Sunday, June 03, 2007

The making of a gun believer

It was a night in 1982 when I was living alone in suburban Los Angeles. At about 3 a.m., I awoke to a sound at my front door. At first, I thought it was a raccoon rummaging in the bushes, but when I peeked through the peephole on the front door, I saw a man on my porch trying to break the lock with a screwdriver. All my lights were off, so I thought, "He must think no one is home." I pounded on the door from the inside and yelled, thinking he would run away when he knew the house was occupied. He straightened up for a moment, looked back at me through the peephole and, to my horror, bent down and kept working on the lock.

I dialed the number for my next-door neighbor, just 50 yards over the fence, but not one answered. I called another neighbor. Still no answer. I was afraid to leave the house and was beginning to panic. What did he want? What would happen if he got in? I called the police and told the dispatcher what was happening. "Is he in the house?" she asked. (I still can't believe she asked that before telling me that the cavalry was coming.) I said no, so she said, "Well, lock yourself in your bedroom. Someone is on the way."

I ran back to the peephole. He was still there. At this point I realized that a man still trying to break through the door with lights, noise and a person in the house would probably not just take my stereo and sneak away. I was in terrible danger.

Then, all of a sudden, the pounding stopped. I crept to the door and looked. He was gone. He couldn't break through the lock and had probably decided he'd been there too long. The police arrived … about 10 minutes later. I promised myself that I would never be defenseless again.


Australian political party wants gun training for kids

CHILDREN should start firearms training from age 10 and shooting programs should be reinstated at schools, says the NSW gun lobby. At present children as young as 12 can gain a gun permit, allowing them to shoot semi-automatic pistols, bolt-action rifles and other firearms under supervision.

NSW Shooters Party MP Roy Smith told the Sunday Telegraph his group would lobby parliament to allow 10-year-olds to gain two years' experience with air rifles before they sat for gun licences. "Kids these days get in trouble because we don't trust them with anything," Mr Smith said. "BB guns and air rifles now have to be registered when, in my day, all the boys were running around with them; we don't trust kids with pocket knives and we don't trust them with (fire) crackers. "So essentially the first taste of responsibility kids get in Australia nowadays is when we hand them the keys to the car - often with tragic consequences." Mr Smith said his party would also lobby for gun safety programs and shooting lessons to be reintroduced into school curriculums.

In contrast, the Coalition for Gun Control last week urged the State Government to abolish gun permits for minors. Spokeswoman Sam Lee said the law was "absurd". "It is dangerously ironic that a young person cannot possess a fake or replica handgun but that they can legally use a real one," she said. "We don't let them get a driver's licence until they are 17, because it's too dangerous, but we let them shoot with a semi-automatic handgun before they are even teenagers."

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia statistics show big increases across all ages - including minors - in its membership. Spokesman Adam Leto said in 2000, there were just 15 members under the age of 18. Last year that figure had jumped to about 400, with an average of 120 new members signing up every three months. "We now have about 1000 members under the age of 18," he said.

Western Sydney schoolboy Matthew Woolnough, 12, earned his gun licence two months ago and goes to target practice with his brother Aaron, 14, at an SSAA indoor range. "I enjoy it," he said. "It gives you confidence although the other kids say, 'you can't play soccer so you have to shoot guns instead'. "I have a disease which makes my cartilage disintegrate so I can't (run around on the field)."

Ashleigh Bell, 17, took up shooting initially because of her dream of becoming a policewoman. "You feel really strong and confident when you know how to use a gun and the other kids think it's pretty cool," she said. "It's relaxing, it improves your concentration and when you're feeling angry you can come here and shoot instead of taking it out on a person."

Her sister Rebecca, 12, currently has her temporary membership exemption - a precursor to a minor's permit, which she is due to receive next month. "I wanted to do it because I saw my sister liked it so much," she said. "I've been told I've got a pretty good eye so I'm pretty happy with that."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Re:Australian political party wants gun training for kids-

That's the range I shoot at. (St Marys Indoor Shooting Center). Safety is always first at this and, for that matter, all civilian ranges. Tellingly there haven't been any deaths on civilian ranges in Australia.
Only good can come from teaching and giving serious responsibility to kids. They may grow up with a sense of accountability for their actions instead of one of unearned entitlement.