WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LIVE BY THE GUN

Fear never strikes out. Now even Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson deems it acceptable to boast on public television of a newly purchased rottweiler and home security system.

Johnson explains: "We had a gentleman who was crawling in and out of our windows. He broke into our personal things. When arrested, he was wearing my wife's undergarments. Apparently, he had stalked us for six months."

The mayor spoke without expression. He and his wife, Christa, were speaking on the public-access television station, explaining how marvelous it was to be the city's first family.

The mayor added, "I used to see him around our house constantly when I went out jogging in the mornings. In fact, I always waved to him. I thought he was simply someone who lived in the neighborhood."

I have no doubt the mayor waved to him. Our mayor is like a wind-up political doll. Wind him up and he either waves or else delivers that wan, characterless smile. Johnson has tired of being our gregarious boy mayor and would now like to become our stately boy governor. Naivetā is his trump card. Johnson apparently hasn't decided as yet how it will play for a Democratic candidate to talk about packing a gun these days.

That's okay. Johnson is just about the only one in town who isn't talking about the necessity of carrying a personal weapon for protection. Newspaper columnists feel compelled to write about it once a week. Talk-show hosts address the matter every day.

@rule:
@body:I know a retired Phoenix firefighter with a history of personal heroism. He stands better than six feet and weighs more than 200 pounds. He still lifts weights regularly to maintain good physical condition.

But he is a realist. He always carries a pistol with him in his car.
Recently, he was driving through Metrocenter on a shopping trip. He halted his car at an intersection. Several teenagers, dressed in clothing identifying them as local gang members, began taunting him from the sidewalk.

"They stood there cursing me and indicating they had guns under their jackets," the firefighter said. "What should I have done? Should I have jumped out of my car and slapped their snotty faces?

"Did they really have guns? Should I have picked up my own weapon on the seat next to me and confronted them?"
The ex-firefighter's sanity prevailed. He simply drove away from the scene.
@rule:

@body:A former police officer, who is now a well-known Phoenix lawyer, left a restaurant and headed for his car in the parking lot.

As he approached his recently purchased Porsche, he noticed a pickup truck jockeying back and forth to get out of a tight parking space. The rear end of the pickup truck slammed into the right front fender of the Porsche. There was the grinding sound of metal on metal.

"I shouted and waved at the pickup's driver, signaling that he had damaged my car. His answer was to give me the finger and pull away, speeding out of the parking lot.

"I sized up the situation. He just looked to me like somebody who might be armed. I had a .38 special on the front seat of my car. Did I want to risk getting shot over a fender that can be fixed for a thousand dollars? I simply stood there watching as he drove away."
@rule:
@body:I know a judge who is six feet nine inches tall and is so imposing in appearance that one would think it would require the membership of several gangs to take him down. He, too, never leaves home without his pistol on the seat beside him.

Would he shoot someone who attacked him? I remember when he was a prosecutor, he was assigned the case of a 70-year-old man who was pummeled in a Seventh Street tavern by a bully. The elderly man went to his car, got a pistol from his glove compartment and shot the bully dead. He pleaded self-defense, but was convicted and died in Florence prison.

One of my best friends is a retired newspaper photographer of enormous talent. He now lives in an Iowa farm community in which the crime rate has not risen since the year Franklin D. Roosevelt crushed Alfred M. Landon in a presidential race now recalled only by historians.

This staunch family man who was once so passionate about Nikon and Blaupunkt cameras has built up a collection of automatic weapons varied enough for him to make a last heroic stand against several squads of elite Russian paratroopers.

He speaks glowingly about one of his weapons, so powerful that the bullet could go through a truck and kill an attacker standing on the other side.

I wonder how he would feel if he actually did ever fire any of these weapons in anger or even self-defense.

This is the problem with guns. They take away options. An ordinary argument is always elevated to a life-threatening situation.

So why carry one unless you are fully prepared to use it at the slightest provocation? And if you are actually willing to employ deadly force, then you are headed for trouble, anyway. Society professes to admire Clint Eastwood types--but only on the screen.

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