Monday, October 13, 2008

A View of the Recoil

Last October, I bought a new car. Nothing fancy - just your average family sedan with four doors, a four cylinder engine, and what I thought were basic aluminum wheels. One morning last March, I was awakened by my sister calling me to let me know that all four tires had been stolen off my car. The thieves were kind enough to leave the car on two cinder blocks and all the bolts behind. When I called the police to report the theft I found out they won't send a squad car out on car theft calls (they only show if someone's life is in danger according to the dispatcher), the office that took the reports doesn't open until 8:00 a.m., and if you want a hard copy of your report - not just a report number to give to your insurance company - you have to go to police headquarters during normal business hours and pay $10 for it.

Nothing like being victimized twice, especially by those in authority.

The insurance company covered - after a $500 deductible - the cost of replacing the wheels and the body damage done when a car rests on a cinder block for a couple of hours. They even threw in a set of wheel locks to help prevent another theft in the future.

Last Sunday morning, I was awakened by my doorbell ringing. My neighbor was at the door, and as I was trying to find my keys, all I could hear through the door was, "They got one of your tires...."

Not again.

This time, they only got the bolts off one of the wheels, loosened the rest (taking one), but they couldn't get past the wheel locks. Fortunately, the missing bolt was the only damage done - this time around.

I wanted to get different wheels - some basic, hubcap needing junk wheels. No can do - my car has a tire pressure monitoring system, and the cost would be crazy. My sister now insists I park in our driveway instead of on the street to help discourage a thief, but means we have to play the "hey, can you let me out" game if one of us is blocked in. Someone suggested getting more wheel locks to make it even more difficult to get the wheels off.

Another person suggested I buy a gun.

This is either really brilliant or really sick. I haven't figured out which one yet.

"You need to protect yourself. People are crazy out here. You need a gun. What are you going to do if someone tries to get in your house?"

I've been resisting this idea for years. It's not the first time I've been told I need a gun. When the suggestion's been raised before, I've dismissed it because I don't believe in guns. I'm terrified of them and the damage they can do. I don't want to think that the only way I can be safe is to arm myself.

Still, lately it's been harder to resist the idea of gun ownership. My city is becoming more dangerous. There are more empty homes in my neighborhood, more faces I don't recognize, more sirens and random shots in the middle of the night. The streetlights on my block have been out for months at a time. When my sister leaves out for work, it's dark. Pretty soon, it will be dark when I leave for work and dark when I come home. As much as I try to vary it, anyone in my neighborhood paying a bit of attention knows my routine.

Some may know more than that. As I was leaving out this morning, one of my neighbors made a very odd comment.

"Hey, I see you still have your tires and rims," he said as I was walking up to my car. It rattled me, and I had no idea how to respond.

"Yes," I said, unlocking the door to get in, "but not for a lack of someone trying." I couldn't help but think, "Was it you who was trying?"

"Have you thought about getting wheel locks? he asked. I nodded yes.

"That's why they're still on the car. Someone just tried again last week." "Was it you? Did you see something? Would you tell me if you did? Or if you knew who it was?"

"That's good," he said as his ride pulled up. I got in my car and sat there for a minute to compose myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by a gun shop near my job to ask about how I would go about getting a gun permit. Just walking in the door made me a bit queasy. Everyone working in the store was armed. There were weapons everywhere - revolvers and semi-automatic handguns in display cases, rifles hanging on wall displays, paper targets shaped like armed intruders hanging behind the counter. The man I spoke to told me about how he carries a handgun, a knife and pepper spray on him at all times because "you can't be too careful." He also offered to give me a discount on a CCW permit class if I bought a weapon from his store. He had a guy who gives one-on-one target and gun safety training show me a couple of semi-automatic handguns to "see which one fits your hand."

I told the man I didn't realize I'd ever come to a day when I'd need to know my ring, glove, and gun size. He had me handle a couple of guns ("we even rent some of them - you know, for target practice"), showing me how the grips on one could be changed out for more comfortable handling, and talking about how many bullets each one held. He gave me a card with his phone number on it and said to call once I got my permit to schedule my private shooting class. As I walked out of the shop, I swore I'd throw away the card and never again think about getting a gun.

This morning, as I sat in my car trembling after a chance encounter with a neighbor, I found myself thinking that maybe it's time to get a gun and never again think of being without one. That made me tremble even more.

More later.

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