Whenever I think of an elderly person wielding a handheld weapon, my thoughts always turn to this iconic scene from the horror movie classic Jeepers Creepers. The Cat Lady, played by exquisite late actress Eileen Brennan, epitomizes the single-minded pursuit of protecting what’s yours, no matter what the cost may be. To wield a gun, at any age, is a daunting moral dilemma that requires a rational mind, a steady hand and a swift heart.
In Sultan, Washington, a great-grandmother has proven that you’re never too old to blow a hole in an unruly home invader. Barb Moles, 80, shot and killed Steven Shephard, 25, as he was attacking Barb’s husband Leland, 75. The young robber entered the house in hopes of stealing drugs but ran into Leland, who he immediately started to beat and maim. Barb, hearing his valiant struggle, entered with a gun, shooting Shephard four times at point blank range. His final word was succinct and apt: “Gun.” Barb, who is a grandmother of eight and a great-grandmother of three, summed up the situation in an interview with KOMO-TV in Seattle, WA: “You know, never in my whole life did I ever anticipate having to take another life — especially at age 80, give me a break here!…I was just intent upon stopping him. I didn’t have any other thought in my head. I just knew I had to stop him.” She also stated that she wouldn’t hesitate to use the weapon again, had the same situation occurred. (All quotes and general information are from Fox 32 Chicago.)
The subject of guns in this country are fraught with debate and vastly differing opinions. One side says that guns kill and the other that guns save lives. Cases too numerous to count balance both sides equally, stories of murder and self-protection juxtaposed in a ballet of futility. The endless debate is most certainly not going to cease anytime in the near future.
If we are to take anything out of Barb’s story it’s that guns can save lives. If a robber is beating your partner, not even a pacifist will allow them to be killed. There comes a certain point where the only way to protect someone or something you value is to destroy it. You can’t watch your elderly husband being beaten to a pulp without springing into action if you’re able.
I’ve been doing a lot of research for a book I’m writing which includes minor themes of violence and the ethics of killing. From what I’ve gleaned so far, I have come to the conclusion that if you are faced with a power that’s evil and wielding a weapon that could be used for killing, it’s your duty to try and stop them. Evil in a tense situation like this won’t be eradicated by frantic prayer alone. Judgment and action are the two key ideas to analyze in this situation.
Rational judgment leads to rational action. That seems fairly simple, am I correct? If you judge that all toddlers are the devil, an irrational judgment, it will lead to you killing a random toddler on the street, an irrational action. But, if you judge that a gunman is going to blow your head off, a rational judgment, you will, in turn, try to disarm or kill him, a rational action. Anti-gun protesters think that if you don’t have a gun, gun violence won’t exist. But, as we saw in the 1920’s during prohibition, there is always a way to obtain what is illegal. If you have a drug dealer with an illegal gun, you will have no chance against him without one.
To protect rational action, I believe we should vet people who buy guns legally to a greater extent and punish those who use illegally-obtained firearms more harshly. Chumlee, the star of History Channel’s hit reality show Pawn Stars, was recently found with a battalion of unlicensed firearms and I doubt he’ll spend one day in jail for it. No matter who the person is, celebrity or not, illegal and unregistered firearm ownership should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, no exceptions.
This story reminds us that guns, though they can be weapons of great evil, they can also save the lives of those we hold dear. Before we plunge into rhetoric or fear-mongering, we need to observe the stories from both sides.
A gun can destroy a family or it can save it, it all depends on the mind pulling the trigger.