What is the purpose of owning a handgun? Does owning a handgun protect you? Does owning handgun have a greater chance of hurting you, or someone you know, more than a stranger seeking to do you harm?
When we first moved to New York, we decided to get a handgun in order to feel “safe” in our new hometown. The act of getting a handgun was not a simple move to put into action. New York City started requiring handgun licensing in order to purchase a gun.
At that time you could buy as many rifles and shotguns as you could afford without a license or a vetting process, but handguns had a tortuous new registration requirements and you were limited to the purchase of two handguns.
You also had to pay a yearly handgun license fee that would allow you to have guns in your home and only your home. The fee was around $130 at the time and today you will pay just under $450. You started by heading down to NYPD’s headquarters, One Police Plaza, to submit to a rigorous background check. The entire vetting took around six weeks — a purposeful delay to ensure no spur-of-the-moment “buy and shoot” decisions were mistakenly made in a moment of passion.
One could not help but feel the rigor of buying a gun in New York made you feel like the criminal being processed instead of the one seeking to protect a family from criminal harm. Once you were cleared, the NYPD mailed you a handgun purchase authorization form — good for the purchase of two guns — that you would present to a gun dealer to finalize your purchase. If you bought one gun and later decided you wanted a second handgun, you had to resubmit to the background verification and fees procedure again.
I believe the licensing was skewed to press you into buying two guns at once and that skewing was probably a giveback to the local gun shops that were suddenly hurting for business after the crackdown on unattended handgun purchases. It was a trembling experience buying a handgun. Sweaty palms wet the wooden grip.
A rough salesman’s urging to “Stop shaking! Don’t be scared of the gun! Just pull the trigger!” did not help ease the decision making moment as one repeatedly tugged on the trigger of an empty revolver aimed at a wooden crate on the sawdust floor. Finally, feeling haunted and hunted, two handguns were purchased: A massive and heavy two-hands-needed-to-aim Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum with hollow-point bullets:
As well as a smaller Smith and Wesson .38:
The second we handed over the $1,200 — for both guns and ammo and a “lock box” that would hold the guns between cleanings — we felt less safe. The guns were never fired. The guns were never loaded. We never touched the guns.
We lived in terror of the guns being fired against us or against anyone else. We preferred the protection of our defensive wits instead of offensive dum-dum bullets. The handguns were finally handed over to the NYPD because we no longer wanted guns in the house.
We lost all our money on the guns in the handover because we didn’t want to renew the handgun license and if we had tried to sell the guns we would have had to purchase a Gun Dealer’s Permit and that was another barrel of monkeys and far from being shooting-fish-in-a-barrel easy.
We decided the penalty we had to pay for our stupidity and innocence in seeking security in handguns instead of each other was to lose the money we paid for making a bad decision. After we gave our guns to the NYPD we once again felt safe in our own home.