Like many Floyd Countians, I own enough guns to start a medium-size revolution. My weapon of choice is a Glock 17 semi-automatic 9 mm pistol — the big brother of the Glock 19 that Jared Loughner is accused of using to kill six six people — including a nine-year-old girl and an Arizona Federal Judge — and seriously wound Congressman Gabrielle Giffords in a shooting rampage at a Safeway Supermarket last weekend.
Some friends tell me I shouldn’t carry the Glock because it represents a weapon used in a mass murder. Others question my decision to carry it at all,which I do legally with a concealed carry permit issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“What have you got to worry about?” they ask. “You live in Floyd County.”
Yeah, I live in Floyd County where armed men from North Carolina held up a Willis convenience store one night. I live in Floyd County, where Sheriff Shannon Zeman says we have an average of one home or business break-in a night to feed the county’s growing crystal methamphetamine problem. I live in Floyd County where The Roanoke Times let the world know last week that we don’t even have a State Trooper on duty after midnight.
Three people died in murders recently in Floyd County — one died at the hand of the county official who used to teach the firearms safety course for the area.
Yeah, I carry a Glock 17 on my hip. Several government agencies spent a few of your taxpayer dollars teaching me how to use it. Their training must have worked. . At my last gun range reclassification, I shot 100 percent on the FBI target – a pretty good indicator that I can and will hit what I shoot at.
With luck, I never have to pull the Glock from its holster except to put it away for the night. With luck, I never even have to put my hand on the weapon to let some know that I’m armed and will use it if necesessary.
Unfortunately, in the past and in another life, I have not always been so lucky, I’ve had to pull a weapon on human beings several times in my life: all but once in service to my country and just that once to convince a young man in Northern Virginia that trying to rob me at an automated teller machine was a bad idea. The young man at the ATM saw the error of his ways and ran. Too many others weren’t so lucky.
Forget what television and the movies tell you: Taking a human life is never easy, glamorous or heroic. It is an invitation to months — sometimes years — of nightmares and lost sleep. The look in someone’s eyes as they draw their last breath is something you never forget.
Killing is exactly that — the taking of human life. The reasons may or may not be justified but the reality stays the same.
The other night, a group of young men in a car with out-of-state plates, circled my wife’s store at closing time. She thought they looked suspicious so I climbed on my Harley and rode over for a look-see. They sat with their lights off as I drove up. I pulled up on the driver’s side with my motorcycle jack open enough for him to see the Glock in its holster on my my right hip.
I asked if they needed any help. “We’re waiting for a friend to get off work,” the driver said.
I asked for the friend’s name. The name he gave did not match anyone who worked the stores and I know them all. When I told him this, he started the car up, rolled up the window, and left.
The incident marked the fifth time in eight weeks that I have encountered a suspicious-looking car at a Floyd business at closing time. In a county where state troopers get off at midnight and the sheriff’s department, while extremely capable, is short-handed, it pays for all citizens to be vigilant.
I did not pull my weapon or brandish it in any way. Doing so is illegal. I simply let him know I was armed. Had he pulled a gun or threatened me with another weapon, I would have responded.
Right how, because of the incident in Tuscon, the anti-gun forces are calling for weapon bans and other restrictions. This happens every time we have a high-profile case involving a firearm. But knee-jerk legislative band-aids make the situation worse, not better.
The answer lies not in banning guns that citizens can use to prevent protect themselves or prevent crimes.
It lies, instead, in enforcing the laws we have now to harshly punish criminals who illegally use guns to to break the laws and take lives.