Gun Appreciation Day? Seriously?

January 19th, the day before President Obama’s inauguration, has been unofficially named “Gun Appreciation Day” by gun-loving conservatives. They’ll be out in droves brandishing their six-shooters, flags and copies of the constitution — that’s what their website advises. (Reminds me of a few years ago when a bunch of old fat white guys decided to have an “open carry” day in my community. They dressed in their camo, strapped on their guns and went to a playground frequented by moms and pre-schoolers. Classy.) 

I don’t normally write about personal experiences, but this story needs telling.  Other than law enforcement and military personnel, few people have been threatened with a firearm. When I heard that ridiculous notion of arming classroom teachers, I thought about my brush with an angry gun owner.

In the summer of 1990, I managed a branch of a major bank in the relative backwater of Northwest Michigan. In that capacity, I accepted applications for a variety of small loans — “products” as we referred to them. As a rule, potential borrowers tend to be excruciatingly courteous during the application process — well dressed, well mannered. So when a lanky, unkempt young man wearing a second-hand store army jacket, with stringy blonde hair and an overly forward attitude, came through the doors insisting, in no uncertain terms, that I was to approve a line of credit on his new checking account, it put me on alert — but not enough so.

He returned later that day and pulled me aside to say that if I did not extend him credit he would return with his gun and “blow [my] fucking head off”. (He didn’t actually use the words “extend credit”, being equally crude in that language as well, but for obvious reasons, all I clearly remember is the “blow your fucking head off” part of the conversation.)

A funny thing happens in the moment of this kind of danger — the threatened person experiences a delayed reaction of slow-mo realization of what is actually transpiring. I watched him exit the building and, through the window, drive away, making absolutely no note of the make, model and color of his vehicle. I went up to the teller line, looked at my employees and, stunned, just stood there utterly mute for quite some time, until my astute head teller asked me if I was alright. 

After years of banking experience, and of training my staff on proper procedure — what was this dull response all about? I just stood there, dumbstruck. Having drilled my staff, on a monthly basis for years, on security measures until their eyes rolled with boredom, none of it clicked for me in the moment.

Every time there was a rash of bank robberies, we doubled-down on our immediate response procedures.  Just a year prior, after a particularly brutal bank robbery, we brought in FBI agents to train us on how to recognize a threat, focus on observing the suspicious person and on identifying weapons. I had literally dozens upon dozens of hours of training on what to do when faced with the wrong end of a gun, and none of it kicked-in for what seemed an eternity. We had foot-alarms, till-alarms, desk-alarms, marked bills, code words…and I just stood there like a complete idiot.

There’s an old Russian proverb: “When the guns talk, the muses fall silent”. It refers to the muting effect of the threat of wartime violence on the arts, but anyone who has been threatened personally can appreciate that mental pause that results. While standing there, in my blue power suit and slingback pumps, I was completely ill-prepared to swing into action of any kind. Armed professionals with extensive firearms training, like police and soldiers, are shot all the time, so anyone who thinks a kindergarten teacher is going to be able to quick-draw on a bad guy is simply fooling themselves.

Luckily, everything worked-out, although there were a few stressful weeks to get through.

After recovering from my brief catatonic attack, I contacted local police who ran a check on the man and found he had two felony charges pending — one for assault and battery and the other for malicious destruction of property. The court ordered him to turn over his weapon and issued a toothless restraining order that only protected me while on bank property. Local law enforcement kept an eagle-eye on my would-be shooter, and the bank brought-in “extra security” in the form of a male presence in our all female office.

The local prosecutor ended-up plea bargaining both charges down to misdemeanors, and the individual was returned his weapon. Local police did what smalltown cops do — they went to his door and told him to leave town and never come back. He left, and to my knowledge never returned.

Not once did I consider getting a firearm of my own. The statistics show that gun-ownership increases the likelihood of being shot. I knew that I could not successfully use it to protect myself, and besides — I’m relatively certain I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.

Amy Kerr Hardin 

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7 Responses to Gun Appreciation Day? Seriously?

  1. Lee Tilson says:

    What is more powerful in the United States: guns, presidents, or people?

    This year, “Gun Appreciation Day,” January 19, occurs the day before Inauguration Day on January 20. Was this intended to try to remind us that four of our presidents have been assassinated: Lincoln, Kennedy, Garfield, and McKinley? Or the attempted assassinations of other presidents? Was the scheduling intended to raise this issue?

    Perhaps there is an additional issue being raised. This year, “Gun Appreciation Day” also occurs two days before January 21, the national holiday of our country’s civil rights hero, Martin Luther King.

    In 2015, “Gun Appreciation Day” will coincide with “Martin Luther King Day.” Once every seven years on average, “Gun Appreciation Day” will occur on our national holiday, “Martin Luther King Day. ”

    Coincidence?

    Or is there a message from the people celebrating Gun Appreciation Day?

  2. Donna says:

    My husband and I have guns for target shooting. They are locked up in an almost 1 thousand lb fireproof gun safe with a key/combination lock. My late father was a range officer that qualified police departments. He wanted me to enter competition shooting, I declined as I could not shoot at a human form target.

  3. Jeanette Hayes says:

    Amy, You should publish this story far and wide. Jeanette Hayes

    • Armed and Ready says:

      …. and show just what a fool you can be.

      Since you seem to know NOTHING of “history”, or, why the 19th day of April, I’ll tell you.

      Early on the morning of April 19, 1775, the British Regulars entered the town of Lexington, intent on “disarming” the Colonials. To quote a member of the local militia, one Capt. John Parker, “If it is war that they want, let it begin here”.
      This, madam, is a sentiment being express far and wide in this nation.
      Although your “story” is “cute” and, I’m sure, designed to stir up anti-gun sentiment, I firmly believe that that is all it is – a story.

      Quite simply, you keep spreading yours, and I will spread mine – I will teach the true intent of the Second Amendment, as stated by our Forefathers. I REFUSE to be a “subject”. I REFUSE to bow to the doers of evil and the criminal. I know that guns in the hands of free men stop crime and criminals in their pursuit of other people’s property. I’ve used my weapon to stop a criminal action three times, yet, I’ve never had to fire it … yet. The mere presence of the weapon changed the minds of those who have done harm to others.
      So, have a good life and hope you never need someone like me – just let me know who you are and how you feel about my weapons and I SWEAR BEFORE GOD-ALMIGHTY that I will not interfere or intervene with the robber, rapist, or murderer who is about to strip you of your rights and “dignity” ….. until, of course, he is through with you.
      Be safe, if you can.

  4. kathie says:

    Our Founding Fathers had firsthand experience with a dictatorial government that moved first to disarm its own citizens, a pattern that has been repeated throughout history. The Second Amendment was written to preserve our liberty.

    congressional liberals are planning a broad attack on the Second Amendment. Legislation reportedly being drafted by Sen. Dianne Fisenstein and others, including Vice President Biden’s commission, goes far beyond specific items like assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.

  5. Flyingguns says:

    Gun ownership increases the chance of being shot? yes it does, but only for stupid ppl, idiots, and perpatrators of crimes. Tell me writer, wheres your so called proof than just here say of your comment for responsible and law abiding gun owners. Im talking about statistics aside from a defensive shooting incident involving the gun owner?

  6. Will says:

    “gun-ownership increases the likelihood of being shot”

    That’s like saying car ownership increases the likelihood of driving while intoxicated.

    People who drive intoxicated are probably driving their own car at the time, just as people who commit suicide with a gun are probably using a gun they own, which inflates the correlation between gun / car ownership and being shot / drunk driving.

    These statistics are totally misleading.

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