Adam Lanza's brother, Ryan, lives 50 yards away from me in Hoboken. The day of the shootings, as I stood outside my building, and I watched every reporter from every major network raise the issue of gun control, over and over again, I couldn't help but wonder, had any of them, personally, ever felt the need to have one when they needed it?
Poor Piers Morgan almost came to blows with a guest from the gun lobby on his show, and, as much as I agreed with him, I wondered if Mr. Morgan ever had the immediate need for a firearm?
I know the issue at hand is not about banning hand guns, but for me, personally, I've always taken the hard-line when it comes to gun ownership, of any kind: Get rid of 'em all.
Ever since the moment I heard that Lennon was shot, I've been 100 percent for gun control. In fact, I'm for taking every gun out of the hands of everyone, everywhere; hand guns, semis, assault rifles, shotguns, water guns, etc., etc. But, we all know there's a better chance of a Muslim being elected president than there is an America without guns.
However, I recently had an experience which forced me to re-evaluate my harsh stance on gun ownership, in general. The entire experience lasted only about five or ten seconds, but it felt like half an hour:
Because I live on a high floor in a building with several hundred units, and because I know from experience the locks on our front doors are almost impenetrable -- even to a locksmith -- I sometimes leave the door to my apartment unlocked and, occasionally, forget to lock it at night.
As it happens, one night a few weeks back, at four in the morning, I was awoken to the sound of what I thought was someone jiggling my front door handle. At first, I thought I was dreaming, because about five seconds passed and all was quiet.
As I lay there in my bed, alone, looking into the kitchen and about to put my head down and go back to sleep, the door begins to open -- slowly -- and the light from the hallway penetrates the darkness.
The moment was surreal; like something out of a Hitchcock film. Little photons of light spread like fireflies across the perfect, comforting blackness that surrounds me... and, extinguishes it. And, in extinguishing it, the unwanted light opens a metaphorical door that hurls me into a horror movie in which I'm now the star.
You may think I'm exaggerating, but, I assure you, I'm not. if something like this has never happened to you, I cannot begin to convey what it feels like to be totally helpless in the middle of the night and see an intruder entering your home.
It's amazing how many millions of thoughts run through your head in the span of less than a second;
Is it the wind? Where are we, Kansas?
Is it my landlord? He would know better.
Is it a family member? They would've called first.
Maybe it's my girlfriend? Please, let it be my girlfriend. Nope. She's out of the country.
Your brain pretty much runs through the entire Rolodex of absurd possibilities in a fraction of a second, and quickly alerts you and your nervous system, there's definitely an unknown intruder entering the premises.
From there, it's sheer confusion, terror and self-preservation. Especially when you realize you're not dreaming, and the large, round shadow you see moving across your floor is for real.
The next thing I see from the unobstructed view of my still-dark bedroom, is a size 15 work boot take a step into my kitchen. The other one follows. Yup. As crazy and ridiculously random as it is, my eyes confirm to my brain there's a large, possibly dangerous person standing in my kitchen.
What to do next? Do I run out and confront him and possibly get stabbed or shot? I'm in my underwear and there's no time for shoes, socks or sweats, so, before I have to make the choice to defend myself, and possibly attack this intruder before he attacks me, I muster-up my toughest voice possible and yell from my bed --
"WHAT THE FUCKKKK?????!!!! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU??!!!!!!"
In that moment, I could've probably scared the Terminator away, and it must've brought this guy back to reality because, as slow as he entered -- albeit with a very matter-of-fact (as if he just accidentally took my newspaper on the bus), "Oh. Sorry," -- he bolted out the door.
After what seemed like an eternity sitting there trying to discern if what just happened really happened, I got up and bolt-locked the door, with extra enthusiasm.
When I came back to earth, I surmised this idiot was probably drunk and on the wrong floor, and was going by memory where his apartment was. But, who really knows what the heck he was thinking? And, as I couldn't see his face in the dark and he couldn't see mine, if we ever pass in the hall sometime in the days to come, we'll never know how much we truly scared each other. And, as freaked as I may have gotten him, I think he won that contest, hands down.
The main thought that was running through my head the entire time this event was unfolding was, "I could really use a gun right about now." I mean, what was I going to do? Throw a sock at him? Use my iPhone as a weapon? I guess if they had a Shotgun app, which, when activated, makes the "Chik!-Chik!" sound as if you're loading a rifle, it could've worked.
I realized one thing pretty quickly, though: Trying to call 911 was a near impossibility.
In normal circumstances, when we take our phones to bed with us, most of us will have trouble locating them if they start ringing in the dark. Even if we know exactly where we put them on the nightstand, we sometimes still fumble around. Try reaching for your cell phone in the dark sometime, under duress. Then, after you grab it, try and find the Home button to bring it to life, then try and slide the bar across the screen to unlock it, then try and push your Phone icon, then push the Keypad icon, then, finally, dial 911. If you're not dead yet, and you haven't accidentally speed-dialed Domino's, I'd be amazed.
This crazy experience has taught me three things:
1. You never know how you'll react in any situation until the chips are down. And, in cases of self-defense, it definitely helps to have a gun nearby. But, a gun that fires only 6 shots should be more than enough. There's still no good reason to own an Uzi. No matter where you live, you'll never keep an Uzi under your pillow or in your nightstand.
2. Even though I was scared shitless, and my thoughts about gun ownership, in general, have been altered because of it, I still will probably never own a gun -- at least, not while living in Hoboken. And, not unless I move to a remote part of Montana; and then, we'll see.
3. My take on the NRA has not moved an inch. With children being gunned down in schools, in malls, and in movie theaters -- to the point where a CNN anchor actually comments, "When the shooting starts, kids usually run and hide in the closets," as if this sort of thing happens every week, it can't get any worse.
So, regardless of issues of self-defense, why not err on the side of safety and make it harder for anyone to purchase a weapon? Why not include voluntary hospitalization as red flags in background checks? Why not be better parents, politicians, and psychologists?
No matter what Congress does with the guns, the sad reality is, after Newtown, there's no doubt, the country we live in is changed forever.
Back in the day, our parents prepared for attacks by the Russians. Our kids prepare for attacks from other kids. And, how do you fix that?