I hate guns.
Let me tell you a story. It’s anecdote, not data, but it happened to me, some years ago.
It’s a story about fear, violence and self defence.
In 1995, I was sixteen. I lived with my mother and my sister, my father having left a year or three previously. As we were hard up, my mother and I decided that we ought to take in a lodger.
We put an advert in the local paper and a week or so later a nice, slightly dim but steady-seeming young man by the name of Mark Gunning came through our door. We’d checked him out and he seemed okay, so we had him sign a lease agreement and he moved in. My friend Gav came over to watch the X Files- we had cable and he didn’t- so the three of us sat on the sofa and watched the telly while my mum went to the local pub with her friends. After an hour or two, Mark-the-lodger decided to go to the shops to get some tea. We watched the Outer Limits.
Yeah, we were geeks.
At about half past ten there was a knock on the door. I answered it, being the eldest and it being my house and all. There was a man with tattoos on his forehead on the doorstep.
“Hello?” I had no idea who this guy was.
“Is Mark there? I’m his brother.” So that’s who he was.
“No, he’s not here right now-”
He punched me full in the face, breaking my nose and knocking me over backwards. He pushed past me as I scrambled to stand back up. There was a handle sticking out of his jacket pocket.
The things that happened next happened very quickly. Two women, one of them holding a two-litre bottle of milk, followed him in. I was quite confused, had no idea what was going on but regardless I was glad Mark wasn’t here because this guy was fairly unpleasant at best. Gav and my sister were on their feet. I stood between them and the man.
“He’s not here! He went to the shops! I don’t know where he is!”
“Fuckin’ liar!” At this point he went for me with a meat cleaver. Fortunately I had pretty quick reactions, or I’d have lost an important twenty centimetres off the top of my head. The two women- I still don’t know who they were or why they were with this maniac- were alternately trying to calm the guy down and talk to my sister. Gav had got my hand signals and gone off to call the police- this was before cellphones were everywhere.
Something seemed to snap inside the guy and he went for me again, picking up a chair and swinging it at me, I stepped back and he did a full circle. I shoulder-charged him and he went flying; it gave me a split second to push my sister out of the front door, lock it and lock myself in the downstairs toilet, which had a solid-core door that opened outwards.
He recovered and started trying to hack his way into the toilet with the meat cleaver. I shouted out of the toilet window for my sister to run away and hide, but she was only little and scared and crying and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get out through the little window. A moment later, the maniac guy smashed open the front door- he smashed the glass panel in it, something I’ve never seen before or since in a double-glazed door- and walked through the broken glass shards. There was blood everywhere. The two women picked their way through and were trying to drag him away from the tiny toilet door window. He smashed it and stuck his arm through, his head, jabbing at me with the cleaver but never connecting. I sprayed toilet cleaner spray in his eyes which made him lose interest for a moment, he was shouting, always shouting.
The two women bundled my sister into a white car and the man got in and drove off.
An immeasurable length of time later, the police arrived. Gav had called them and all was in effect. The police rapidly found Mark, the lodger, who confirmed that the man had been his brother, who had escaped from prison during a day release to go to a funeral. The funeral had been for his father, who the man had killed, pushing him through a plate glass window and pouring petrol on him, burning him to death.
The police found him forty minutes later based on the information I gave him. My sister was unharmed, though she still sees a psychiatrist regularly today. My mother kicked the lodger out, and he was killed six months later by his escapologist brother.
Do I wish that the police had arrived with guns? No.
Do I wish that I had had a gun? Not if it meant that he would have one too. He would certainly have killed my sister and probably me too.
Am I scared of this happening again? No. It’s so vanishingly rare.