We live in a world surrounded by danger, which is obvious to anyone who watches the news. That has been especially evident during the past few months, beginning with the shootings at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, continuing through the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, the police standoff at Big Bear Lake in California, and might best be epitomized by the Boston Marathon bombings and the shootouts that followed.
Woven throughout these headline events our news media barrage us with daily accounts of drive-by shootings, domestic violence arrests, home invasions and periodic police chases that have viewers riveted to the television screen or Internet. During those few months, thousands of people have died and the majority of those killed have perished at the end of a gun barrel.
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While the entire country struggles to be prepared for whatever perils might be coming, that preparation can be very complicated for those of us living with paralysis. We usually have some type of physical limitations due to our disability, and it would be expected that those limitations would restrict our ability to defend our property, our families or ourselves in a time of crisis. This is an area of increasing concern, as none of us want to give up and simply sit around waiting to be victimized.
In my opinion, there are things that can be done to be prepared, but care must be taken to assure that the solution doesn't turn into a far greater risk. I explained why, and shared some personal advice on that subject, earlier this month in print media.
As some of you know, I write a regular column for New Mobility magazine
about advocacy, and it is called--fittingly enough--"Everyday Advocacy
." In the April 2013 issue of the magazine, I responded to the concerns of a reader whose neighborhood was locked down during the nationwide manhunt and fatal police shootout that played out live on the national news from Southern California. He described how insecure the incident made him feel, and wanted to know how he could be better prepared for such events in the future. Specifically, he wanted know how he could purchase and handle a gun so it would be available and useful for self defense.
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Since that reader is also quadriplegic, his plan posed a few problems. My solution was not completely original, as it was composed of several different steps that could be taken without having a firearm in the house. In my mind, having a gun available to him for self-defense purposes would be far more likely to result in someone else using it against him or other members of his household. That happens hundreds of times each year, even without the presence of a paralyzing disability.
Am I a "peacenik" or pacifist? Hardly.
The original National Rifle Association (NRA)
hunter safety course I took, at age nine, earned me a NRA Safe Hunter
patch. Passing that course was necessary, as a state game department requirement, before I could receive my first hunting license even though I had accompanied my father while he hunted for years. I spent the majority of my adult life hunting throughout the Northern United States, and I've even hunted big game since I was injured in 1988. At the time of my spinal cord injury I owned over a dozen firearms of different types, and they were used for hunting, target shooting and available for personal protection should I ever need it.
For many years I was a card-carrying member of the NRA, which I joined in order to receive their American Hunter
magazine. They promote safe hunting, sponsor shooting events and provide education
about firearms, but I did not recognize them as the outspoken "gun advocacy" organization that they appear to have morphed into today. Their programs and products were useful to me at the time, and they still provide top-notch firearm education and hunter safety programs for young people who are first introduced to the sports. They even have programs that allow people with disabilities to shoot competitively. However, the leaders of the organization who rail against the most reasonable types of gun safety regulations do not represent the views of what I once believed about the NRA.
My April column generated much interest and many letters to the editor of New Mobility
. While I have not read those letters, I presume that they are very passionate about whichever side they take on the issue. More space in the magazine is being devoted to the subject in the near future, and I would invite you to chime in with a letter to the editor
expressing your own thoughts or opinions about the use of firearms and other means of increasing your personal safety.
There are many people with disabilities who own and use guns, quite safely, and I know many of them. One of my good friends who is also paraplegic hunts big game and waterfowl, from his wheelchair, throughout the Western United States. Those who share his capabilities and interests are perfectly capable of protecting their families and property with the firearms they own. Ideally, they will never have to do so.
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Even with that capacity, our families would be much safer if we take all necessary steps that are available to us without using guns. I have yet to see a news story about a home alarm system or neighborhood watch network that has been used to terrorize a household, or otherwise harm anyone. If you see such a story, I would like to know about it.
© 2013 Michael Collins