Luckily for his family, one homeowner on McCormick Avenue in Olympia understands this uneasy truth. Around 2 a.m. on Apr. 21, he heard strange noises coming from his backyard.
When he ventured onto his porch to investigate, handgun cocked and ready, he allegedly found a tenacious individual trying very hard to climb over his back fence, fleeing his property.
It was at this point that the homeowner realized his life was in imminent danger, so he allegedly shot the trespasser in the torso. Police later found the intruder, alive but collapsed, about 500 feet from the scene.
I was appalled when I saw this news. I just had to understand this sort of mentality. So last weekend, I took a self-guided tour through a few of Olympia’s finest gun stores — beehives, I imagined, for burly, swathed-from-head-to-toe-in-stars-and-stripes kind of men, to whom the Second Amendment was pollen, and arbitrary butchery was honey.
My first stop was Larry’s Guns, on Martin Way. I noted dryly as I parked my car that the store was nestled between a trendy skateboard emporium and a vendor of adult toys. Were those bars on the window a practical defense or a symbol of cultural isolationism?
Inside, the man at the counter (whose name did not seem to be Larry) greeted me warmly. I explained that I was simply a curious journalist, trying to make up my mind about a gun-related incident, and I showed him the news article about the shooting.
My entire body was tensed, anticipating, as if someone had turned off my safety but paused before firing me. I waited for this gentleman to let loose some statement of radical sympathy with the homeowner, which I could scribble down in my blue notebook and use to ridicule gun owners as bloodthirsty and deranged.
But that statement never came.
Instead, the two of us engaged in reasonable discussion for the better part of 10 minutes. It turned out that this gun salesman, too, felt what appeared to be scorn toward the panicky homeowner in the news.
Surely this open, friendly salesman with his levelheaded outlook couldn’t be a true gun enthusiast. But further trials yielded similar results: not a single person from any gun store I visited advocated using lethal force under any circumstances except those that were directly and immediately life-threatening, and even then they implored that a warning be issued first.
Even I couldn’t argue with using a gun, if one happened to be handy, in a case of true self-defense; I’d do it myself.
To my amazement, the gun advocates and I agreed in nearly every respect. I realized I had been demonizing them — the most surefire method in the world for ensuring isolation.
As not-Larry and I shook hands to conclude our meeting, the geniality of our conversation struck me as wonderfully tenuous. We would have hated each other on sight had we met on opposite sides of a protest march. If you draw the lines before you start discussing an issue, both camps may nod their heads, but neither camp will listen.
Mere public tolerance can still breed quiet contempt; what we need to strive for is truly compassionate coexistence.
Honestly, I hate guns. Violence seems so unproductive. But to be fair to the McCormick Avenue homeowner, I can’t promise that, scared and confused by an intruder in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t fire away myself.
Emerson Hardebeck, junior class president at Timberline High School and an editor of Timberline’s student newspaper “The Blazer,” is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.