In 1987 I returned to the United States with my new Thai bride. I had been stationed on Navy duty in both Japan and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia for a total of six years of overseas duty. We moved into a nice gated apartment complex in Pacific Beach California about 100 yards from the ocean and about ten miles north of downtown San Diego. Things were good for the first few months in the new home until there was a change of owner and landlord. The new owner was more concerned with a 100% occupancy rate rather than the quality of the tenants.
A rougher crowd started moving into complex which had been primarily military families and retired couples. As thing started to get worse the older couples moved out. The late night parties with the drinking, drugs and noise forced them out first. We hunkered down while awaiting our military housing apartment to open up. The landlord would serve eviction papers on one group so theyíd just move in with the punks a few doors down. This game when on for six months while we were awaiting government military housing
I was teaching advanced electronics at the Naval Training Center and had to leave for work at 5:15 AM. I traveled back and forth in my white Navy dress uniform. Long days teaching had me going to bed at 10:00 PM so that I could be ready for the next early morning. The late night parties running into the early hours of the morning wore me out. Calls to the police were a waste of time. Theyíd either not respond at all or the punks would just wait a few moments for the police to leave before starting up again.
Coming home after work in the evenings was where things first started getting bad. The young punks, ages 15 to 20 or so, would start with the daily name-calling and harassment. Not that it bothered me except that it was only the beginning. I was marked as a target because of my military service.
Every 8th night I had to stay at work 24 hours on military duty. My wife, who was still adjusting to life in the United States, told me that on those nights that I was gone that the punks would walk around the common apartment balcony and look though the too sheer curtains into our apartment as she was watching television. They would stand there smoking their pot pipes watching her and our large screen television. I told my wife to avoid the front room on my duty days.
Then one night my expensive bicycle was striped clean while chained to the bike rack just outside my door. The crack house in the apartment just below and across the patio was a bike chop shop. All day and night you could hear them sanding down the paint off of stolen bikes and then reassembling them. The near constant paint fumes helped cover the crack and pot smoking. I called the police and told them my suspicions that they had destroyed my $350 bike. Within a few days the police came by and emptied out about 25 bike frames onto the patio where they took pictures and recorded serial numbers. My parts couldnít be identifed as they had taken everything but the frame and wheels. The chop shot apartment residents somehow knew that it was me who tipped the police even though I had asked the police not to contact me. They gave me an earful about how I had no right to call the police sreaming at me and trying to bait me into a physical fight.
That weekend one of the punks threw a bag with about 15 beer bottles about 50 feet onto the hood of my then three-month-old car. I came screaming out of the apartment and confronted the 17 year old idiot telling him that he was going to pay to take the dents out of the hood or he was going to get arrested. After informing me that I could go to hell, that he was only 17 and there wasnít a thing that I could do to him he spit at my feet and walked away. The police said that if I hadnít actually seen him toss the bottle filled bag it was simply my word against his.
Later that week he jumped off one of his bikes and sent the bike crashing into the front quarter panel of my car putting a handful of scratches and some more dents into it. I talked to the landlord who said that there was nothing she could do. The punkís parents were crack smoking alcoholics. The police said again it was his word against mine and that as a 17 year old if I touched him it would be me going to jail. I had to start parking my car about a block away from my assigned parking space just to avoid the idiots. Also I started to carry my uniform to work and change before coming home. How sad.
The last straw came where there was some sort of deal gone wrong at the crack house and a guy started chasing another guy around with a baseball bat. A baseball bat with nails driven though it. Thank God that the first doper was faster than the one with the bat. They ran around and around the common balcony screaming and swinging. The idiot with the bat broke one of the neighborís large picture windows. Children were crying and screaming from all over the complex. I called 911 to report an on going assault with a deadly weapon.
Nearly 20 minutes later the San Diego police showed up with three or four officers walking around the complex. Twenty full minutes! The guy could have beaten the other guy into hamburger, cooked him, eaten him and be done with the dishes in 20 minutes. By the time the cops arrived the pair were long gone. A second event took place a few days later when they started throwing beer bottles across the patio at the opposite apartment buildings. No windows were put out but a car or two was hit. The police didnít respond after my call for 40 minutes by which time everyone was gone again.
Fearing for the safety of my wife and myself I went out and purchased a Smith and Wesson model 422, which is a 10 shot semiautomatic pistol. The pistolís caliber is .22 long rifle which is the smallest and weakest cartridge commonly available. I enlisted the assistance of a friend to take me out shooting and to show me safe handling procedures. I talked with a community service police officer to learn when I could legally shoot to defend myself. I purchased eye and ear protection and a lockable case for the pistol. I took the pistol to the local indoor range to practice safe handling under the eyes of a range master before taking the pistol out into the hills east of San Diego for some plinking (informal target) practice.
I was often seen by the punks carrying my locked pistol case, which sported a colorful Smith and Wesson logo on the side. Funny thing, they stopped cursing and harassing me. They stopped peeking into the windows of my apartment. I found that it was now safe to park my car in my reserved space. Funny that. I found that I didnít even need to put the gun into the case anymore and often just carried the empty case back and forth to work.
The police had told me that I couldnít shoot at someone except to defend my wifeís or my life. I had to be in fear for my life, not just my safety or well-being. I couldnít shoot at a car thief or burglar. Laws in other states are different and Californiaís may have changed in these past years. I am not a lawyer and this isnít legal advice.
I found that I enjoyed the afternoons plinking tin cans and punching holes in paper targets. The whole event is rather relaxing. Target shooting takes great concentration and the tensions of the outside world disappear behind the sights.
I next purchased the Feather AT-22 rifle, which is an unusual looking .22 LR rifle. Those two guns sparked my interest into the shooting sports that now spans nearly 15 years. Iíve become quite a good shot with pistol, rifle and shotgun and have introduced several friends into this martial art. I now reload my own ammunition have have started investing in a collection of military semi-automatic rifles.
Whenever I went camping in the mountains and deserts of Southern California I went armed. My second story is an account where having a pistol just might have saved my hide.
My first two firearms: a Feather AT-22 and Smith and Wesson model 422. Originally they didnít wear the scopes and the rifle didnít have an AK muzzle brake.
The decision to own firearms is one not made without mature forethought and careful planning. There are many people that because of lifestyle or personality should think long and hard about the responsibility such a tool carries.
Do you believe that one should consult an automotive engineer for safer seatbelts, a civil engineer for a better bridge, a surgeon for spinal paralysis, a computer programmer for Y2K problems, and Sarah Brady for firearms expertise?