My great appreciation and understanding for the need of the Second Amendment and the necessity for the right to own guns was a slow and incremental journey. No one in my generation of my family owned guns. I was not raised around guns. I grew up in densely populated suburban areas of California, the Midwest, and New England. I never served in the military or in law enforcement. My maternal grandfather was a highly decorated U.S. Marine in WWI with the Fifty-Fifth Company of the Fifth Regiment. He fought at Champaign, Belleau Wood, the Argonne Forest, Verdun, and Chateau Thierry. His grandfather served in the 16th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the War Between the States. He fought at Shiloh, Corinth, Jonesboro, Kennesaw Mountain, and finally Atlanta, where he fell ill and was left behind as the 16th joined Sherman’s March to the Sea. Like most of the soldiers who lost their lives in that war, he died of illness contracted during the war. He left behind his widow (my great great grandmother), who was a Norwegian immigrant, and their three children. (As he died shortly after the war, she was denied a widow’s pension.) My ancestors knew very well how to use guns. This is why I am here.
My first exposure to gunfire was as a six-year old boy in Speedway, Indianapolis. It was 1965. I was walking with my friend and his mother to Kroger’s grocery store. It was a mild sunny day as we left our apartment building. Neither my mother nor my friend’s mother owned a car. We walked everywhere. As we entered the parking lot of Kroger’s we came upon the immediate aftermath of a shootout between two, armed, black, female, bank robbers and two police officers. One black woman lay mortally wounded in a pool of blood with blood splattered around her and on the parked cars near her. The surviving bank robber loudly wailed. They had been on a bank robbing spree that had begun in Chicago.
My next exposure to gunfire was in San Diego in 1985 while I was attending law school. I was at a convenience store to buy two beers to take to my girlfriend’s house. It was early October and early enough in the evening that there was still light out. As I stood at the cash register, some movement to my far right caught my eye. I looked right, towards the glass double entrance doors, and saw a man all in black with a black mask crouching. My fleeting thought was that it was early to be wearing a Halloween costume. (This was also a lesson to have better situational awareness.) I turned back to the clerk to pay for my beers. Another clerk was heading to the back of the store since they were changing shifts. This left me at the front of the store with the two clerks behind the cash registers.
Gunfire erupted over my head as two black men, wearing black masks and black clothes and toting submachineguns, burst into the store. One gunman went behind the counter and ordered the two clerks to lay down, which they did. The third clerk, who was well on his way to the back of the store, then ran out the back. The other masked gunman pointed his submachinegun within an inch of my upper chest, and he ordered me to lie down. I did not. For a moment I thought of running out the back of the store as the one clerk had done. However, as the gunman behind the register still had me in his range of vision, and as the gunman standing directly in front of me had me covered, it seemed that the opportunity to run had past. The gunman in front of me then jabbed me in the chest with his machine gun and again ordered me to lie down. With great reluctance, I did. It seemed that I might get a bullet in the back of the head. He then demanded my wallet. I emptied my pockets of a crisp folded twenty-dollar bill and some change and my driver’s license, which was all that I carried. I can still see and hear the coins rolling ahead of me down the linoleum floor. The gunman again demanded my wallet. I explained that I did not have one. He took the twenty. As the gunman left they said, “Don’t move or we’ll shoot you.” Then, they were gone.
Moments later I heard the sound of their car driving away. Immediately one of the clerks said that the submachineguns were shooting blanks. He said that he could tell by the sound and that he had thought of grabbing one of the submachineguns.
Within a few minutes, the San Diego Police were in the store. One detective measured the bullet holes in the wall just above where I was standing when the gunmen opened fire. The officer said” These are 45s.” So much for the clerk’s “expert” knowledge of the sound of blanks being fired.
The following week, two masked machine gun-toting black men robbed a jewelry store in La Jolla, just a few miles north. The jeweler, who weighed 280 pounds, grabbed one of the submachineguns and was shot five times. He lived.
My next exposure to gunfire was later that year, still in San Diego. I was out jogging one afternoon in a park near Mission Bay. A very anxious, young, Hispanic man quickly walked some twenty feet in front of me. Moments later I was jogging through a half dozen, young Hispanic men in pursuit with their “war faces” on. They did not seem to notice me. I kept jogging and turned my head to see the group of men shooting the man they were pursuing and him falling to the ground.
In 1992 I was living in Los Angeles. My office was on the 6th floor at 1200 Wilshire Boulevard. After finishing an afternoon court appearance in Norwalk, also in Los Angeles County and just east of Compton, I decided to drive home to the Brentwood neighborhood in West Los Angeles, instead of fighting rush hour traffic back into downtown.
Upon arriving home, I uncharacteristically turned on the television. I watched in horror as local news helicopters showed one white, Asian, and Hispanic person after another being pulled out of their cars by gangs of black men who then severely beat these motorists. I called 911, and I found the line was busy. I called 911 again. The line was still busy.
The next morning, I went to work not understanding the severity of the coming troubles. Mid-morning, I received a telephone call from the secretary of a doctor whom I was to depose that afternoon. She said he was afraid to drive up to Los Angeles from Long Beach. I was disbelieving and did not know the context of their concern. I had not watched the news that morning. She explained that there was widespread arson, looting, and violence taking place. Then, looking out my sixth floor office window I saw multiple plumes of smoke a mile or two south of Wilshire Blvd. Within an hour, a voice on our overhead intercom stated that the office was closing immediately and that all of us were to leave the building.
So began many days of complete anarchy, severe violence, and eventually martial law and curfews. When that starts, it is too late to buy a gun. You are on your own. As the violence worsened day by day, I wondered why the Army was not being called out. It seemed to be necessary and the obvious solution to stop the widespread murder, mayhem, arson, and looting. Within a few days, the California Army National Guard, the 7th Infantry Division(some 4,000 soldiers), and the 1st Marine Division were called in to stop the rioting, as the LAPD and LA County Sheriffs were overwhelmed and had lost control.
I spent the next many days holed up in my studio apartment. I should have had a gun for my own safety, but I did not own one. Watching the television news, four things made an impression on me:
- The police could not control the violence;
- Gangs were pulling white, Asian, and Hispanic people out of their cars and severely beating them, sometimes to death;
- Korean merchants stationed on the roofs of their stores in LA’s Koreatown armed with AR-15 rifles were able to somewhat protect themselves, their families, and their businesses from the looting mobs, though they were still hard hit;
- Likewise, men armed with rifles patrolled their neighborhood in Hollywood as lowriders drove through but kept right on going.
All four of these specific images were covered by local news helicopters, but it did not seem to make it to the national news. I saw it live.
Fifty-five people were killed during the riots, and over 2,000 people were injured, some severely with permanent brain damage,like Reginald Denny. Over ten thousand people were arrested.
I promised myself to leave Los Angeles, which remains a very unstable city with tremendous poverty, great animosity among certain racial groups, and a large population that does not speak English.
On the September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks, I was living on East 28th Street between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. My apartment was on the fourth floor of a five story walk-up. As I lay in bed that morning I heard a loud jet fly closely overhead. I thought that was strange. In the two years that I lived there, I’d never heard a jet fly overhead. While I got ready for work that morning, I turned on the television news to check the weather report. The news showed the first jet flying deep into one of the World Trade Towers. The newscasters speculated that the pilot might have had a heart attack. It was bizarre to watch, especially since I lived less than two miles from the World Trade Towers.
For those that had never seen the World Trade Towers, they were massive, not just in height but in girth. Beneath the Towers there was a huge shopping center and a busy subway station. My optometrist shop, Lens Crafters, was located beneath the Trade Towers, along with dozens of restaurants, clothing stores, and other shops.
After watching the second jet crash into the other World Trade Tower and hearing the television newscasters report rumors that there may be ten additional jets heading to Manhattan and other cities, I started to pack a bag to travel up to the South Shore of Massachusetts to stay with family. I anticipated that I might have to hitchhike there.
I walked out of my apartment with my small wheeled suitcase onto Third Avenue. (It would have been a good time to have a backpack and a pistol.) Third Avenue was pandemonium. Third Avenue is a major thoroughfare in Manhattan. That morning it was filled with thousands of pedestrians going in both directions. Cars could not penetrate the sea of people. I made my way 14 blocks up Third Avenue to Grand Central Station at 42nd Street with hopes of catching a train to Massachusetts.
There was a phalanx of scores of New York City Police Officers blocking the entrance to Grand Central Station and informing us that the Station was closed and that we would need to go up to the Harlem Station at 125th Street, some 83 blocks further uptown. It would have been a good time to have been carrying a pistol, but I did not own one.
Two men next to me expressed their need to get a train and get home. We agreed to walk into Harlem together. Ten blocks into our walk one of the men tried to flag down a passing bus but to no avail. The bus looked like something out of a third-world country, it was so packed, with people sitting and standing, even standing on the steps by the doors.
As we walked, one of the men repeated, almost in a trance to himself, that he hoped that his brother-in-law (who worked in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning maintenance on the top floor of one of the World Trade Towers) was okay. Later, I learned that no one on the top floors made it out.
When we made it to the Harlem Station, which is elevated and outdoors, I looked back towards lower Manhattan since it was a very clear morning. Both World Trade Towers were gone.
In the years since, I have lived in the East Bay region of San Francisco, near Oakland, where I was born. There are frequent riots and violent protests. Often the alleged motivation is for some perceived police wrong doing in another state, having nothing to do with Oakland or California. Yet this is the motivation for burning and looting retail stores, grocery stores, and car dealerships. Sears, which employed many black people, was a frequent target until it closed.
In 2009, four Oakland police officers were brutally murdered ambush style by a young black man with a long criminal record and wanted for multiple rapes. When the man was killed in the final shootout that same day, some in Oakland’s black community hailed him as a martyr and held a parade for him. On November 30, 2015, I was in Redlands, California, just two days before the Islamic terrorists left their home in Redlands and crossed Interstate 10 to commit their slaughter in San Bernardino. The danger is growing.
Some five years ago my home was burglarized. Someone broke through my front door while I was away and ransacked my home. They must have been disappointed; there was little to steal. The investigating police officer told me that it took the burglar just seconds, using a sharp tool, to split the door frame holding the strike plate, which then fell inside my home, allowing my front door to swing open. Since then I have replaced the standard strike plate (which was about 7 inches) with an 18-inch strike plate. I added a heavy steel security door in front of my front door. It’s one that would have to be pried off the wall; you cannot kick it in. Also, I replaced and fortified the windows, now with three locks each. I fenced in the front yard and added a locked gate. I set up eight Lorex cameras on the perimeter of my home (which have great day and night vision), and installed a burglar alarm with a local company. It is not the American Redoubt, but it is what I can do now.
Additionally, I finally bought some guns. First, I bought a Glock 23 .40 S&W, then a Ruger .38 Special revolver, and then a Daniel Defense AR-15. I have taken many gun instruction courses and often practice at a nearby range, which I highly recommend.
As the economy continues to get worse, as our standard of living falls, as Islamic terrorism in America and Europe escalates, and as domestic violence erupts in city after city, every law-abiding citizen should get a gun and learn how to use it. Be assured that the criminals and terrorists already have their guns, and they will keep their guns. More draconian gun control laws will not change that. Our local Police are a thin blue line and are not equipped to deal with mass civil unrest or suicidal Islamic terrorists. In those situations, don’t be surprised if you call 911 and get a busy signal.
Be prepared, be armed. Support the Second Amendment, at the end of the day, you are on your own. God Bless America.