As Jason said to me around 9:30 last night...Just what kind of neighborhood do we live in?
Just when I think I know the answer to that question, one of our neighbors does something to surprise me. In a bad way.
At dusk last night, while Ains was getting ready for bed, I went to our front window to check out the storm cloud gathering. A man I didn't recognize as being from our street caught my eye; he looked to be about my age, and was walking briskly with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. He was walking like a man with a purpose.
I noticed he was carrying something down at his side in his right hand, the side of his body I couldn't see very well. It appeared to be a long, thin object. At first I thought it was a garden tool. Then I thought maybe it was just a pole. Then when I saw what it really was, I couldn't believe it, and my blood ran cold.
"Jason, is he carrying a..."
"Oh, my God. I think it is."
He was carrying a gun. Purposefully. Down a residential street. Heading directly for the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, which is inhabited by a woman who spends most of her time drunk and causing trouble.
We just stood there. I wish I knew more about guns so I could tell you, with certainty, what type it was. All I know is it was one of the long varieties: something in the rifle family.
Could it have been a BB gun? Well, one can only hope. But, firearm novice that I am, I still think I might have been able to identify a Red Rider.
We didn't know what to do. What, exactly, are the legalities there? Do concealed weapons laws apply when one is not concealing, but not firing or being threatening, either? Do you call 911? Or just wait until the shots are fired?
Jason and I just stood there, holding our breath. We watched the guy walk right into the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, knowing that he's not the guy who lives there, but observing that he didn't exactly knock, either. We waited. When several minutes passed, and when we saw that other neighbors who were actually outside at the time this guy passed didn't seem distressed or on the phone with the authorities, we calmed down. We didn't hear or see anything unusual, and life went on.
But it begged the question: What kind of neighborhood do we live in? I've joked here that it's a banging-class neighborhood; all of a sudden, that has taken on a new, not-so-funny meaning.
Gun control isn't one of my big political issues. Other people in my party and probably in yours get pretty fired up over it; I've always been just sort of "meh." I see the logic of "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" and "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" and all that. But I also get angry when a kid gets his or her hands on a parent's unattended weapon and accidentally kills a playmate. And I often wonder, when in a crowd, how many people have concealed carry licenses and just how mentally balanced they are.
Seeing a stranger nonchalantly carrying a rifle-y weapon at his side down my street while no one batted an eye or called the police because technically he wasn't doing anything illegal (at least I think he wasn't technically doing anything legal--one of you lawyer types please weigh in) could push me a little to the left here.
Guns may not kill people...but you don't exactly want to see one wander down the street you just got your kid off of 15 minutes before. either.