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How I Evolved on Guns During the #BostonPoliceScanner Manhunt

My family won't be vulnerable if an evil man like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shows up at our door.

Paula Bolyard


April 22, 2013 - 3:00 pm

In the wee hours of Friday morning, April 19th, I evolved on guns.

First, a confession: I’ve never owned a gun. I never wanted one in my home and, like a lot of moms, I wanted to raise non-violent children and thought keeping guns out of our home was one way to do that. When my kids were young, I didn’t want them to play with toy guns — in fact, I was rather insistent about it. Eventually, I realized that little boys will make guns out of just about anything — bananas, sticks, the dog’s paw, their fingers — nothing is safe from their imaginative minds. So I compromised and allowed squirt guns and non-gun-looking Nerf guns, but nothing that resembled a “real” gun.

My sensible (ex-military) husband indulged me in this when they were toddlers, but as they grew, he convinced me that our boys needed to learn firearms safety. He took them to firing ranges where they learned to fire weapons and even to enjoy them. Our 21 year old couldn’t wait to get his concealed-carry permit the minute he reached the legal age. I’m thankful now for my husband’s insistence that our children not be raised to fear guns.

But I never wanted a gun in my home.

It probably goes back to my childhood. My dad always kept a shotgun in the bedroom closet, along with the ammo on the top shelf. He used it for his twice-a-year hunting trip with my mom’s brothers. As a bleeding-heart animal lover from a young age, it always pained me to see skinned bunnies and squirrels on the kitchen counter. So I have some “issues” — when I saw the gun in my dad’s closet my mind went to dead bunnies. And somewhere along the way (I don’t remember a specific conversation, but he had a way of doing this), my dad put the fear of God in me about touching that shotgun. The year my brother and I peeked at our Christmas gifts hidden behind the shotgun, I was terrified the thing would go off. I never, ever touched it. Not even once.

I realize it’s a completely irrational fear and in some ways I’ve always felt it was a betrayal of my strong support for the 2nd Amendment. Last year I dipped my toe in the water and experienced shooting for the first time. I enjoyed a trip to the Hillsdale College shooting range during Parents Weekend and it turns out I’m not a bad shot. Friends never understood why I didn’t own a gun and some urged me to purchase one for my protection. But still I hesitated because of my discomfort at having one in my home.

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.

At one point, someone tweeted this:

I’m halfway across the country but if someone knocked on my door right now I’d pee my pants.

A moment of levity during a very serious, very scary night.

It was the moment I evolved on guns — the moment my support for the 2nd Amendment went from abstract to concrete.

Boston-area residents were told to “shelter-in-place.”

We’re asking people to shelter in place. In other words, to stay indoors with their doors locked and not to open their door for anyone other than a properly identified law enforcement officer,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in a press conference in Watertown. “Please understand we have an armed and dangerous person(s) still at large and police actively pursuing every lead in this active emergency event. Please be patient and use common sense until this person(s) are apprehended.

I realized at that moment that the police cannot protect me from the Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs of the world.

The best they can do is tell me to lock myself in my home while they search for the bad guy. Though the residents of Watertown (and the surrounding greater-Boston area) were held in a state of near-martial law, the best most of them could do was huddle in their homes, hoping the police would take their 3 a.m. call and come running to rescue them before the terrorist killed them.

Chris Wallace interviewed Dianne Feinstein on Fox News Sunday about the Boston lockdown and asked her if the million people locked in their homes in Boston might have felt safer with guns.

“Some may have [wanted guns], yes,” Feinstein said. “But if where you’re going is ‘do they need an assault weapon?’ I don’t think so.”

Wallace pressed Feinstien on whether citizens should be able to decide the best way to protect themselves in their homes:

“How about a machine gun then?” Feinstein asked. “We did away with machine guns because of how they’re used. I think we should do away with assault weapons because of how they’re used…you can use a 12-gauge shotgun and have a good defensive effect and there’s the element of surprise.”

“Now you’ve got police all over the place in Watertown, so I don’t really think this is applicable. I think there are people who want to make this argument,” she added.

As I listened to the police scanner during the Boston manhunt, I wasn’t thinking about “police all over the place” in the “personal security guard” sense that Feinstein seemed to be implying.

Instead, I imagined a mother huddled in the nursery with her baby. Her husband is out of town and she is also listening to the police scanner, praying the terrorist doesn’t burst through her back door.

I imagined an 85-year-old World War II veteran living alone. He fought the Nazis on foot across Europe and his government just instructed him to “shelter-in-place.” He turns out the lights in his home and hunches over his radio waiting for updates though the long night.

I wondered if they could protect themselves if the worst happened.

In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved.

I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.

I’m shopping for guns this week. I’ve been told a 12-gauge shotgun is a good choice for home protection, but I’m open to suggestions.

In addition to writing for PJ Tatler and PJ Lifestyle, Paula also writes for Ohio Conservative Review,. She is co-author of a new Ebook called, Homeschooling: Fighting for My Children’s Future. Paula describes herself as a Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third. She is also a member of the Wayne County Ohio Executive Committee.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
You don't shoot to kill or shoot to maim. You shoot until there is no longer a threat to your life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
From 1951 until 1953 while my dad was in business school, I lived in Arlington, MA. My grade school, Crosby Elementary, was absolutely fixated on two historical events - Thanksgiving and Paul Revere's ride. At the north end of our playground was the road on which 700 British soldiers marched toward Lexington and Concord. The redcoats' mission was to confiscate privately owned weapons and arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. In an odd coincidence, the troops arrived in Lexington on April 19th, 1775.

Exactly 238 years earlier, men of Lexington did the exact opposite of sheltering in place. They armed themselves and formed a skirmish line along Lexington Green. Dozens paid with their lives. If one reads the accounts of Lexington and Concord, there is a one-for-one correlation to the first five amendments in the Bill of Rights. This correlation is by design.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ask a dozen gun "experts," and you'll get at least fifteen opinions.

My advice is take shooting lessons and see what you shoot well and are comfortable with.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (137)
All Comments   (137)
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You know what is scary? The terrorists won! Why do I say that you ask? The purpose of the terrorist is to promote terror. That is exactly what they did! They managed to get the town of Waterbury "locked down". They had people in their homes hiding in complete fear. They had the police (aka paramilitary) patrolling the streets going door to door in their search. So they won a victory. We can't allow that to happen again! Next time we need to have every armed person defending their homes and the police out looking for terrorists as though they were looking for your ordinary criminal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hello, Very interesting article. You mentioned getting a gun and wanted recommendations. Here is mine: 1) DON'T GET A SHOTGUN! Contrary to what Biden says, they are unwieldy and have quite the recoil. 2) go to the shooting range and test fire some pistols. Find one that you are comfortable with and can handle easily and get that one. 3) check out the AR-15 carbines. There is a reason the police use them. Police testing has shown that the .223 bullet that LE uses will not penatrate walls as much as some pistol rounds do. (I know surprised me to). One thing to be concerned about is innocent bystanders (neighbors) getting hurt.There is VERY little recoil. I used to think that the .223 bullet was a wussy round. After researching it though and shooting an AR-15. I became a convert. Anyway that is my two cents worth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
i've owned guns most of my 61 years. i don't know if 5 minutes from now, i will need a gun. i do know if in 5 minutes i need 1, i'll have 1. not everyone can say that. don't be a victim.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What a great article. I wish I could write like that. I am an old Vietnam/Cambodia combat veteran. Combat Assault Helicopters, a crew chief/door gunner. The writer is very correct in that before one buys a weapon, they should absolutely make up their mind and soul that should they ever have to point that weapon at anyone else, they will fire and fire to kill. With a person like me, that's an easy decision, in fact an automatic decision but I understand that it is not that easy for many. Should a life or death situation come into your life, remember that you did not cause it! The preditor did. I went for 41 years unarmed. I don't hunt. I guess when you have hunted an armed enemy with more advantage than you, and equipped like you, the thrill is gone as BB King would say. I am armed now. This world and nation changed quickly and not for the good. No one should deny their obligation to protect their life and others. Those who do are called prey.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for sharing your evolved thoughts on guns. I can sympathize. I was raised in an anti-gun home. They weren't discussed much, but it was understood that guns weren't welcome at our house and I grew up with the assumption that they were dangerous to have around. All that changed the day my best friend's father took his son and me to the range to earn our rifle shooting merit badge. I learned about guns and ammo, I learned how to shoot, and most important, I was introduced to the idea that guns can do more good than harm in the right hands.

Years of research on the subject later, I now understand that guns in the hands of responsible citizens do FAR more good than harm, that guns are used to STOP violent crime far more often than they are used to commit those crimes, and that virtually every gun control measure that has been tried has either no effect on violent crime or actually increases it.

Upon the arrival of our first child, my wife and I decided that we needed to be armed in order to defend our young family. We've since acquired a shotgun, two rifles and two handguns, and are eager to expand that list as finances allow.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As for my recommendations, although a 12 gauge shotgun is normally the first gun people recommend for home security (especially politicians that want to restrict rifles and handguns), I'm convinced that it is far from ideal for that purpose. It'll get the job done, but you've got better options.

12 Gauge Shotgun Pros:
- Powerful. More deadly than any other gun you're likely to use at close range.
- Scary. Criminals recognize the look and sound of a pump action shotgun as nothing they want to deal with.

12 Gauge Shotgun Cons:
- Powerful. Depending on your build, a 12 gauge may have more recoil than you're comfortable with. This will make it harder to control if you need to depend on it for your life, and will make you less likely to practice.
- Large and unwieldy. Can be difficult to maneuver inside a home. A burglar around the corner could grab the barrel of the gun, effectively neutralizing the weapon.
- Imprecise. The scattered pattern of buckshot (the most likely defensive option) makes it more likely to strike an innocent bystander behind your attacker. Just like bullets, buckshot will penetrate several layers of drywall. The standard 8-9 pellets in a round of 00 buckshot mean 8-9 times as many opportunities to hit someone in another room or neighboring house.

My personal feeling is that a rifle is a BETTER choice for home defense. The AR-15 is ideal for this application. The relatively small caliber it fires is powerful enough to stop a threat, but with MUCH less recoil than a shotgun. It is also endlessly configurable, so you can set one up just how you like it. A short 16" barrel and collapsible buttstock make it more maneuverable than just about any shotgun and standard capacity 30 round magazines give you the firepower to deal with multiple attackers should you be so unlucky. A determined attacker (especially one on drugs) can absorb several bullets before going down.

Perhaps the best feature about the AR-15 as home defense weapon is that the endless harping by liberals about how deadly and evil these weapons are only makes them more menacing in your hands.

Probably the BEST choice for home defense is a quality handgun in a capable caliber. A handgun is small enough to easily lock up in a nightstand (or anywhere else in your house), or carry on your person. It's small size makes it the most maneuverable option as well. Most handguns are less powerful than an AR-15 (and certainly a 12 gauge), but a well placed shot with quality defensive (hollow point) ammo will get the job done. And most semi-automatic handgun magazines give you plenty of ammo should you need followup shots.

But the best advice I or anyone can give you is to do your research, try out several different options, and decide for yourself what is most comfortable for you and most effective for your particular situation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When my brother and I were kids, the mention of even a toy gun sent my mother into a mini-tizzy so I can relate. But when it came to engaging in the neighborhood game of war or cops-and-robbers, the handle end of my fathers hacksaw served quite adequately. Recently, however, my mother told me she was "thinking about purchasing a gun" for her home. So what's changed? The world hasn't really so I'd have to say she changed. The gap between the theoretical world and the real world varies between individuals but one thing is for certain... we humans are (unfortunately) a savage race and pretending we're not, or choosing not to defend ourselves, does not make it any less so. Would my mother actually be able to use a gun on another person? I don't know but I do know there are people out there who would not think twice about doing her harm and I would rather she at least have the chance to find out. By the way - for home defense, I agree with some others here... use what you're most confident and skilled with.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I sympathize with the writer of this article, since I am also a strong gun rights suppporter, but do not have a gun myself. Not because I was ever afraid of guns, but just because I never felt the need enough to go through the trouble of getting one. The only attitude I cannot tolerate is the leftist saying I dont like guns, so you cant have one either. Their personal fears should not dictate the rights of others.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm a 66 year old retired nurse, partially disabled for the last 50 years. I am now an NRA certified instructor for firearms and self defense. I have written a booklet as supplemental material for the NRA courses and would be glad to send it to anyone who requests it. See the story for information to request the book.

The first chapter of that booklet is the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life. At that point, I was completely untrained in self defense, but I had a shotgun I'd used on the farm. If I had not had that gun, I would be dead.

Each person is responsible for their own safety. And the most important part of any self defense program is coming to terms with that, and the fact that YOUR life is worth living. If someone attacks you, whatever happens to that person is his/her own responsibility, not yours.

Don't let anything prevent you from learning, best you can, how to defend yourself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Advice from a firearm owner and 15-year CHL holder:

1. Any firearm is better than no firearm.

2. Shotguns and rifles do much more damage than handguns. Even center-mass handgun wounds are not guaranteed fight-stoppers, but it's a lot easier to carry a handgun with you than a shotgun or a rifle.

3. A 12-gauge shotgun is an excellent choice for personal defense...assuming you can handle the recoil and work the weapon (reload, unload, clear jams, etc.). If the recoil is too much, a 20-gauge may be more to your liking. Ask friends who are firearm owners and try out their weapons before you settle on one. There is nothing wrong with an AR-15, although they are more expensive than most home defense shotguns, they are a little more complex to operate, and you have to be careful about the ammunition you choose for it to avoid shooting through your house and the neighbor's.

4. Practice, practice, practice. An unfamiliar weapon is not a help, it's mostly a weight. You are looking for a comforting presence with which to defend yourself, if the weapon is an alien thing like your father's shotgun, it will be of no use to you. It's just a tool, you need to use it until you can use it with no more thought than a pair of scissors or a weed-whacker. That way, when some lowlife is banging on your bedroom door and screaming and your pulse is 160 and your fine motor skills are blown away by the adrenaline surge, you can still function.

(4a. If you are not going to practice, buy a Cold Steel Kukri Machete and put it by your bed. The manual of arms is simpler, it won't jam and it never needs reloading. The range is pretty low on a machete, but seeing as you can take off an arm with it, it's no less deadly.)

5. Always have a light on or near your weapon. You need to know what you are shooting in the dark, and what's behind what you are shooting.

6. Always have ear protection beside your weapon. Shooting any firearm indoors will ruin your hearing. "Ear pro" (what the cool kids call it) is cheap and easy to have. Don't be the one deafened by your own firearm.

7. Charge your cell phone by your bed. That way you always have it in the room where you sleep and you can use it to call for help.

Good luck. I think you'll find the shooting community to be welcoming, generous and enthusiastic about your new-found interest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
With decent ammo in 5.56 like XM193, the AR15 is as safe in residential areas as the shotgun.

I'd recommend the AR15. The low recoil makes them wonderful to shoot.

Also, pump shotguns are fundamentaly more difficult to use, you must pump them without short stroking, so if you do go with a shotgun I'd recommend a semi auto.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Tamerlan Tsarnaev got Mass. welfare benefits "-Boston Herald Yeah, MA is a lost cause in general, anyone who stays after this is some kind of masochist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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