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Guns: Being judged by 12 instead of being carried by 6

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POSTED May 3, 2013 1:47 a.m.

She’s a single mom in her early 30s. She lives in an old farmhouse in an almond orchard five miles east of Manteca. The closest neighbor is a quarter mile of a way but the trees make it impossible to see their home.

It’s 2 a.m.  The noise of a vehicle coming down the dirt driveway wakes her up. She looks out the window and sees a strange pickup truck. Two young men get out and start walking toward the barn.

She does what she’s supposed to do. The single mom calls 9-1-1. She tells the dispatcher about the situation. She’s then informed the closest sheriff’s patrol unit is 40 minutes away. The mom looks out the window while she’s on the phone. One of the young men moves toward the house. She thinks of her teen daughter asleep in the next room. She then informs the dispatcher that she has a gun and she is going to use it. Then she hangs up the phone and retrieves the gun from under her bed.

Within 10 minutes, two Manteca Police Department patrol units pull into the driveway less than a minute after the two strangers left.

This happened in 1991.

It illustrates why gun control advocates essentially have an insurmountable challenge convincing many Americans that tighter regulations - no matter how reasonable - are going to be tough to secure.

They are repulsed at the slaughter of school children but at the same time aren’t anxious to embrace anything they believe could ultimately erode their rights to defend themselves and their family. 

It also underscores the importance of an elusive statistic: The number of crimes, injuries and even deaths prevented because someone was armed.

In the 1991 incident the single mom did not actually have to confront the two trespassers snooping around her home under the cloak of darkness and well hidden from neighbors.

Had it come to a confrontation, who knows what would have happened. One thing is certain. A woman and her teen daughter would be no match for two young men breaking into their home even if those intruders were unarmed.

Terrorism and single incident mass murders aren’t the type of attack you’re most likely to die in involving weapons. It’s at the hands of garden variety criminals.

And while a disproportionate number of gun victims are young black men killed by other young black men, that does nothing to calm anyone’s fears. The reason is simple. Government - or society - can’t curtail the slaughter in our inner cities so what makes anyone think they can stop it from spreading?

There is no doubt social media and instant communications fan the fires of hysteria and fear. At the same time it is clear that there are people out there who don’t respect the law or the sanctity of life.

Someone who has crossed the line and has broken into your house likely has it within them to do you or your family great harm.

It is much like how many of us view someone who draws a weapon on an officer. If they’re likely to do that to a peace officer they know is armed, they definitely wouldn’t hesitate to do the same with an unarmed citizen.

You can dispute that contention until you’re blue in the face but it sounds pretty darn logical to most people.

Police obviously can’t be everywhere.

At the same time it is clear that there is a limit to what we should tolerate even in self defense.

The slaughter of Trayvon Martin underscores how dangerous cliché thinking such as “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6” can be when deadly consequences happen through provocation or overreacting.

Even so, there’s a long way to go before you can start changing the thinking of many people on gun control.

Guns can be an effective deterrent to crime. And even when they are never used either during an incident or the aftermath of a heinous crime such as in Valley Springs this past week, they serve as a way to keep our fears in check as we make our way through a violent world.

 I know the single mom who is still alive and breathing today would agree just as the residents of Valley Springs would.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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