I Am the NRA; I Want to Be Safe at Home

Sam Brunstein is a retired engineer

Ten years old, I looked at the bird that I had killed and cried. I have never again shot at a living thing. Fifty-seven years later, I am a member of the National Rifle Assn.

At 18, I joined the Army to repair electronics, something I loved. I learned that I liked to shoot holes in pieces of paper. The discipline of good shooting is comparable to that of golf. The need for concentration, practice and self-control is similar. I have shot at targets, off and on, ever since. I vaguely knew I might someday have to shoot at a person, but I didn’t give it much thought; I was in the signal corps, not the infantry.

The Korean War and the Berlin blockade brought me face to face with reality. I wasn’t sent to Korea, but I was in Germany throughout the blockade and could have gone to Korea any time the Army wanted. I had to think about that bird and about shooting at a human being. After much introspection, I concluded that killing people who were trying to kill me is acceptable, but not desirable. Luckily, it never came to that. I didn’t question the right or wrong of the Korean conflict or the struggle between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union; I considered only the question of my right to defend my life.

After six years, I left the Army to become an electrical engineer on the GI Bill. I didn’t own a gun. Occasionally I went tin-can shooting with friends, but I was too busy working and studying to do it much. One night, a drunk with a shotgun held me at gunpoint, threatening to kill me. Finally, he hit me in the head with the gun. The resultant gash bled a lot and apparently frightened him; he got in his car and drove away. Others got his license number and the police arrested him. He had a long record of similar assaults. He also had a rich and influential mother. He was fined $50 and set loose. I bought a handgun.


He lived only two miles from me. I saw him several times in bars and restaurants nearby, but he didn’t recognize me. I had no need to use the gun because I didn’t need to defend myself. And, it was not a difficult decision to leave him alone. The morality was clear to me: Self-defense is OK, revenge is not.

When I graduated, I sold the gun. Until Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. Ramirez would enter a home, rape the wife--sometimes kill her, sometimes not. I bought another handgun.

I took my wife to a gun range where a professional instructor taught her to shoot and also about the legal, moral and ethical aspects of self-defense. These correspond closely with our own sensibilities. One does not kill over a TV set, but may kill when one’s life or the life of a loved one is at stake.

After Ramirez was convicted, I breathed a sigh of relief. But there have been a number of violent crimes (including a gun battle) within a mile of my apartment and I live on a beautiful tree-lined street in Glendale, one of the safest cities of 100,000 in America.


I don’t blame the police. They are doing the best they can. When my car was stolen, I found them to be very professional. But unless a police car happens to be passing directly in front of my apartment when a bad guy breaks in the front door, what are the chances that a policeman will be on hand to save our lives at 2 a.m.? They cannot be everywhere. Inside our apartment at 2 a.m., we are on our own.

That’s why I joined the NRA. The personal vote is not a powerful weapon anymore. Federal, state, and local policy is controlled by special interest groups. That’s why there is a Sierra Club, an NRA, Handgun Control Inc. and so on.

The NRA stands for my right to have a weapon available to defend myself in the middle of the night. Handgun control advocates want to leave me powerless; I want to be empowered. I believe that I have a right to be safe in my home, even if that means being armed.