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My New Gun


Published: February 25, 2009


Back in late September, when my bank stocks began to tank - slowly, then all at once, as Hemingway described going broke - another wall in my life began to crack, as rumors of break-ins rattled my peaceful neighborhood in Allentown, Pa. The first indication that something was going on was the Crime Watch sign that suddenly appeared on the utility pole a block from my house.


To see what was happening, my husband and I attended a neighborhood-watch meeting in October at the nearby Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where people suggested that crime was moving into our beautiful old neighborhood because the police were putting the squeeze on criminal activity downtown. A former city councilwoman sobbed as she told us how her home was broken into while she slept. An elderly man described how thieves ransacked his house in broad daylight. Some people were roving around different areas, stripping cars, the police liaison there told us, but evidently our stretched department could spare only three squad cars for the whole West End. We left feeling as if we'd have to batten down the hatches while the police tried to make it so uncomfortable for the drug gangs downtown that they'd move on. We signed up to be informed of future meetings and took the card of a local locksmith.


We live in a big old house with an open back porch and a three-tiered yard with trees. A year ago, I loved the fact that we were so open, that neighborhood kids and animals could play and hide here. But after that meeting, I began to see access points, places where we were vulnerable. "We have five doors," I told my husband. "And the windows are a joke. The cat knows how to open them."


Meanwhile, the financial news kept getting bleaker. A lawyer friend's real estate and bankruptcy practice morphed into a plain bankruptcy practice. I'd always heard that crime increases when the economy goes down, and I found myself thinking of some of my grandparents' stories about the Great Depression: people breaking the law out of desperation.


A friend told us to consider buying a gun to protect ourselves. The idea didn't thrill me. I'd fired an M-16 when I was in the Army years ago, could take it apart and put it back together in the dark, and my experience with firearms, and what they're meant to do, made me wary.


Still, I couldn't get the idea out of my head, and a few weeks later I called my friend Jimmy, a gun enthusiast, and asked him to take me along to a firing range "just to see." He brought two handguns, each in a locked metal box, and showed me how to use them. The noise in the indoor range was frightening, even though I was wearing the same ear protectors as construction workers using jackhammers. But more unnerving were the other shooters. The man in the adjacent booth had set his target at 15 feet and was firing with a coolness and precision that chilled me. Two punk-styled boys put up their own targets, life-size blowups of a man and a woman. It was like going to get your driver's license and taking a good look at the people you were going to share the road with.


"You might as well get used to a .38," Jimmy said. "A .22 is lighter, but you can't really stop anything with it. You want to make a nice big hole."


A few weeks ago, my husband went away on business, and after two sleepless nights starting every time the old steam radiators knocked, I finally decided I wanted protection.


Jimmy took me to the Army-Navy Store on Grape Street. It was 11 o'clock on Sunday morning, and 15 normal-looking - I was relieved to see - people were leaning on the gun counter at the back of the store. Jimmy explained the differences between the Glocks, semiautomatics with magazines, and the Smith & Wesson revolvers with six bullet chambers. The clerk told us a lot of handguns were out of stock; arms sales around the country have been increasing in inverse proportion to the collapsing economy and in response to the unsubstantiated buzz cwm13.gif that the new administration is going to tighten gun control.


"You want a revolver, to start," Jimmy said. I pointed to a dull pink Charter Arms revolver with a two-inch barrel: the Pink Lady. It looked like a toy. Jimmy laughed. "You don't want a pink gun."


I watched the woman at the counter next to me test the feel of several Glocks while the young girl with her thumbed an electronic game. Then finally I picked out a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, "the gun I started with," the clerk said. I handed him my driver's license and filled out the paperwork. He left us to run my license number through a criminal-records system called QuickCheck. Two minutes later I was qualified and, between gun and ammo, $762 poorer. The revolver I bought has a black handle and a four-inch stainless-steel barrel. There's nothing pink about it.


Bathsheba Monk is the author of "Now You See It . . . Stories From Cokesville, Pa."

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View PostI thought she was in the military.headscratch.gifheadscratch.gif


What a dumbass she is.


Many handguns are a lot louder than M16's. I wonder what she did in the Army and how many times she fired her weapon?

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