Now that I’ve registered a gun in Washington, I’ve realized how limiting it is for self defense since I can’t legally take it out of my home. Since the District does not recognize the constitutional right to bear arms, residents are just sitting ducks on D.C. streets. Criminals know that they can rob, assault, rape or murder anyone without fear. D.C. politicians do everything in their power to keep people defenseless.
For the city council, it’s politics. For me, the self-defense issue is personal.
After I went through 16 of the steps to register a gun earlier this year, I had to endure the 10-day waiting period to “cool off.” During that time, I received a terrifying call one evening. The stranger, whose number was blocked, left a minute-long voicemail.
“I know everything about you,” said the caller in a high-pitched voice. “I’ve been watching you. Your every step. I’m coming for you Emily.” Also, “I’m a crazy mother f—er. This is not a game. This is not for some f—ing scary f—ing movie. This is real business.” Finally the caller ended with, “Don’t you think of going to the police.”
Listening to the message, my hands were shaking so hard, I couldn’t dial the phone. With my heart pounding, I ran to my car and drove to the nearest police station. It was dark out, but I looked in my rearview mirror as I drove, hoping just to get in the parking lot before something happened.
I played the message to the desk officer, but she was nonplussed. “Did you break up with a boyfriend recently?” she asked. No. “Is there an ex-husband?” No. “What about a girl who thinks you dated her boyfriend?” No, I said there’s nothing like that in my life. I refused to be brushed off as a girl in a love triangle.
“You should know that this might be a threat of violence,” I said pointedly. “I’ve been writing a series of articles in the newspaper about getting a gun in D.C., and some people aren’t happy about it.” That was enough to get her to call a detective to the front desk to take me seriously.
“Detective Kim” (she said her last name was hard to remember) was very thorough and helped calm me down. She told me to call Verizon and ask for them to look up the blocked number. Then Detective Kim gave me a helpful lecture on keeping safe.
She recommended only going to public places, and if I think I’m being followed, go into a store with a video camera to get the person on tape. photo. She suggested notifying neighbors to keep an eye out for anyone suspicious. She repeated several times that if I see or sense anything even slightly concerning, call 911.
I told her that I’d have a gun in the home in about a week, but had no way to defend myself on the street. So I asked about getting something like mace. “You should go ahead and buy it,” she said. “But you’ll have to register it with the police.”
Can I do that here? “We don’t have those forms here, so you’ll have to go down to MPD headquarters to do it.” I must have looked frustrated. “Look, if you use it for self-defense, we won’t charge you.”
I was stunned. Somehow in the convoluted logic of public safety laws in the District, I am supposed to be comforted that if I attempt to defend myself with pepper spray against an armed homicidal maniac on the street,
I probably won’t go to jail for it. I don’t blame the police for this stupidity, but rather the liberal city council that passes these inane ordinances in the name of public safety.
Detective Kim gave me vague instructions to buy the pepper spray and have the store register it. She didn’t know where it was sold in the city. She then gave me a report number, and I left.
When I got home, I ran from my car to my front door with my keys in my hand, terrified that someone was out there in the dark who wanted to kill me.
I emailed my editor about what had happened in case the the threat was somehow connected to my work. I ended the note by writing, “I’d sleep a lot lot better tonight if I was armed.”
This is what makes the waiting periods so dangerous. People get guns because they aren’t safe. When you arbitrarily make them wait, while not disarming the bad guys, you’re just setting people up to be victims.
Next in the series on self-defense… other residents demand rights.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at the Washington Times. Her “Emily Gets Her Gun” series on the District’s gun laws won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.