Moms with guns

By Diane Alden
web posted June 5, 2000

In the mailbox the other day was a fat envelope filled with lots of neat stuff. Coupons, an insurance policy, a sticker for my car, a plastic membership card with my name on it. My eldest son's belated Mother's Day gift, a membership to the National Rifle Association. It is what I asked for and since he is a life time member he decided we would make it a family affair.

Now you have to understand I grew up in the prairie and woods of Minnesota.

It used to be a place where grandfathers, father, uncles, aunts, siblings all learned how to use firearms at an early age. In the case of my dad and his brothers it was a matter of putting meat on the table during the "Great Depression." Later that knowledge of guns and marksmanship helped all three Alden boys, my dad and his two brothers, through World War II. In the case of my brothers, my sister and myself it was just something we learned how to do along with learning how to ride a horse and a bicycle. Consequently, I acquired a healthy respect for guns but was never afraid of them. That is unless they were in the hands of some untrained or inexperienced dimwit, a criminal or a nut.

Later on as the wife of an airline pilot, with three small children at home, I learned that guns were not just for hunting or target practice. After several intensely bad experiences with break-ins and a near home intrusion, we moved from Atlanta to a small town in west Georgia. Out in the hinterlands I thought we would be safe at last. The kids could walk to school and I could leave the doors unlocked. As it turns out even small towns can be home to evil people with no good in mind.

Our house was a big 100 year-old southern style home, better known to those who have tried to fix up an old house as the "money pit." It had lots of glass doors and windows on the ground floor. However, rarely did I worry about the fact that this might give someone more options for breaking and entering. My whole attitude towards guns and my naivete thinking I was safe in a small town changed one hot night in July, 1978.

My husband at that time was away on an overnighter, airline parlance for a two-day trip. I didn't expect him back until late Sunday. Used to being alone I never gave it a second thought. Around midnight I fell asleep watching Kirk Douglas in "The Detective." At about 1:30 I was awakened by the barking of the neighbor's dog. The dog was always barking so I didn't pay much attention. Nevertheless, I couldn't go back to sleep. As I lay there in the dark I heard sounds underneath the long row of windows next to the bed.

Stealthy footsteps making crunching sounds in the leaves. Of course right away I thought the neighbor's dog had decided to use the bushes or some raccoon was on a rampage. Nevertheless, the cold sense of dread in the pit of my stomach grew to the edge of panic. That feeling born of instinct that women with children have; the one that tells them when something is seriously wrong.

An enclosed porch was attached to the bedroom. A kind of outdoor garden room which was nice to sit in and take the air on hot summer nights. On the dark side of the house, the outside screen door was difficult to see from the street. Through that door was a terra cotta tile floor, and the two full length glass doors leading to the main house. This was all that stood between me and the unknown shadows trying to break into my world.

A choking sensation rose in my throat. I knew there were two of them because I could hear two voices as they fumbled with the tools they would use to break in. For about five seconds I couldn't move, all I could do was pray that they would go away. But they didn't go away. I forced myself to peep out the curtain that covered the glass door leading onto the porch. I saw two shadows and I knew then it was real. I knew I had to do something.Three small children were sleeping upstairs and they were depending on me. Of course my first thought was to use the phone and call the sheriff. There was no 911 back then. Only the operator if I could get through and the sheriff's number I couldn't remember. The phone rang and rang for nearly a minute and no operator answered and I couldn't waste any more time. The noises outside were growing louder as I heard them fiddling with the wrought iron lattice that covered the screen door. I remember praying to God to help me -- to tell me what to do. Then I knew what I had to do. I had to crawl on my hands and knees across the library floor, the living room, the hallway and then up 22 steps to the second floor where my husband's gun was kept in a locked closet.

I can remember crying quietly to myself for what seemed like hours and waiting for the crash of glass. That would be the moment I would find out if my aim would be straight and steady. It would be a life changing moment, deciding what is important to you.

The flashlight shook in my hands as I found the key to the closet and opened it and took the telephone and the phone book in with me. The 38 wasn't loaded and that was my first priority. My hands trembled as I put six bullets in the chambers while all I really wanted to do was throw up. I kept thinking this isn't happening, it can't be happening. This isn't Atlanta for crying out loud. But it was happening and I decided I would use that gun if I had to. I had three kids under ten sleeping in their rooms just down the hallway, and I had no choice. Finally, someone answered the phone at the sheriff's office.

I stood in the small dressing room listening through the open window to the sounds below. Trying desperately to be clear so that the dispatcher could tell the deputy who I was, where I was and what I wanted. The two men had cut through the wrought iron lattice and the screen and then I heard the crash of glass. In just 4 minutes I could see lights but no siren as the sheriff's car came down the hill towards the house. Luckily the deputy had been on patrol on my side of the county. With even more good luck he had been only three blocks away when the call came. If he had been in the other half of the county it would have taken him twenty minutes to get to our place. I heard the intruders drop tools and under the bright street lights watched as a white van with red checked curtains in the back window drove down the street and out of sight.

The sheriff's deputy took my statement -- which is all he could do. I was too far away in an upstairs dressing room to see a license plate. He looked at the 38 sitting on the table and said, "I hope you were planning on using that ma'am, remember it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by six." He needn't have told me that, I had made the decision earlier.

In a couple of months the two intruders were caught trying to break in somewhere else. One of them was a young man whom I had seen around town and he had seen me and admitted to stalking me. The other was a rogue police officer from a town south of where we lived. Both of them had been high on something or other. What they had in mind I can't imagine. To this day thinking about that night makes me break into a cold sweat. But one thing I know they wouldn't have gotten to me or my children. My dad taught me to shoot steady and straight.

It was a hot July night twenty years later, when the little girl who slept through the incident in a small Georgia town in 1978 found herself backed into a corner. On her way to a night shift as a disc jockey in Atlanta, my daughter developed car trouble. With no cell phone and about half a mile from the nearest exit on I-20, but like a sensible person she raised the hood and waited for the highway patrol. A car stopped behind her and she quickly got back into her vehicle, opened the glove compartment, and put her 22 pistol on the front seat next to her. The man who had supposedly stopped to help demanded she get out of the car and give him her money. Then he saw her reach for the gun. He ran back to his car and left in a squeal of tires. She later told me "I remember that day mom when I was little, when you told me sometime in your life you may have to find the courage to do a terrible thing."

Unlike Rosie O'Donnell, Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric, Susan Erbe, Barbara Walters, or Hillary Clinton and her million-mom-march stooges, some of us reside in the real world. Some of us don't live in high security buildings nor can we afford to pay for armed protection for our children. Some of us don't live in gated communities with one exit and a guard tower. Some of us depend on ourselves and always have. Moms with guns are a lot better off then moms who wait for 911, or as the latest joke on the net goes, "What are you going to do when someone breaks into your home"?

A. Call Rosie O'Donnell and tell her to come over and nag the crooks to death.
B. Wait 30 minutes for the police to show up while your ex-husband is breaking through the door screaming, "if I can't have you no one will."
C. Tell the bad guys that they are breaking 28,000 gun laws then show them chapter and verse.
D. Write down the bad guy's life story for a Barbara Walter's special while commiserating with them on their miserable childhood.

Well, my handsome and successful number one son just helped me take a stand one more time. He has always been grateful that when the crunch came he had a mom with a gun willing to use it should it become necessary. By making me a card-carrying member of the NRA he reminds me why the Second Amendment is so important to women like me, who for the most part, have to depend on themselves. My three wonderful grown kids know how to use a gun and will do so if their lives or the lives of those they care about should ever depend on it. After all the apples don't fall far from the tree.

Reach Diane at or look for www.inflyovercountry after June 10.

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