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Why I own an AR-15.

Other than the occasional tweet, I have tried to stay out of the gun debate—largely because of Jonah Goldberg’s haunting and compelling statement:

“…I nonetheless resent being dragged into the political maw so quickly after a bunch of little kids were picked off by a madman with a gun.”

But something has changed that obliges me to share a personal story.

Maybe it was Wayne LaPierre’s, “Don’t-Blame-the-Second-Amendment-Blame-the-First-Amendment” speech.  Maybe it was Piers Morgan giving every wack-a-doodle, conspiracy theorist, “gun nut” a few minutes of airtime so that Mr. Morgan could look morally and academically superior (and, by the way, give himself a nice ratings boost).  Or maybe it was Joe Scarborough, who I respect and largely agree with on numerous issues, wondering aloud why reasonable people would ever want to own an “assault” rifle.

Well, I don’t think the First Amendment had anymore or less to do with some psychopath nut job killing small children than the Second Amendment–I don’t believe in selective Constitutionalism.  I can assure you that vast majority of gun owners in America are overwhelmingly rational people, leading very normal lives, and do not believe that anyone should be deported for having opposing views.  So, I’m left with answering the question that I can answer.  Why do I, as an attorney, the husband of a beautiful pharmacist, and the proud father of three precious daughters, own an AR-15?

In 2004, my wife and I moved from metro-Atlanta to her very small hometown in Southwest Georgia with our six-month-old daughter in tow.  Seven months later we were blessed with identical twin daughters.  (Your math is correct-we had three daughters in 13 months).  Shortly after the twins were born, one late afternoon, when the days were getting short and it got dark early, my wife was running errands with her parents, and I was at home with three infants.  I had just gotten off the phone with my wife, when I heard the “beep-beep” that our alarm system makes when someone opens door.  I didn’t think much of it.  The wind might have blown the door open.  It was an old house after all.  I made sure the kids were okay and went to the front of the house.  Our door was open and a vagrant, who I could not tell whether was a man or a woman, was standing in our foyer in tattered clothes, a bag over one shoulder, and holding something in their hand.  Having defended and prosecuted criminal defendants, this person’s gate, demeanor and glazed-over look told me that this person was blitzed out of their mind on something.

Now you may think you know what you would do in that situation.  You don’t.  The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to stay in between this person and the room with my baby girls.  The only thing I could think to say was a semi-polite, “May I help you?”  The response, in an aggravated and slurred shout  was, “I’m here to get my stuff,” as the unwelcome “guest” walked towards me.  I still didn’t know what was in this person’s hand, so with a more angry tone, I threatened, “Get out or I’ll call the cops.”  The response was now a very aggressive, “Nah man, I’m here to get my (expletive) stuff.”

I cannot begin to tell you have quickly my brain started playing out scenarios.  What if I rush this person–they have a weapon—if something happens to me—the babies are unprotected.  If I run to the babies–I’ll lead this person right to them.  Do I go for the phone? No, there’s no time.  What do I say next?  This person is crazy.  That parental adrenalin that I had only read about kicked in and a voice from deep in side of me—one which I had never heard before or since—came out of my throat as I screamed something like (because I can’t remember exactly), “Get out of this house RIGHT NOW.”

By the grace of God, whatever I said or however I said it broke through the drug-riddled haze and stopped this person in her tracks.  SHE (I found out later she was a she) looked at me, told me to go (expletive) off and walked out of my house, as if what had just happened was no big deal.  I called the police and they picked her up lumbering down the middle of the road not 200 feet from my house.  She was a meth addict with a history of violence, burglary and drug possession.  I never did find out what she was carrying.  To be honest, I never really wanted to know.

You don’t easily get over an experience like that.  The “what if’s” are endless: Thank God my wife wasn’t here.  I wish my wife had been here. What if my wife had been here?  What if I had gotten my gun?  It took me way too long to get this drug addict out of my house.  Thank God the babies didn’t cry.  Could I really shoot someone?  What if I had to shoot another human being.  I never want to have to shoot someone.  But what if I had too?  Could I live with it?  To protect my family?  Probably.  Maybe.  I don’t know.

As a hunter, I own guns.  I’ve owned guns since I was twelve.  A deer rifle.  Several shot guns.  A few hand guns.  All in safes.  I have no idea how many rounds my “clips” hold.  But after this experience, these guns seemed, well, insufficient.  Ironically, the idea to buy an AR-15 actually came from a trip to New York two years prior to this incident.  New Yorkers may recall, in the immediate post-9/11 world, there were law enforcement officials walking around the city in full tactical gear with semi-automatic so-called “assault rifles” strapped to their chest.  You could not walk a city block without seeing armed security.  It was very reassuring.  This awesome show of force was such a ferocious deterrent.  These guns looked mean because they were supposed to look mean.  They were in plain sight with the hopes of each and every officer that they would never have to use them.  This display of firepower ensured that it was unlikely that the firepower would every have to be used.

And that is why I bought an AR-15.  I didn’t buy one so I could feel cool.  And I didn’t buy one just so I show it off or feel manly or because I like the fact that I can shoot a bunch of rounds.  I didn’t even buy an AR-15 simply because I could.  I bought an AR-15 with the hopes that the sight of it would scare the crap out of anybody–sober or high.  I bought an AR-15 so I could have the security of a New Yorker while living in a town with a population of roughly 5,000.  I bought an AR-15 so that I wouldn’t have to ask twice for a criminal to get out of my house.  I bought an AR-15 with the hopes that I would never, ever, have to pull the trigger in defense of my family.

Follow me on the Twitter: @PatrickMillsaps

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