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Originally published August 25, 2009 at 12:07 AM | Page modified August 25, 2009 at 12:18 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Biting the bullet for myself

Turns out I'm a pretty good shot. The first round was in the center of the target from about seven feet away. My aim got a little squirrelly after that, probably because I realized what I had done.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Turns out I'm a pretty good shot.

The first round was in the center of the target from about seven feet away. My aim got a little squirrelly after that, probably because I realized what I had done.

I had loaded, aimed and shot a 9-mm Glock semi-automatic, followed by a .22.

What kind of person does that?

Based on the Saturday crowd at Wade's Eastside Gun Shop in Bellevue, all kinds. Husbands and wives, a grandmother and her grandson, guy friends, guys with their girlfriends.

And me, under the watchful, safety-first eye of a man named Matthew, who had volunteered to teach me about guns and self-defense — and didn't want me to print his last name.

Matthew contacted me after I wrote about convicted sex-offender Joseph Aqui moving into Seattle's Othello neighborhood, not far from my house.

Around the same time, in the South Park neighborhood, two women were attacked by a man who had broken into their home. For more than an hour, he raped them, cut them and eventually stabbed and killed one of them. It was every woman's nightmare.

So when Matthew wrote, volunteering to teach me about gun safety and self-defense, I was open. And it surprised me.

"I feel some sympathy for your situation," he wrote. "I think I would feel a constant, low-level fear from having an identified predator nearby."

I had some options, he said. I could move (difficult and costly).

I could reach out to the neighborhood watch and install a security system (doable).

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"But I also think that realistic self-defense capability would help manage and reduce that fear," he said.

That means learning how to handle, shoot and own a gun.

Is a gun really necessary, though? Not if it means joining the same club as the man who brought an assault rifle to a rally outside an event with President Obama in Arizona last week. That was the Second Amendment run amok.

So, I took an informal poll.

Some friends recoiled. Others said yes, they owned a gun, with a distinct "what of it?" tone. Clearly, they had defended themselves over defending themselves. A lot.

My dad breezily told me he once owned a .22, and it struck me as a bygone practice that was accepted in naiveté, like the "Mad Men" on TV who drink at lunch and smoke everywhere.

And then there was the dear friend who said of handguns, "I hate 'em," before hunkering down to confess, "But I really like rifles."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan once revealed she kept "a cute little gun" in her bedroom.

Could I ever do the same?

Matthew, a former NRA-certified instructor for years, started me with a "not negotiable" safety session, during which he made me read aloud the rules for safe gun handling.

At the range, my hands shook as I loaded the magazine, but then settled as I got more adept.

After an hour, and some time peering through the glass gun cases, I was in. I wanted a .22, maybe a revolver. I was tossing off gun terms like Wyatt Earp.

Then I went home and looked around. Where would I put a gun? Would my son be all right with it? Would I react quickly enough in crisis or be asking for more trouble?

I learned that between 2003 and 2007, 38 people in Washington state died in accidental shootings. I thought there might be more.

For now, it's enough to know that I can handle a gun. And maybe that confidence will be enough to save me, if that awful day comes. Maybe.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

You've got to be carefully taught.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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