Valerie Kirk: Protection

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Millions of Americans have guns in their home for protection. But Valerie Kirk doesn’t think a gun would have protected her that dark night, long ago.

Nearly 30 years ago, living in a suburban Los Angeles neighborhood, I was awoken at 3 am by a noise. A dark figure in the doorway quickly transformed into an intruder on my bed holding a gun to my forehead. For two hours he held me hostage in my home, alternating between calm dialogue and physical violence. It’s the closest brush with death I’ve ever experienced.

My attacker quickly set about looking for anything of value to steal. One of his first questions was if I had a gun. I vividly remember telling him that I did not, that I was afraid of guns.

As a single woman living on my own for the first time, with fresh memories of the 1992 LA riots that followed the Rodney King verdict, having a gun might have seemed a practical safety measure. And I imagine on hearing my story, some gun-rights supporters would say that had I been properly trained to use a gun, I could have defended myself. But I know that owning a gun would not have made me safer that night, and might even have escalated the situation into a more dangerous one. Worse yet, any gun that I owned would have ended up on the streets, making others less safe.

My story is a lucky one. My attacker was caught, and I had the satisfaction of a trial followed by a conviction. I know that every crime victim’s story is unique, but I also have no doubts that adding another gun to the mix would not have produced a better outcome for me.

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Only with fewer guns in our country will we be safer in our homes, workplaces, churches and schools. This is proven out by statistics from other advanced economies. The U.S. is an extreme outlier in both the number of guns owned by civilians and the number of deaths caused by them.

We don’t need guns to protect ourselves, we need our lawmakers to protect us from guns in the hands of those who intend harm.

With a Perspective, I’m Valerie Kirk.

Valerie Kirk is a health care consultant. She lives in Oakland.