Mary put the finishing touches on her make-up and brushed her hair back away from her face.
"I'm going shopping, dear," she said to her husband. "Is there anything you want me to get for you?"
"No, I don't need anything," he replied. "Just don't forget to take along a gun for protection."
"Of course, dear. I always do." She slipped a pearl- handled .22 into her handbag and snapped it shut. "Be back in a couple of hours." She took the elevator down to the garage. The basement was silent and empty. Her parking space was about fifty feet away, and she was almost there when suddenly someone grabbed her from behind and pressed a knife into her throat.
"Don't scream," a male voice snarled. "Do exactly as I say, and you won't get hurt." Mary was frightened. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Then she remembered the weapon in her purse. With the knife at her throat there was no way she could get to it, still, it had to be good for something.
"Listen, you can't rape me," she told her assailant. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."
"Gee, I'm sorry. I had no idea." The attacker dropped his knife and ran terrified into the street. Mary straightened her blouse and fished her car keys out of her purse.
"I'm certainly glad I had that gun for protection," she said to herself.
Mary always enjoyed her weekly grocery shopping trips. She cruised up and down the aisles, checking for specials, and marking off the items on her well-organized list. She knew the store layout well, and frequently gave directions to other shoppers. She chatted casually with the checkout clerk as she loaded the groceries into the cart and cheerfully paid the rather substantial bill. Her car was parked fairly close, so she didn't have far to walk. She loaded the bags into the trunk and had just opened the driver's side door when two armed men accosted her, one on either side.
"Just get in and drive," one of them said. "Do as you're told and you won't get hurt."
"You can't car-jack me, you fools," Mary retorted. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."
"Sorry, our mistake," the gunman said. "You have a nice day now, you hear?" And the two bandits took off across the parking lot. Mary shrugged and got into her car.
"Having a gun in your purse really does make you safer," she said to herself. She retouched her lipstick in the rearview mirror and smoothed her rumpled hair. She was a little short on cash, but there was an automatic teller machine just a few blocks away. She parked nearby and locked her car door. She always made a habit of that, even if she wasn't going far. She liked to be able to concentrate on what she was doing. She put her card in the machine and punched in the magic number. The money slid out into her hands, all nice and new and crisp. A voice behind her startled her.
"Just give me the money and you won't get hurt," it growled. Mary turned around. The man wore a stocking mask and had a gun pointed at her head. She shook her head.
"You can't rob me, you idiot," she laughed. "I have a gun in my purse for protection."
"Really," he replied. "In that case, I'd better not take any chances." And with that, he shot her, took her money and her gun, and left her lying dead on the sidewalk.
I've never owned a gun. My parents never owned guns. My grandfather is the closest relative I have that owns a gun and it's an old hunting rifle that hasn't had ammo in it for over 30 years, according to him. It sits in a case in the back of a closet somewhere. Perhaps because of my upbringing, I've just never felt the need to own a gun for protection. I've never been that worried about it. I suppose that many people feel the opposite of me for the very same reason: they were raised to be afraid of what might one day happen.
In light of the tragedy this week in Virginia I've got to revisit this old thought that I've always had, which is why is the U.S. more than any other western country so entangled in this obsession with violence. I really can't discuss the issue any better than the film Bowling for Columbine, so if you would like to hear my take on it go watch the film, if you haven't already. Basically, the film does a very good job of asking questions without really putting blame on any one thing. In fact, what the film does, or at least it did for me, was that it brought to light that, in fact, as a country we have a problem with gun violence. We have substantially more gun violence than any other westernized country and there is no reason for it other than this odd obsession with firearms. Some people like to blame music and video games and movies and race relations. All of these arguments fall very flat. No, I don't like that my students are more interested in video games that glorify guns and violence, but kids in Canada and England and Japan play these same video games and aren't shooting up dorms and schools. Kids get picked on all over the world and people watch the same Hollywood shoot-'em-up flicks in Switzerland as they are here. But, there they separate the violence from the movies. They don't kill each other on the scale that we do.
And, it's also a fallacy to argue our race problems. I won't argue that they exist but the majority of killings in the U.S. are not race related. They are wives killing husbands or vice-versa and other people who know each other blowing up in anger at something and putting bullets through each other's head.
All this is in Bowling... so you should really check it out. It's pretty fascinating.