Gun Violence, Public Health

At gunpoint in our garage

November 27, 2017

My husband could have been another gun statistic.

I’ve written multiple blog posts about gun violence, among many other public health topics. I believe strongly, based on data from this country and much of the rest of the world, that the problem of gun violence is multifactorial and its solution is multi-interventional. No community is immune from potential gun violence as long as there are way too many guns in circulation.

Solving the gun violence problem requires regulatory measures, evidence-based interventions to prevent domestic abuse, family violence and suicide, and a national conversation about how to end gun violence without removing the right to bear arms—reasonable arms, not arms caches, illegal guns, stolen guns and guns obtained wrongly due to ineffective registration systems. We also need programs to reduce poverty, prevent and treat drug addiction and mental illness, and support education from early childhood through technical education, community college and college. Everyone in this country should believe there is a future for them. There is no rational reason why Americans need so many more guns than do citizens of any other developed nation. No one is immune to gun violence, not the 58 people killed nor the more than 500 injured in Las Vegas or the many other venues, including movie theaters, schools, hospitals and churches, where innocent people have been  gunned down.

On Saturday evening around 6 p.m., my husband was sitting in his car in our garage listening to a story on NPR when he was approached by a man with a gun who demanded his wallet and cell phone. Today, I am so grateful and relieved that Bernard did not become another statistic, an asterisk in a story about gun violence, our lives changed forever.

As I drove home through our neighborhood Saturday night, I saw a police car and thought, “I hope that’s not coming from our house.” As I turned into our street, I saw four police cars in front of our house and could feel the fear rising inside me. Something bad must have happened. There was no one inside the cars, but I caught the attention of the officer walking up our front steps and called out to him. He kept asking me if I lived there, and it took a few seconds for me to realize that I could have been anyone curious about what happened in our ordinary neighborhood. Finally, I said “yes” and asked if my husband was OK. That’s when I learned that Bernard had been robbed at gunpoint while sitting in his car. The robber had taken all his money and his cell phone.

Bernard was very lucid for a guy who’d just had a gun pointed directly at him by someone with what appeared to be a dark hood covering most of his face and while sitting in his car with no room to hide. I admired that he’d kept his wits and might even have prevented his own demise in the process. He said afterwards that he was glad he did not have a gun, because maybe he’d have been foolish enough to use it. The Chapel Hill police officers were calm, polite, competent and unsurprised, even if a crime committed with a gun is an unusual occurrence in our neighborhood. They knew that such events can happen anywhere, anytime. It’s possible that the gun was registered legally to the person who had pointed it at Bernard, but I doubt it.

Bernard alerted the neighborhood list and spoke with neighbors to help protect others. We started a list of what we need to do to ensure that our home is as safe as we can make it. We’re not going to become fearful or change how we live. We are fortunate that violence is an unusual intruder in our neighborhood compared to so many neighborhoods in so much of the world. We’ve been married nearly 42 years, and Saturday night was a reminder that events beyond our control can intervene anytime. Life is short, and we ought not take any of our loved ones for granted. We had another reason to be grateful over this holiday weekend.

I hope all your holidays were healthy, safe and enjoyable.

The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School.