Here’s the thing; I haven’t always been a gun advocate. After the school shooting at Columbine in 1999, I adopted the view most liberals still cling to; gun reform is necessary for our country, and long overdue. Then, during my senior year in college, something happened that altered my paradigm entirely.
I was out with fraternity brothers at a local bar celebrating the end of finals. There were eight of us drinking our problems away like countless Coeds before us. This night occurred in the early 2000s to give you a frame of reference. Nothing was out of the ordinary for the first few hours, but right around eleven, things went south and changed my lens forever.
My fraternity brother Drew, a hulking, athletic man in his early 20’s with a way with the ladies, found himself in an altercation with another man. The two were arguing over something trivial. The Russian claimed Drew spilled beer on his brand new shirt. Note – In no way am I claiming all Russians are problematic. I’m simply stating details to help you visualize the incident.
The two men went back, and forth accusing the other of being the problem. Pretty soon, the fists were flying. In less than a minute, Drew had the man pinned to the floor. A couple of bouncers swooped in like pterodactyls and separated both guys.
After a quick deliberation, it was decided that the Russian was the instigator, and he was booted from the premises. Drew was permitted to stay with one stipulation; no more drinking. Things went back to the way they were, and around closing time, we decided a late-night stopover at a twenty-four-hour grease spoon would be the perfect nightcap.
Our posse of eight had dwindled to four by the time we arrived at Tommy’s, a diner known for its amazing poutine, crappy coffee, and blue-collar clientele. Drew, James, Danny, and I scarfed down our orders. A little after three in the morning, we started on the short walk to our frat house on campus. And then it happened.
Shootings are not like you’ve probably seen depicted countless times in films. Instead of chaos, the event seemingly rolls by in slow-motion. Supplanting chaos is disbelief. You stand there, and it doesn’t immediately click what is happening to you, or in this case, one of your best friends.
A black Nissan Altima with tinted windows snuck up behind us on a one-way street. In a flash, the passenger door flung open, and the very same man from the bar came stalking out with a 9mm drawn. The four of us froze. We were at this man’s mercy, and if we didn’t believe in God, now was as good a time as any to start.
BANG! BANG! Drew hit the pavement, blood gushing from his legs. The Russian with a five o’clock shadow raced back into the Altima, and the car sped away before any of us could catch the license plate. The last thing on any one of our minds was the plate number of the cowards responsible for shooting our friend.
Only two of us had cell phones. Remember, this was a time before every Tom, Dick, and Harry had a personalized computer in their pants pocket. Drew was rushed to the hospital where he made a full recovery a few weeks later. The trauma of that night affected our fraternity for quite some time. We weren’t as social the following semester, and any time we did venture out, our situational awareness was through the roof.
The lesson we each took from the events of that night in December of 2002; better to arm yourself with a weapon to avoid putting your fate in the hands of another human being. We dodged a bullet, metaphorically speaking, and the cherry on top; the cops located the gunman less than twenty-four hours later [they went through video surveillance at the bar and traced the man’s identity thanks to his credit card activity].
Some of you might be thinking: what difference would it have made had one of us been armed that night. Let me be direct and as frank as possible; until you’ve had a gun pointed at you while unarmed, you will never know what the word ‘helpless’ truly means. That night was when the lightbulb finally clicked, the moment I decided I would never be a victim again.
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