The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill. If confronted with an armed intruder or assailant, shooting to maim or firing a warning shot may not be an option, so a gun owner must wrestle with the moral implications of shooting someone to death. I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.

But all that changed early Friday morning. Along with 80,000 others around the world, I found myself glued to the live-action police drama being played out online. I first noticed the tweets with the hashtag #BostonPoliceScanner late Thursday evening and was soon engrossed in the manhunt, listening to the officers on the ground in Watertown and Cambridge and simultaneously following the tweets from the worldwide audience. Throughout the night, a community of sorts formed as I began to recognize Twitter handles and together we “watched” law enforcement officers create a perimeter and lay down a grid so they could search the neighborhoods of Watertown. We listened as they responded to calls from residents who “heard something” in their sheds or thought they saw a “guy with a backpack” walking down the street. This was repeated dozens of times throughout the night. When police broadcast their location, many listeners typed the address into Google Street View and so could see the streets and even houses they were responding to.

It was both surreal and very real at the same time. It was a strange combination of social media and reality show with the knowledge that life and death were on the line.