It was around
2 p.m. on a Saturday when I pulled into the garage at my
condo. One of my neighbors was
also in the garage and as we pulled in, he walked towards my car. I opened the
door and we exchanged the usual pleasantries before he asked, “Did you hear a
gunshot last night?”
stopped what I was doing and looked at him to see if he was kidding. We live in
a safe neighborhood — quiet, peaceful and not at all the kind of place where you would expect to hear gunfire in the
middle of the night.
assessment of the look on his face told me this wasn’t a joke. I
explained that we hadn’t been home the night before, that my daughter and I had
stayed at a friend’s house. I asked him why he would even be asking about gunshots in the first place.
Apparently, around 2 a.m. something had woken him up. Shortly after that, he received a jumbled text
message from his downstairs neighbor — the same neighbor who shares a wall
with my daughter's nursery. He showed me the text, which was mostly gibberish, but the
words “sorry,” “gun,” “went off” and “Ambien” were clear enough. In the morning, after his girlfriend had left the house, he followed a gut
feeling and searched their room ... eventually finding a slug right next
to their bed.
felt ill and held on to my 16-month-old daughter, wondering what we were even
supposed to do in a situation like this. My neighbor and I agreed that the cops needed to be called. With that decision,
confirmation of the real story came to light.
next-door neighbor — who has always been a bit of a kooky older man, but seemingly
nice and harmless enough — sleeps with a loaded gun under his pillow. On this
night in particular, he had taken Ambien and woke up in the middle of the night, sure that he had heard something. So he fired off a round.
labeled it an accidental discharge and explained there was nothing they could
do about it. He wasn’t ticketed and there were no threats of his gun rights
being taken away. The man fired
a gunshot into another person’s home, and there were absolutely no consequences
as a result.
the CDC, there are an average of 75 to 100 deaths in the United States every
year as a result of accidental discharges. The number of injuries is even
actually die from this — from unsafe gun practices that result in firearms “accidentally”
How do the gun rights of someone who has no respect at all for gun safety supersede the right of my daughter to sleep safely in her own room?
I live in
Alaska. We tend to be a pretty gun-friendly state and I would be willing to bet
that I am the only person among my group of friends who doesn’t own a gun. That’s never really bothered me though. My
father was a cop and a hunter, so I grew up around firearms, taking family
trips to the shooting range from an early age.
But one thing
that was always modeled to me was safe gun use. And even among my friends, I
rarely see their firearms. When I do, it’s usually because we are out camping
or hiking somewhere remote. I would say I’m fairly gun friendly, even as someone who has never
had any real desire to own a firearm herself. In this
situation though, the more I think about what happened, the more upset I become.
Sure, we weren’t
home. And he fired up instead of to the side, so the bullet never came near my
But, it could have.
And she could have been there.
And I could be telling an entirely different
story right now.
I am angry and
frustrated and upset to an extreme I haven’t been in quite a while. I don’t
understand someone sleeping with a loaded gun under his or her pillow. And I
certainly don’t understand doing so while on a drug like Ambien, which is known
to produce hallucinations and altered behavior. But most of
all, I don’t understand how something like this could happen with absolutely
zero consequences to the person who clearly has no business owning a firearm.
How do the gun
rights of someone who has no respect at all for gun safety supersede the right
of my daughter to sleep safely in her own room? How is it
possibly acceptable that this is now something I have to worry about? I’m sorry, but
when did we become so concerned about protecting people’s “rights” that we
stopped worrying about protecting actual people?
I still can’t
wrap my head around it. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that
gun ownership shouldn’t be a right, it should be a privilege. One that can
be taken away when you prove that you can’t handle the responsibility.
If this same neighbor had taken an Ambien and then driven his car into
someone else’s home, there would be no question — his license would be revoked, at least for a period of time. But he shoots
a bullet just inches away from another person's bed and there is nothing that
can be done? How does that
not even merit a ticket or some kind of enforced gun safety class?
I honestly do
not think my neighbor is a bad guy, and I am sure he feels awful (and probably
even a little embarrassed) about what happened. But there should be
consequences to handling a deadly weapon with so little care. Someone could
have died. And that
someone could have very easily been my daughter.