It’s the dead of night and someone’s in my house. I can hear his stealthy footsteps as he creeps across the living room floor toward my bedroom door, or worse, my kid’s room. But this midnight interloper didn’t reckon on one thing.

Me.

I swing open my door. “Stop right there, you son of a bitch,” I say, and suddenly he’s staring down the barrel of my Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. “Didn’t your mama ever tell you that it’s rude to drop in un-announced?”

Yep, I’m going to do it. I’m going to buy a gun for home protection. It’s time for me to take my fate and my family’s fate into my own hands. I’ve got the piece all picked out too. The aforementioned Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, the very gun that Dirty Harry used. The most powerful handgun in the world. Just one look will be enough to scare the pants off of any home invader.

Oh, don’t worry though, I know all about gun safety. After all, I have kids and I’m a responsible adult who pays attention to the latest statistics. And yes, I know that according to the New England Journal of Medicine, American kids are twice as likely to die from firearms than they are from cancer, five times more likely to die from them than heart disease and 15 times more likely than from infection. So that means I won’t be stashing this piece under my bed or anything. Given that my main aim here is to protect my family, it would be stupid of me not to take basic steps to reduce the likelihood of injury. A trigger lock would be the most straightforward way to go, so I’ll count on that and keep a bullet in the chamber, ready for defending my castle.

Except that numerous reports have indicated that trigger locks don’t actually prevent a gun from discharging if they’re already loaded. Plus, a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that simply storing ammunition in a separate locked location from an also locked up gun reduces the likelihood of injury to children by 70%. And you bet I’m protecting those kids if nothing else.

So, I’ll put my trigger-locked handgun in the top of my closet, so I can get to it easily. And then, I’ll have a footlocker under my bed with the ammunition. It’ll take a few extra seconds to get the gun out and loaded, but it’s worth it to stay safe.

Of course it’s not just about children’s safety. A January 2014 meta-analysis of 16 studies published by the Annals of Internal Medicine found that firearm ownership doubled the risk of death by homicide and tripled the risk of suicide in households with a gun. I feel pretty confident that I won’t be shooting my family members (although, so was Veronica Dunnachie, an open-carry and gun rights advocate that shot and killed her husband and step-daughter during a domestic dispute in Dec. 2014,) but, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I have been suicidal at various points in my life and I can’t guarantee that I won’t find myself in that frame of mind again. But even if I hadn’t had that experience, it’s worth noting that the study’s authors did not find a correlation between the risk of suicide and a history of mental illness. Gun ownership itself seemed to increase the risk of suicide even if mental health history was controlled for. Meaning that it’s worth taking protective measures to guard against a future impulsive, life-ending decision even if you’re not prone to suicidal thoughts.

A gun safe, then, in addition to the trigger lock is probably the best way to go. I’ll face some minor emasculation and give my wife the combination so that the risk of improper use by a household member is minimized. So that’s, what, one locked box for the ammo, another for the gun and a trigger lock? It might seem excessive, but it’s stupid not to take such precautions when the statistics are so firmly weighted in their favor.

So yeah, it’s the dead of night and someone’s in my house. I can hear his stealthy footsteps as he creeps across the living room floor toward my room, or worse, my kid’s room. But he didn’t reckon on one thing.

“Hold on!” I shout as my wife fumbles with the gun safe’s combination. “I’ve got to find my keys!”

Fortunately, there’s every likelihood that we’ll be safe anyway. According to a Dec. 2012 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, it’s statically likely that the barking of my ridiculously paranoid dogs will have already sent the crook running anyway.