A birthday invite? Oh, what fun!
Some ice-cream! cake! A prize!
Yes, birthday parties can be fun,
As long as no one dies.
Fritz and his wife Lorita had invited us to their teeniest daughter’s birthday party. I was grateful and happy. Grateful, because we were so socially isolated by this point, forced by my abusive spouse Joe to live in the most dangerous of the Los Angeles slums. Happy for Justin and Jonah, 3 and 2 years old.
They didn’t have any opportunities to make friends with the children of our immediate neighbors. Not unless I wanted them to be shaken down for their ice-cream-truck money by the other little kiddies, some of whom literally carried knives in their socks.
When we arrived at Fritz and Lorita’s, both Joe and I reeled a moment: The tiny back yard was crammed overfull with people speaking only Spanish in extremely loud voices. A few men appeared to be drunk.
In the middle of the happy, noisy melee, a bunch of baby chicks had been released as entertainment. (It was Easter time.) Lemon-yellow puffballs were peep-peep-peeping and darting about in the narrow spaces between peoples’ feet. A dozen excited small children screamed as they chased and grabbed.
Moments after we got there the inevitable happened: One of the chicks was stomped on and killed–instantly, thank God.
There was a surprisingly-large amount of blood left behind on the grass, and, for a moment, relative quiet.
I suffered severe culture shock upon realizing that the other attendees, including our friends and hosts, weren’t bothered at all by what had happened. Meanwhile, Jonah and Justin had turned to me with twin faces of shocked distress and asked “Why was the little baby stepped on?”, and “Why was everyone chasing the poor little chicks?”
What was I supposed to say to them? The truth? That I had no respect for the cultural values that would consider newborn birds to be disposable party favors?
I was temporarily repulsed by everyone around me, and had to make a conscious effort to reset my cultural dial off “stunned” as I comforted my sad little boys. Happily, I soon managed to crack my mind open again, and we began to enjoy ourselves.
The boys played “Under the Sea” games (it was a “Little Mermaid” party) and I attempted to socialize with our friends, and with their friends through use of my extremely out-of-date highschool S-pan-yole. Things were going just fine–until the boys had to use the bathroom.
Some parents among you might think I was remiss because I sent my two toddlers off to the powder room alone. I have this to say in response: It was only number 1 (I asked), they were always extremely neat (yes—really), there were two of them for added safety against stranger danger, and…come on, it was a friend’s home, not a moonlit truckstop. But you parents who think that I was remiss are entirely right.
I hadn’t thought to check ahead for weapons.
“Mommy,” whispered a wide-eyed Justin, as they hurried back, “there’s a gun in the bathroom!”
Thank goodness our sons had good sense. Because not only was there a gun; there was a LOADED gun in the bathroom. A semi-automatic, lying on the floor, under the sink to make it more easily accessible by those of short stature. With its safety off, yet. Lorita’s brother’s gun, as it turned out.
“I’m a pizza delivery guy, and I have to carry a lot of cash. I took it out of my pocket when I changed my slacks in there, and must’ve forgotten to put it away. I’m really sorry!”
You’re sorry. Well, that makes it okay.
Parents, what lessons have we learned today?
1) Don’t let your babies grow up to be pizza delivery guys.
2) Don’t ever let your babies go anywhere. Ever. Keep them home.
Unless you have taught them basic gun safety.
It is possible that our sons had good sense that day because we never forbade them from playing with toy guns. If a toy gun looked realistic–if it wasn’t a Nerf gun or a ray gun–the boys had to follow the Real-Gun Rules. Our boys had been taught from the start that real guns were to be treated seriously. Maybe that is what saved them from what could have been a tragedy.
THE REAL-GUN RULES
Even if you think it’s unloaded,
(Which meant, our sons’ case, they couldn’t point a real-looking gun at any people, ever.)
Corollary: Don’t point a gun at anything you do want to shoot that has a thing behind or beyond it you don’t want to shoot.
If our boys were downstairs carrying their Disney Kentucky rifles, the barrels had to point down (in case a stray round of virtual ammunition fired up through the ceiling), and if the boys were upstairs, the barrels had to point up–and if any flying rodents in our attic suffered virtual cobateral damage from two boys, who cares?
This rule is more typically taught as “Keep the Gun Pointed in a Safe Direction”. That is too non-specific–especially for kids (who knows what “safe” means to a kid?). I think the way we said it was better.
. Don’t leave them lying around like last night’s socks (yes, you, sock-dropper—you know you do it). When the boys put their rifles away, they had to put them UP–long guns stood up in a corner.
(Wherever YOU put one or hide one, assume that other hands can reach it or find it. Little hands, or big bad-guy hands. Careful2…)
Inexperienced and Thinking About Getting a Gun?
If you are not used to guns, and you’re going to buy one, please talk to your local NRA chapter or a licensed gun dealer about options for locking and storing and transporting your gun, and what the law requires and allows. If for home defense, it must be secured from children and thieves, but it must also be loaded and ready immediately if you need it RIGHT THEN to protect yourself or your family.
Before buying, use a firing range to try out the model you’re considering–don’t just follow the someone’s advice. You need to feel that a gun works for YOU. And please get at least a few practice sessions in.
Semi-Auto, Revolver, Rifle, or Shotgun?
1) Loading ammo into magazines (a.k.a. “clips”) can be very difficult for some people (like me);
2) Loaded magazines should not sit around in a drawer or box for very long periods (months or years) waiting for emergencies, because they use spring tension. The tension can fail to pop up the next round properly just when you need it;
3) A certain degree of wrist strength and firmness is needed to prevent firing jams. Some people, more often women, are not culturally-conditioned to use their arm and hand as one aligned unit, or they lack sufficient strength for the required grip, or they aren’t going to get in enough practice, and thus may have a jam at the worst moment.
4) If (when) a jam does happen, you must be able to clear the round out of the gun safely. This can be scary (or worse) if you’re not very familiar with and comfortable around guns.
5) You must remember to flip the safety to “Fire” at the moment of highest adrenalin. Experienced folk–no problem. People who shoot less often? Could be a problem.
6) Less experienced shooters can forget that there may still be a round in the gun even after the clip is removed. This can lead to unpleasant results. Even experienced shooters have done this.
None of these objections apply to revolvers.
They never jam, they have no magazines, they have no safeties, and they have no hidden rounds.
They hold less ammo, but enough for someone coming through your door. They’re heavier to hold, but they make a nice doorstop in a pinch. (Oh, wait–I just broke Rule Number 2.)
For some people, the “have no safety” feature of revolvers is a negative. I, who have difficulty thinking when calm, don’t want anything to figure out when in crisis mode, and I, who have had lupus arthritis since my twenties, don’t want any teeny-tiny toggle switches to have to push or poke before I get to save my own life.
As for rifles and shotguns, I know about as much about them as handguns: Squat. Get a 22 for fun target practice. They make a nice “plink” sound when the rounds hit metal targets, and the ammo’s inexpensive.
Rumor has it that a shotgun is nice for home defense, because sometimes all you have to do is jack a round in and the bad guy will hear that “chuck-chuck” sound and go running away in fear. But me, I don’t want to have to take the time to jack a round or swing a long gun’s barrel. Give me a loaded revolver, ready to point and shoot.
Gun Control Soapbox
I believe I have the moral and legal right to carry a gun with me at all times, wherever I go, to protect my life and liberty against those who might deprive me of either. And I am more than willing to carry a concealed handgun upon my person in contradiction of laws I consider illegal–i.e. contrary to the Constitution–in order to maintain my own protection and that of my loved ones (or the children of strangers).
I am not necessarily saying concealed-carry laws are unconstitutional, but because open-carry is illegally prohibited, one is forced to go the other route in order to preserve one’s safety and rights. However, I am forgetful, as well as clumsy, and could too easily be as lethally careless as Lorita’s brother. This is why I do not always carry.
For those of you are against any private gun ownership, turn poor overnight and move into my old neighborhood, where gangs rule and the L.A.P.D. doesn’t deign to respond. Tell me you’re not going to get a gun then.
“I’d move away instead,” you say? The Free Housing Fairy is a good friend, is she?
These could go on for days, with so many sites pro and con. Here’s the latest, which has some of the usual stats likely clouded by gang-involved families, but also has some stats scary to me, a supporter of private gun ownership:
The safety switch photo came from www.truthaboutguns.com. Thanks, guys. Interesting site. (Maybe they’ll write and fix everything I got wrong in this post!)
The Fox video (yeah, Fox–I know) shows ONE approach to securing guns at home. Ask gun store folk about others.