Too Close for Comfort with Guarda Nacional Republicana Guns

I spent Monday morning sitting outside our local council tribunal in Odemira waiting for a civil case to be heard.

I came face to face with one of the few things in this life that makes me physically and mentally uncomfortable.  Unusually for a tribunal on the civil circuit as opposed to the criminal circuit — the local GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana, the Polícia de Portugal) were “tooled up” — yep I was in the same room as a gun — in fact not just one gun — but four.

I am not a stranger to guns. I first handled a rifle — make and model long forgotten now — in my teens when I did rifle shooting as one of my “interests” for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. I was the only girl on the course and one that drew some amusement from Prince Philip when I met him at the awards ceremony. With hindsight, I suspect he always had a “thing” for women who could handle a weapon.

I can appreciate the aesthetics of a beautifully preserved weapon and the geek in me appreciates some of the sleek high end technology of modern weaponry.

We currently own and use two air pistols to control vermin. They are both kept in a locked box

I have lived in rural/farming areas for all but one year of my life. I am used to hunting of all kinds; I am used to farmers keeping guns, both for hunting game for food and to kill pests and vermin. Protection of livestock is vital especially in poorer rural areas both in the UK and Portugal where almost every smallholder/farmer has one.

I know certain police units in the UK carry guns — most local forces have a gun squad at their disposal — often more in highly populated areas.

I have also encountered armed police and border guards on my travels. Greece has to take the award for being the most frightening place I have arrived in, being greeted by heavily armed men and women with submachine guns at Rhodes airport thirty years ago did not oose hospitality.

I fully understand the whys and wherefores of the necessity for our “protectors” to bear arms.  I can understand the right to bear arms — but this post is not about the current debate in the USA about that right — it is about why I am so uncomfortable sharing my space with people carrying guns.

I am told that I should feel safer that the police are armed; I am told they can protect me better because they are armed and that society is a safer place for me and my children and grandchildren because they are armed.

But no — I see a gun and I look for the exit.

I suspect this is because I feel that IF a person wishes to attack an armed policeman they are going to do it with a gun — the chances of there being collateral damage are far higher when guns are employed — they ricochet off marble walls and floors, off bullet proof glass and metal — which of course is why institutions use these materials to protect their staff.

I am not sure if it is the visual of the gun, or the damage I know it can do or the short time in which it can do the damage that makes me so uncomfortable — or a mixture of all three.

I do not have the same issues with knives which can be equally deadly.

I want to ask those of you that live in the USA and who are surrounded by guns — both seen and unseen — do you ever get used to it?