Stand Your Ground- Glad I Didn't Have My Gun (A True Story)
On a cold October night a few years ago, I got out of bed and came downstairs because I realized my cat was still outside. I turned on the porch light, opened the main door, called him and went into the kitchen for a drink of water. When I came back, there was a young man standing in my living room.
There is a moment when one sizes up a situation and I immediately realized that: a) he was very drunk (not surprising given that it was a bit after bar closing time), b) he must be very cold as he had on no shirt and no shoes or socks and, c) he was a nuisance not a threat. There had been a number of minor robberies of sports jackets and athletic shoes in the area. I had a feeling this is what happened to my unexpected visitor.
I stopped some distance from him and he smiled and held out his hand. "How do you do!" he exclaimed. I took his hand. It was freezing. I immediately took pity on him and asked him to sit down. He then proceeded to quickly explain, with some pantomime, what had happened to him. I think he described a robbery. I wasn't sure because it was in rapid Spanish.
Thankfully, my ex was living with me at the time. I yelled upstairs for him and soon the three of us were sitting in the living room trying to figure out what to do about this odd situation. My seven years of high school and college Spanish failed me or I would have asked for his name, address and phone number and maybe we would have driven him home. Instead, with no other great ideas, I called the police and asked if they could dispatch an officer who spoke Spanish. I told them that I had found the man on my porch, to save him from whatever charge a drunken man walking through an unlocked door might be subject to.
Forty minutes or so later, two officers who did not speak Spanish came to the house and took him away. I hope he had a green card. I hope he was all right. At least I know he was somewhere warm for the night.
I thought of this late-night encounter and how, if I were less confident and far more suspicious, and if I had a gun, it might have ended so differently. Rather than being a droll story told at parties, it might have become my dirty secret -- I killed an unarmed man because he made the mistake of walking through my door. I realize that there are times, particularly in rural areas where police might be miles away, that a gun might be necessary to protect one's home. But shooting an unarmed boy hiding on a porch, as was done in Wisconsin, or walking down a street at night, as was done in Florida, are crimes against our common humanity no matter what the law might say.
By Elaine Bergstrom
Elaine Bergstrom is a novelist and avid political blogger. Her author website is elainebergstrom.com