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This is different

by Robert A. Waters
Author, The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves

November 6, 2001

It was exactly one month after September 11 when I saw my co-worker Jennifer down at the local gun shop.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"What does it look like?" she responded, sighting a 9mm.

Mike, the owner of the shop, had hired a couple extra staff. They were all busy showing guns to customers. I'd never seen the shop so crowded.

"So," I said to Jennifer, "didn't you tell me a few weeks ago how much you hate guns?"

By now, she was holding a .44-caliber Bulldog. It was much too big for her slender hands. "Lookit," she said, "What d'ya think?"

"Too heavy," I said.

"You always were a male chauvenist pig!"

I shrugged.

"I know how this looks," she said. "Like I'm a hypocrite or something. But when it comes to your family, you'll do whatever it takes."

"Yeah, sure."

She hesitated. "My husband works at the nuclear power plant," she said. "They're on Red Alert because the Feds think terrorists might fly an airplane into it. If that happens, think of the consequences. Could turn out to be a localized Alas Babylon scenario."

I remembered reading the book when I was a kid. A nuclear attack had wiped out the government and survivors banded together to fight against rogue anarchists.

"You gonna gun down a terrorist?" I asked.

"Of course not. But regardless of what happens, there'll be survivors. If we live, we'll need protection from, uh, looters, robbers, you know..."

"That sure doesn't sound like the Jennifer I know."

She smiled. "I think that gun's too heavy," she told the clerk. "Gimme something lighter."

She turned to me. "I lost my college room-mate in the Twin Towers," she said. "That'll cause you to stop and think."

"I'm sorry."

She brushed her hair away from her eyes. The clerk handed her a Taurus .38 Special hammerless revolver. "This is perfect for concealed carry," he said. "And it's light--made outta titanium."

As she held it, she asked me, "What d'ya think?"

I nodded. Looked like a perfect fit to me.

"What are you here for?" she asked.

"Ammunition," I said. "I'm going to the range later."

"I'd like to shoot Bin Laden right between the eyes," she said.

"Wait a minute! I thought you went down to the prison to protest Ted Bundy's execution a few years back. How can you be in favor of executing Bin Laden?"

"This is different."

She edged closer to me. "Did you see those people jumping out of windows?" she whispered, as if divulging a secret. "We're talking eighty stories up. That's the most frightening thing I ever saw. God only knows what they were thinking during that freefall..."

I could have sworn she'd told me she was an atheist. But I decided not to touch that landmine. By now she was dry-firing the Taurus.

The clerk said, "Your clearance just came through."

"Good. I'll take this one."

"You gonna get some training before you take it home, aren't you?" I asked.

She smiled. "I can handle a gun," she said. "Used to shoot with my dad when I was a kid."

You learn something new every day, I thought. "Why'd you turn against them?"

"College," she said, as she fumbled through her purse for a credit card. She didn't expand, as if that said it all. And it did.

"I blame all this on Clinton," she said.

I distinctly remembered seeing her wearing a "Clinton/Gore" button to the office.

"How d'ya figure?"

"He was too busy with his plaything Monica to worry about Bin Laden. Should have kept his mind on business."

"So character really does count?" I asked.

She made a face and I remembered Bill Buckley's quip about a conservative being a liberal who just got mugged. Since 9-11, seemed like lotsa liberals were re-examining their beliefs.

I bought my ammo and we walked out of the shop together.

"Wanna meet me at the range?" I asked.

"Sure. What time?"

"How bout noon?"

She nodded.

"It sure feels different to be carrying," she said.

I'd been carrying for so long that my gun felt like it was part of me. But I knew what she meant.

I watched her walk toward her van.

On the way home, I decided to stop by the library and pick up a copy of Alas Babylon. Might even run down to the video store and rent a copy of "Red Dawn", too.

I hadn't really given a lot of thought to terrorists striking a small Florida town. New York and Washington, D. C. seemed so far away. But maybe she was right. I had to admit, after talking with her, it might be wise to prepare for, well, anarchy.

She was right about something else. Things are different.

Robert Waters is the author of The Best Defense: True Stories of Intended Victims Who Defended Themselves, and the Co-Founder of Operation Self Defense. For other article by Mr. Waters, you can visit his archives at

Printer Version

How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual... as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of. Representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp (TX)

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