By Heidi Hiatt ~ In 1780 a Kentuckian named Samuel was serving in the Continental Army under General George Rogers Clark. He had twelve children.
On June 24th of that year, at a small settlement called Ruddle’s Station, the British and their Native American allies attacked at dawn. Twenty people were killed, including Samuel’s wife Hannah, who was scalped.
Samuel and his 12 year-old son were captured and held at Fort Detroit for the next four and a half years.
It is their sacrifices and their willingness to take up arms against a corrupt government that brought a nation founded on liberty and justice for all into being.
Almost a century later, a nation divided in two and men fought their fellow Americans in a bloodbath that went on for half a decade. Samuel and Hannah’s great-grandson took up arms and risked his life for what he believed was right. He too spent years as a prisoner of war.
Over fifty years later Samuel’s great-great-grandsons would defend their country against tyranny and oppression in the first World War. About twenty-five years after that, their sons would rise up against powerful evils bent on genocide and world domination. A quarter century later, Samuel and Hannah’s great-great-great-great-grandson would serve his country during the Vietnam War.
Nearly thirty years after Vietnam, and almost 225 years after Samuel and Hannah’s sacrifices, their great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter found herself fighting her own war, a man with his hands around her throat a second after he uttered the words, “That’s it. I’m going to f___ing kill you.”
In a sickening turn of events that tied her to the very residence she’d just escaped from, the granddaughter found herself living in the same house she’d just fled for the next five months until she was allowed to sell it.
During the day she went to work at a police department where she assisted the public, including crime victims. At night she returned home to a sealed off house regardless of the temperature, sleeping in various places with two phones and two guns next to her at all times. Given the nature of the repeated threats she’d received and the skill set of the person threatening her, she could not hesitate to take his life if he came for hers.
Upon his arrest the police had confiscated his firearms, including a custom-built rifle that she’d been asked to help pick out parts for. This was the one that he said he’d kill her with when she was sitting in her car at lunch. During the course of the investigation, while a protection order was in place, he “sold” his firearms out of safekeeping at the police department to his next door neighbor and lifelong family friend.
Despite her pleas to park in the police department’s garage, she still had to park on the street and walk across a large open lawn to the building. A supervisor even suggested that she park a quarter mile away down a dark, wooded trail that she would be alone on. She was told to just trust that the police (her coworkers) would rescue her if the need arose. While she didn’t doubt that some of them would risk their lives for her, realistically, they wouldn’t be able to respond quickly enough if she had the chance to call them at all.
Should this woman have the right to defend herself? Some people say that only the police and military should possess firearms. The man who threatened her life is a police officer. Should she still? Given that criminals, the vengeful, and the mentally ill will always find a way to obtain firearms regardless of what our laws say, should she, a law-abiding citizen, be denied a means to fight back in self-defense?
I am Samuel and Hannah’s granddaughter.
In my lifetime I have experienced family violence both as a child and an adult. I’ve seen family members beaten and had childhood playmates murdered. I’ve had friends and relatives raped and mugged. I’ve had people escape violently abusive relationships and barely get out with their lives.
Nine months after I left an abusive marriage, a pregnant family friend was killed by her husband in front of their small children. Last week I was on the phone and email contacting friends and relatives who live near or visit the Clackamas Town Center in Oregon after a shooting rampage occurred there. Some had been in the mall the day before. A family friend was there the day of the shooting and reluctantly left the mall an hour before the murders because her mother had locked herself out of the house.
I spent more than eight years in police records which allowed me to review many case reports involving crime. I have a B.A. in criminal justice and M.A. in forensic psychology, meaning that I’ve conducted in-depth studies of violent crime in addition to years of informal study of the subject. One universal characteristic that all of these perpetrators I’ve experienced and studied have is—and please hear me—that they don’t give a damn about the law. They give a damn about themselves and their twisted ideas of how others should be treated.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, a cry has gone up around the country calling for more gun control laws (or banning firearms altogether). After one of the worst tragedies of our time, as we are still processing the grief, the disbelief, and the horror, this might seem like the sensible and compassionate thing to do. Many well-meaning people have joined in believing that if we can outlaw some or all types of guns, hell on earth situations like this will be minimized or prevented.
While listening to a news reporter make the decisive statement tonight that, “only the police and the military should have guns,” I felt 232 years of my family’s history rush into my thought processes. Both the Democrats and Republicans in my circles own guns; only in recent years has anyone regarded this as extreme when we simply want to protect our people, our property, and God forbid, our country. This is how it’s been since the beginning and to strip a nation of its firearms is to deprive millions of what is sometimes the most effective means of preserving life and deterring crime.
If we outlaw firearms, then it is primarily the law-abiding responsible citizens who the guns are taken from. Criminals will always do what they can to get what they want and that applies to firearms as much as anything else. Banning guns would also make the general populace terrifically vulnerable to a corrupt government and terrorists. Gandhi knew this—he said it about the British. If you want to control a people, take away their firearms. In America we would be taking away the tools that made us able to break away from a corrupt government in the first place.
A prevalence of gun laws does not equal an absence of gun violence. Some analysts are quick to point out how certain countries that do not allow private ownership of firearms have little gun violence. There are other countries, however, that have disproportionate amounts of gun violence when there are laws to protect against it. In our own country we can look at cities and counties where guns are frowned upon yet gang shootings persist or guns are routinely utilized by criminals.
Additionally, crime victims and survivors should not be deprived of the right to defend themselves. I am deeply troubled by the violence I have seen in my life and how little we do to prepare women especially for the threats that exist in this world. An appalling number of women are victims of domestic and sexual violence, but we let them grow up without knowing how to fight back. Every woman should know how to defend herself, and if she chooses to obtain a concealed pistol license or carry another tool for preventing her rape or murder, that is her business. That is her right.
When I take an inventory of how many women I know who have been affected by violence, I think of how different their lives might be if they had known early on how to spot a criminal personality and how to best defend themselves against him. This also applies to some of my male friends and relatives who’ve also been through the hell of victimization and its agonizing aftermath. I think of friends in law enforcement who’ve been threatened and assaulted by criminals outside of work and had to defend themselves and the public by shooting someone at work.
A well-placed bullet could have ended any one of these spree killers’ massacres before they began. While it is usually not advisable to shoot in a crowd situation, I have to consider that the best defense against a depressed, antisocial killer with a firearm is a responsible person with another firearm. An aspect of the Clackamas Town Center shooting from last week that I haven’t seen except on an Oregon news website is that 22 year-old Nick Meli, who has a concealed carry permit, did draw his weapon within sight of the shooter. He couldn’t take a shot because he might have hit someone close by, but the shooter, who seemed to be struggling with a jammed firearm, killed himself soon after.
Did the presence of another firearm have a deterrent effect? We might never know for sure. If it had been safe to take the shot, could lives have been saved? They could have been. What is the government’s response to such incidents? To send in trained shooters—because that’s the level of force necessary when dealing with an active shooter situation. Am I saying that we private citizens should be drawing down on threats right and left? No I am not, and I resent any generalizations, word-twisting, or comments about extremism in advance. I do believe, however, that a well-armed, well-trained populace is the best defense against the rising threats to our safety and our country.
My ancestors held to their guns and enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution for a reason. You can train yourself to respond to crises psychologically, you can become proficient with other weapons, and you can learn how to fight, but there are threats that can only be answered with firearms. I respect everyone’s right to choose how to best defend themselves and understand when people don’t want anything to do with guns. What I don’t understand is the call to rid all legal gun owners of one of the most effective means we have against violence and terror.
If my daughter were being attacked, I hope to heaven that a CPL holder nearby would put the would-be rapist at gunpoint and keep her from that most vile of violations. If my house were burglarized, I would not wait to find out if the intruders simply wanted to sit down with a cup of tea with my family and I before arming myself. If there were a spree shooting or act of terrorism going on and it was possible to safely neutralize the perpetrator before lives were lost, I don’t believe we should just sit there, we should save lives.
After what I’ve seen my people go through, including the lives lost, and the more I learn about my own history, the more I believe that we Americans should never, ever give up our right to keep and bear arms. It is the selfish and evil choices of the criminal and mentally ill that bring an end to innocent lives, not the firearms themselves or the vast majority of the people who own them. Telling tens of millions of gun owners in this country that they are extremists who endanger others is ludicrous. Barring them from owning firearms is about control, not safety—taking guns from the citizenry simply lets the government have all the control and puts us in even a worse position than we were before the American Revolution.
Do not tell me, after the threats I have faced and the sacrifices I have made, that I do not have the right to defend myself via firearms. Do not tell me that it should be illegal for me to prevent myself from being sexually assaulted or murdered. Do not tell me that my friends and family should not have a tried and true way of defending themselves and their property from the creeps, addicts, and predators who would take their innocence and their lives without batting an eyelash. Do not tell me that what my ancestors fought and died for is now irrelevant and we should hand over our guns to Uncle Sam so we can be kept “safe.”
Gun control will not make us safer. It will ultimately make the lives of the criminal, corrupt, and crazy a lot easier. In an age in which dark and desperate forces are rising up across the globe to destroy our way of life and our children are more vulnerable to violence than ever before, this is one American, who due to education, experience, and heritage, strongly opposes the efforts to relieve law-abiding people of their firearms.
We’re the ones who should have them.