About a week ago kids were shot in a school in the US. The after effect is a discussion about gun laws. The main argument used by gun owners and the NRA (National Rifle Association) being that everyone has the right to protect him- or herself and their property. It’s the second amendment of the US constitution. Written when cowboys rode the plains of America to steal land from the native Americans, made when guns where needed for the creation of a nation.
Jack lives on Davenport Avenue in Westchester County, New Rochelle, New York City. It’s a quiet neighborhood. The crime rate is low, the apartments look nice and the cars in the streets are average from cheap to middle class. Jack might very be your run of the mill Mr. Average living in the block next to you. Your friendly neighbor. I really don’t know Jack, no idea how he looks like, no idea how he makes a living. However, I do know where he lives. I even know the exact address, according to his gun permit.
The Journal News published that information together with names and addresses of another 44,000 gun owners in the Westchester County and adjacent Rockland and Putnam Counties. One in every 23 adults, carrying a gun. Most of them are male. They did so by claiming the right to that information on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, another basic citizens right in the US. Gun owners of course are angry as a result. This column is not about wether they should or should not have published the map. Obviously there’s a risk in that piblication as it drills down to names and addressess, something I find hard to support. But, it’s out there now and no one can deny it’s reality. Gun owners of course went bazurk over the publication and en masse condemned The Journal News for doing so. On the other hand, it only proves that there are so many guns in that area. And as it is an average community out there, one can be sure things are in fact much, much worse on a national scale. Mind, these are the registered gun owners, not the unregistered and it doesn’t even tell how many guns are owned by a specific person. The number of guns will abviously be way more than 44,000.
As the map shows the area is absolutely overcrowded with gun owners. Most of them are according to the NRA and a lot of (mostly Republican) politicians ‘decent and responsible citizens’. Who shoot guns. Most of them. The map only shows the pistol owners. Not the ones owning Bushmaster semi automatics or rifles. The map would become unreadable if it did.
Anyhow, Jack owns a gun. No idea also what gun and what for. But as Jack is Mr. Average, it might very well be for the purpose of self protection and protection of his property. He might think he needs a gun to do so. But does he? Thing is, he would probably, if it was true that he or his relatives, friends or property are under threat. According to US laws that is. But are they? Is it that dangerous to live in the part of New York where Jack lives? Is the crime rate so alarming there? By the way, this is how Jack’s street looks like. Just an ordinary street in an ordinary neighborhood. Doesn’t seem that there is much happening out there.
There’s more information available on the area he lives in. Like on Spotcrime.com, a website showing details of crimes committed anywhere in the US. It also shows the crimes committed in Jack’s neighborhood. In the last three months one crime was registered. An assault resulting from a dispute. Two blocks away. Apart from that nothing happened in the area where Jack lives. No burglaries, no muggins, rapes or killings, nothing. But Jack still owns a gun. Like at least 5 others in his street and over a dozen in the adjacent blocks. Probably all for their safety because there is no way that all of them are sports shooters or hunters or anything like that. They are just Misters Average and Mistresses Average.
So why, if for the past three months the only scary thing that happened in Jack’s street was a dispute, does Jack have a gun, a pistol to be exact? Maybe in a drawer in his bedroom, or a cabinet. Maybe in his pocket when you’re having a coffee at the nearby diner.
Or in the café a little bit more further away.
When he gets drunk for no reason.
And gets into a fight with you.
Pulls his gun.
Why does Jack own a gun?
© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij
Note: Jack exists, he really lives there and if you would search for it you would find out exactly where. Not that it matters because Jack is just one of these tens of thousands of gun owners I picked from the map published by the Journal News. Jack could just as well have been Jill or Bill or one of his neighbors Rodney, James, Robert, Salvatore or Thomas. Sorry Jack, it had to be you. I’m sure you’re a decent guy. With a gun.