GUNS Part IV: Still Strapped with Just My Wits

Recently, two Oakland Voices writers – Michael Holland and Debora Gordon – offered very different views on whether owning guns is a bad idea for Oakland and people in general, or just common sense preparedness for life in a tough town. But it didn’t stop there. They read each other’s piece, and replied.

By Debora Gordon

Michael asks the question “when your door gets kicked in, wouldn’t you rather rely on your own aim than the police response time?”  Well, actually, no. I’m not convinced that my aim would be that good, that I could actually lay my hands on a gun in the event of a surprise attack, that my own gun wouldn’t be used against me, or that merely seeing a gun, an attacker might be more inclined to use his.

But even if I could shoot first, the idea of responding to potential gunfire with a gun of my own raises a lot of questions.  In the example Michael describes, three guys broke in, stole what I assume are drugs, and left.  They had deadly weapons, but did not use them. So, they’re guilty of breaking and entering, theft, and maybe something like threatening people. 

I do not in any way mean to diminish or dismiss the gravity of this crime, including its fear and intimidation aspect. But in a court of law, as serious as these matters are, I do not think this crime would be punishable by death. Possibly not even by a life sentence. So, if I shoot first, and kill (intentionally or not), then I have become judge, jury and executioner.

Some might argue that such people deserve meeting such a fate because they have chosen to commit that type of violent crime.  I do not believe in the death penalty in general. Even if I were to somehow kill someone in the act of self-defense, I would feel that I had committed the serious crime of taking a life, no matter how justified I may have been.

It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. The streets are replete with mostly illegally obtained guns. But I still hold onto the belief that the culture can be changed.  For the youngest citizens, what we really need to do is give people the intellectual, emotional and creative weapons to solve their problems without guns. 

For the older ones, already steeped in the culture of violence, we use the collective force of the non-violent among us. We give them alternatives to prison, gangs, and early death. We describe a world view that offers some hope.  Each one, teach one.  I know this is possible because I have seen it. More than once.

Links in this series:

Michael Holland’s original piece

Debora Gordon’s original piece

Michael Holland’s 2nd piece – a reply to Gordon’s first story

Author Profile

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist. She has been living in Oakland since 1991, moving here to become a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District. In all of these roles, Debora is interested in developing a life of the mind. “As a mere human living in these simultaneously thrilling and troubled times,” Debora says, “I try to tread lightly, live thoughtfully, teach peace, and not take myself too seriously.”

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