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  My mother and stepfather always owned and often carried guns. They worked in restaurants and later operated a janitorial service. Both occupations had them out and about in deserted urban environs during the wee hours.

  One night years ago my mother, after locking up a restaurant she managed, was followed by a man as she walked to her car in an empty shopping mall parking lot. There was no one else in the vast lot within sight or shouting distance. She slipped her hand into her purse wherein she carried a pistol, turned to face the man, now just a few yards away. He stopped in his tracks, assessed the situation for a moment and then turned and walked away. She told me that she’d let him see his tombstone in her eyes. Adding to the tension of this event was the fact that a serial killer of women was then active in the area. She reported the incident and gave a description of the man to the police.

   On another occasion she fired a gun through our front door narrowly missing my biological father's head as in contravention of a restraining order he was attempting to break in with, one can safely assume, violent intent. That was over sixty years ago yet the memory remains vivid and troubling.

  I now live in a town adjacent to Oakland, California already notorious for its high murder rates, where at this moment a gang war is in progress. Last weekend there were some nine shootings, at least four of them fatal.  A family friend was recently pistol whipped, savagely beaten and robbed at an Oakland BART station. Here in my predominantly middle class town, noted for its relative safety, violent street crime is on the rise and our police department has been cut along with other services. These cuts on top of the underlying chronic effects of our neglect and abuse of the poor are making themselves felt even here.

   Twice, once recently and another time some years ago, I have personally witnessed gun fights on public streets in Oakland that put school children and other bystanders at risk. My own car was hit by an inept shooter on the most recent occasion. At an intersection clogged with rush hour traffic, these fools were ducked behind their respective car doors, waving their guns about and pumping bullets into the air without even being able to see where they were shooting.

    Both my adult children work in Oakland as do their respective spouses. Since so many who should not have guns appear to possess them and use them with impunity, I have taken to encouraging my loved ones to carry self defense weapons even at the risk of being charged for doing so, as I do. I have reached the point that I would rather suffer the consequences of illegally carrying a weapon than be a victim of someone who would attack me or mine with or without a gun.

   Thankfully, I have never shot anyone, but being in a position to do so has saved me from being criminally assaulted more than once over the years.  Recently, someone who didn’t like my driving followed me to a gas station and rushed at me when I got out of the car. He was a very large fellow and clearly meant me harm. Age and chronic illness have rendered me frail so that I can no longer adequately defend myself with my bare hands and injuries such as this fellow might have inflicted could easily cause serious or even fatal injury. I drew my firearm, put a bead on him and thereby interrupted his charge long enough for me to jump in my car and drive away.

   Again, I have never shot a person; I certainly never want to do so. My less than enthusiastic regard for guns is further fraught by my biological father having committed suicide with one. The only things I have killed with a gun were two small birds when at aged  twelve  I had been given a BB gun for Christmas. I felt terribly guilty afterward and have not shot a living thing since. But neither do I wish to be a victim of a thug or an intemperate bully. If we could indeed keep guns out of the hands of those who mean to harm others with them, and in other ways make ourselves safer in our streets, neighborhoods and homes, I might gladly give up my guns or at least keep them locked up at home.

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