Sunday, January 30, 2011

One of Life's Firsts

Warning!  What you're about to read might alter the image that you have of me, but allow me to explain.  For a little over 60 years on the planet I've never owned a firearm.  And thank God we've never needed one for home defense although there was one time early in our marriage when we might have come close.  Our oldest daughter was just an infant.  There was a knock on our door one night. When I opened the door the strange looking guy seemed surprised. After a couple of seconds of a blank stare he asked, "Is Mike here?" To which I replied, "Yes I'm right here."  Another long blank stare and saying nothing he did an about face and walked into the darkness.  I followed him outside asking what he wanted, which in hindsight wasn't a good move, but he kept walking and never turned around.  I guess he picked the wrong name out of the blue.  That experience would go on to alter the way I answer the door at night.

A few years ago a man and woman posing as husband and wife and pretending to be stranded knocked on the door of a nice older couple across the street and down a few houses.  They pulled a gun and tied up the man while the lady took the wife to the ATM to make a withdrawal.  Fortunately no one was hurt and a few days later the news came out that it was an inside job.  A few weeks earlier these folks had hired a contractor who told someone about the potential for a heist at their house.  This event shook people up in our neighborhood and was a reality check that this can "really happen here".  I felt the strongest urge ever to protect my family and came real close to buying a handgun.  What stopped me was Amber's strong desire to not have a gun in the house.

Through the years while we lived in California every once-and-awhile I would have the urge to get a .22 rifle to go plinking with other guys.  But I've always respected Amber's desire to not own a gun and just put that urge out of mind.

As I've mentioned before our son is a policeman.  For the past four years I've watched his transformation in many areas including his growing interest in firearms.  Recently I expressed my desire to go shooting sometime with him and our oldest grandson.  I was pleasantly surprised that Amber finally relented to me getting a handgun if it meant that the three of us could develop this interest together.  I don't mean to make this sound like Amber rules the roost but a person's stance on this subject, like a few others, is rooted deep within so I haven't wanted to go to the mat and argue my position.

Friday I made the plunge and bought a handgun.  (Wow, that was new statement!)  I've been researching it for a few weeks and in fact struggling a bit with how it'll all pan out.  As many of you know who read this blog I'm a volunteer chaplain at the county jail.  Let me pose just a couple of questions that I've been pondering.  Does owning a gun for protection mean that I'm not trusting God?  Is it okay to tell someone about the love of Christ while carrying a concealed weapon? The answers that I've found to these two points deserve at least a full post on their own but I won't go into it now.  Maybe you have some thoughts on these questions and I'd really like to hear them.

It's an unpredictable world with some people who mean harm to others.  I don't think that statement means that I'm paranoid because I do fully trust in God.  But because I work at the jail I'm more aware than most about the reality of what goes on around us.  Everyday all of the news sources bear witness to the fallen world around us.

Years ago I was in the National Guard.  We were trained on all sorts of firearms because back in the day the National Guard was just that - a national guard.  I enjoyed it when we would camp out at Camp Pendelton Marine Base and have our annual weapons training.  So firearms aren't new to me but like motorcycling there are do's and don'ts and I plan to restart the learning curve.  I'm looking forward to our son teaching our grandson and me.

Yesterday I made my first purchase of ammunition.  (Wow, that's another first.)  Bi-mart has it on sale.  I'm such a newbie I just turn myself over to the people who know what they're doing.  Isn't that the way it was when we first began riding?  You have to trust and learn from the experienced people.

I know some of you might find this subject scary and upsetting.  Recently we had the tragic event in Tucson, Arizona where six people lost their lives and nineteen were injured including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords when a gunman opened fire at a shopping center gathering.  Amber and I were watching NBC's Dateline the following evening.  They interviewed a guy who was nearby and carrying a pistol.  He got to the scene after the gunman was wrestled to the ground and felt bad that he didn't arrived earlier and maybe prevented some of the devastation.  Amber said it's scary to think there are people walking around us with guns.  I said no that's comforting to know that there are people familiar with guns who are available to help protect us. Even police agencies will tell you they can't be everywhere.

A couple of years ago an Iran veteran attending an Oregon University was expelled when it was discovered that he had a handgun on campus.  He was a Marine veteran with a concealed permit trained in the use of weapons and he got verbally scourged and expelled.  My feeling is this is the guy you want on campus and in fact he should have gotten a break on his tuition to help compensate him for his experience and availability.

Well, I thought I would "let the cat out of the bag" and write on this subject since most likely there will be a sprinkling of future posts on this point.  Our oldest grandson is 14 and has plans to go into the Army after high school.  He really looks up to our son so who knows, he might want to go into police work.

Stay safe.

God's speed.


  1. This is a topic that I best not comment on, We have very different views on guns over here, and gun control is very strict. If you are comfortable with your decision, and have the full support of Amber, then i have no problems with what you are doing. and personnally I do not think it reflects on your relationsgip with God at all. All the best Rog.

  2. Mike:

    If I were put in a room with other gun owners I would be the last person you would suspect of owning any. I've nearly always owned guns and would often go to the range until the gun club got relocated far out of town. In our youth in the 60's we used to go north on logging roads and shoot for pheasant, and on Vancouver Island during the summers we went to the dump and tried to shoot the rats and crows. There used to be a bounty on crows. I still have a valid possession certificate.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  3. Rog,
    Thank you! I appreciate your views on this and I know that some who'll read this are in the same boat as you. Gun control is a touchy issue and we have to live with what we have. Take care!

    I have to tell you, Wednesday on my way back from Eugene I stopped at a sporting goods store in Salem. I was in the research mode so I was at the gun counter asking questions. A nice gentleman from Canada came up to the counter next to me and was very helpful too. He sort of explained some of the differences in your handgun laws up there. I was thinking of you and wondering where you stood on this. He and his wife had just been to the Shot Show in Vegas and said they really enjoyed it.

    Thank you for commenting! Take care!

  4. I have no judgement Mike...none whatsoever.
    I believe you pray and go with the direction God gives you. I pray for your and Amber's safety...

  5. Stacey,
    Thank you. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. I hope you're doing well.

  6. Guns are one of those things people are very passionate about. That being said, I'm neutral on guns. Grew up in a houseful of guns (hunting). Ron has a 22 and a shotgun. I've gone shooting a few times, but mostly I'm just not that interested. I don't know if I could ever use one for defense. My son has gotten interested this past year and purchased his first firearm. He and Ron go shooting from time to time. I may go with them sometime.

    I don't think it shows a lack of faith, but that's just me.

  7. Kari,
    I agree, guns are a passionate and tricky subject. I think that's neat that you go shooting sometimes with Ron. I'm not a hunter because I couldn't even shoot an animal or bird. I doubt that anyone really knows if they could shoot someone in self defense until that moment. As I said, I don't know how this will pan out but right now we're taking baby steps. It's really about the three of us going shooting together. The added feature is it's there for home defense if needed and I pray that never happens.

    Thank you for your opinion on this, I appreciate it.

  8. Mike,
    Roger has hit the nail on the head from an NZ perspective and as the US and NZ cultures are so different from a firearms perspective, I can't make any useful comment. In addition to Roger's comments, I would add that NZ police don't carry sidearms as a matter of course and are in fact opposed to it. Crimes involving firearms are still relatively uncommon here and I think that the police view the carrying of sidearms as possibly the first step in causing an escalation.

    I do believe though from all your past posts that you're a caring, compassionate human being who doesn't undertake any course of action lightly so in the scheme of things, you'll make the right decisions.

  9. Mike,

    This is a very touchy subject and it polarizes people.

    But since you brought it up:

    You're not showing a lack of faith, not at all. You are doing what you can to protect you and your family the best way you see how in light of past events and recent context. That's how grown up people make decisions. I think you're actually following the saying: "God helps those, who help themselves".

    The police will tell you, off the record probably, that their mission is to enforce the law, not to protect you and yours. They cannot be everywhere and minutes ... can be a very long time, as the folks in AZ found out. I am not saying the police won't try and stop a bad guy if they're nearby....I am saying the police cannot be everywhere and within "effective response" time frames.

    Guns, are tools, and like motorcycles, can be dangerous if used without training or carelessly. You are but at the threshold of the world of concealed weapon ownership, so many pitfalls are involved when you draw that weapon; so many legal liabilities both criminal and civil exist that you are exposed to when you draw that weapon.

    It sounds like you're doing the right research and going through the right thought processes.

    I wish you well in your ongoing thought process, guns are not evil...but having one, training with it and knowing the laws involving using one are the mark of a thoughtful, prepared person.

    You live in a country where this is a choice. If your wife is uncomfortable with folks who carry concealed firearms, I think you've a tough road ahead Sir.

    Can you tell which camp I am in? : )

  10. Geoff,
    That's good news that crimes involving firearms are relatively uncommon in NZ. I can understand yours and Roger's feeling about this issue. Unfortunately here in the US we have to live with the mess we're in. I personally feel the the TV and movie industries have contributed quite a bit to our crime problem.

    Thanks for your input on this Geoff, I appreciate it.

    I should have mentioned in the post that it's our son who has suggested that I get a concealed carry permit. Where I feel the most vulnerable is at our place at the coast. It's in a secluded neighborhood right off the highway. I plan on having it there when we go but when I go by myself on the bike the law here gets tricky transporting it without it being considered concealed. A permit would take away any issues with that. I probably put too much emphsis in the post on concealing it but I doubt that I will have it with me much at all.

    As you've alluded to it's a lot of responsibility and I've been concerned about that so we're in the baby step mode. Drawing it on someone is unthinkable. At this point I just want to put some holes in some bulls-eyes.

    I have a friend, and by the way I consulted with many friends about this, who got a pistol about ten years ago. He said his wife was adamantly against it at the time. He says now she's at the point where she might go shooting with him. I think over time Amber will get more use to it.

    I was wondering if you were going to chime in on this. I know you have a military background so I'm going to guess that you're on the pro side. But because you didn't come out and say that, you could be on the negative side. :)

    Thanks for your take on this Dom, I appreciate your input too.

  11. I was born with guns around me, my dad was a hunter in Mozambique, I started shooting when I was around 9 and he taught me how to use and be safe with guns. I don't think it has anything to do with God. I owned a gun before I came to the US, never got one since I have lived here but have often considered buying one.
    Think about the 2 guys in NY (I think) that terrorized a family, abused the 2 girls and wife and then torched them and the house after knocking the father unconscious with a baseball bat. If the father had woken up, gotten a gun and shot the 2 Ba$tards, do you think God would be considering him the same as the other 2? If that's the case then I have a problem with God.
    It's what you do with it, how good you are that matters in the end, not that you owned a gun and went shooting at some bottles.
    Enjoy it, you are a good man, have faith.

  12. George,
    Thank you for your thoughts on this. Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking with someone who used that same family (in Connectict) to make the point about how things might have been different if he had a weapon. I hope you don't ever have a problem with God. In my opinion He's the One who has all authority.

    I have to admit, since doing this post I've had second thoughts on whether I should have even posted it. I've not had second thoughts about getting the gun, in fact each day others have helped encourage my decision as most everyone including you have done here. I'm looking forward to sharing this interest with my son and grandson but I think this might have polorized some people who have followed this blog. I underestimated that when I made the post.

    Thanks George for your kind words, my friend! I hope you get out of the snow soon!

  13. Having entered my 6th decade, I have never fired a firearm. However, in light of the assaults by our legislators and courts on the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I am in the market.

    I want to think that such a purchase is not necessary, but more and more we must be prepared to defend ourselves against government. Our founding fathers meant that to be the case when they fashioned that second amendment.

    Further, if we are outlawed from having firearms, only those who obey the law will be without them. Those who break the law will still possess them and will be emboldened to use them.

    You have made a good decision.

  14. Bucky,
    You've made some excellent points. Thank you for your thoughts on this. Safe riding!

  15. I think the Founders had Divine Providence guiding them in the writing of the Constitution Mike. No, I know it. We have God's given right to defend ourselves. Our God given rights are to live, be free and be able to make our lives as best we can with our own ability. We live our lives, doing what we can for our neighbor, treating others as we would like to be treated, but not everyone lives that way. There is evil in this world. Hopefully we will never have to face evil, but it's best to be prepared. I think it would be wonderful for more people, old and young, to be trained in the responsibility of gun ownership and defense. I am not bothered by the fact that there could be any number of individuals around me with concealed handguns.
    This was a good post Mike. Enjoy your new found hobby! Join the NRA!! I'm a Life Member!

  16. Wow, Eve - thank you very much for your supportive words. One never knows which side of the fence people are on the gun ownership thing. I really like what you said here!

    I'm joining a gun club which has a requirement for each member to be in the NRA. I just joined it last week. I went shooting this afternoon with my son. We had a great time! I can learn a lot from him. Take care.

  17. I sometimes train with a SWAT team. Not officially, of course, but when some of them are off duty I join them in offline practice sessions. From their commander:

    When seconds count we are minutes away".

    Spiritually, reference 1 Timothy 5:8. "Providing" means food, shelter, spiritual leadership, and security, among other things.

    Isn't there also a responsibility to prevent sins against God? Your jail ministry does that in one way. Armed defense does it another way. You may or may agree with that statement but there is truth to it.

    Practically speaking, there is no halfway. If one cannot make the decision ahead of time that they will actually end a life if circumstances dictate then they should not travel that pathway.

    Too many people carry who have not made that decision and will pay for it some day.

    If that decision is made, then train and train some more. Innocent bystanders should never pay for another's incompetence.

    That being said, living up to the responsibility of carrying also makes one a better person in many ways. Being aware of the heavy responsibility, for example, makes me much quicker to avoid situations in the first place. I do not respond in anger towards those who offend me knowing where it can lead. I do, but only in the sanctuary of my privacy long after the other person is out of my life. I'm no saint, after all.

    One of our historic figures said,

    An armed society is a polite society.

    Just a few thoughts for what it's worth since you invited comment. I applaud you but caution you to do it correctly. I'm available as needed but you are in good hands with your son.

  18. Irondad,
    Yeah, as I mentioned, I'm in the beginning of the learning curve. I guess everyone had to start at this point. Thank you for your input!