By: Roger Acuavera – MASF Member
I grew up in Oxon Hill, MD, a small town just outside Washington, DC. Growing up I had very little exposure to firearms. My dad owned a few, but he limited my exposure to them by just allowing me to gaze at them as he opened his locker. My big brother was a police officer and he actually took me shooting when I was 15 years old. I shot his Beretta 92, Smith & Wesson Shotgun, and Tanfoglio 9mm. For the first time I felt like I was growing up and I wasn’t going to be a kid much longer. I had a great time, but it didn’t spark a love affair with guns.
In March 1989, the big story of the day was the proposed ban on the importation of semi-auto assault rifles. By executive order, George Bush Sr. stopped the importation of about 43 specifically named rifles based mostly on their appearance. The outcry had all stemmed from a 1987 school yard shooting in Stockton, CA that left 5 children dead. I remember my parents and I were watching the news when the Stockton incident happened. Of course being 17 years old it really didn’t bother me much at the time, but I would later find that it would weigh heavily on my opinions on gun ownership.
That same year, Washington, DC chalked up 434 murders in the city- up from 369 just the year before. Keep in mind that gun ownership was, for the most part, banned in 1976 and DC is only about 9 square miles. At the time there was a 30 minute TV show on channel 5 that came on at 11pm each week day. It was dedicated to murders in and around the metropolitan area. It was called “City Under Siege”, and the reality was that it actually was. I used to joke that if there were no murders one night you could almost expect a few the following night. It’s like criminals were watching too and felt that they needed to make up for the lack of bodies the previous day. Many people called DC the “Wild, Wild West”. I remember witnessing a number of shootings and murders at clubs I hung out at: Triples, East Side, Chapter 3, and the RSVP. Exciting times these were. I saw some real crazy stuff back then and lost some very good friends.
I guess I reacted to it all just like everyone else in a liberal area. I was convinced that “no one should be able to own a gun”. My anti-gun position was only strengthened one summer evening. My best friend and I were washing our cars at Sam’s Car Wash in Oxon Hill, MD. Loud car stereos were all the rage back then, which made us prime targets for the criminal. I can still hear the screech of tires and the two cars speeding into the parking lot where we were. Four armed men jumped out and demanded our car keys. I submitted and laid face down on the ground. To this day I could probably draw every nook, crack, and cranny of the concrete that lay just an inch from my face. I can still feel the pressure of the barrel being pressed against the back of my head. Thoughts raced through my mind at a thousand miles per minute. “How is being shot going to feel? Am I going to die today? Is it going to be quick? Is it going to hurt? What about my mom? She can’t bury another son. Not like this”. I probably imagined a thousand different outcomes in that very brief moment. Luckily for us all they did was take our cars. The police found the stripped cars the next day. The experience only reinforced my opinion that guns should be banned.
That fall I returned to Prince Georges Community College. I was always pretty quiet and shy growing up and I wanted to break out of that. I always admired people who could get up and speak in front of a full room so I forced myself to take Debate 101. Since I was far from being a natural speaker I figured I could learn to be a good speaker. Interestingly, the topic I would focus on that semester was gun control. I was horrible at arguing my points, but I did walk away with the framework I would later reflect on and change my life forever.
In 1991 I got married and we were living at City Line Towers in Suitland, MD. It was on the DC/MD line where Southern Ave and Suitland Rd meet. I was walking out of our apartment building with my wife and holding my 9 month old son in his car carrier. I don’t remember where we were going that day, but the events of that afternoon would forever alter my life. It was 3:00 pm on a bright sunny afternoon. I could see 30-40 people enjoying the day at the pool just 75 feet away. Suddenly I was surprised by an object being pressed hard into the right side of my back. From behind me I could hear a voice demanding I give him my car keys. Shocked, I immediately placed my son on the ground and walked 20 more feet to my car. I just wanted him away from my wife and son. Once we were at the car I handed him my keys. He stepped into the car, started it, and drove off. It was over. I could breathe again. My heart could resume beating.
It’s difficult to explain the degree of how helpless, desperate, and powerless I felt. The first time I was robbed I only had to think about myself being in harm’s way. This second time, my family was involved, and that changed everything. The police arrived about an hour later. Not sure why it took so long. I guess there were more important things to tend to that day. They were there for about 30 minutes asking questions and that was it. Nothing ever came of it.
That night I made the decision to take my family’s safety into my own hands. I had remembered that there was a gun store on Beech Rd in Marlow Heights, MD called Free State Arms. I didn’t know much about guns aside from my brother taking me to
the range once or twice when I was younger. One thing I did know though was that you get what you pay for. The following day I visited Free State Arms. A man names Jay Brookings was the owner of the shop that was tucked away in a rundown industrial park. I purchased a Sig Sauer P228 pistol that day for $550.
From that day forward I carried it with me, illegally, for approximately 5 or 6 years. The state of Maryland doesn’t trust its citizens enough to allow us to conceal carry a firearm legally. They still believe written laws and police are sufficient enough to protect us from harm. I can tell you from experience that they’re quite wrong. You cannot legislate the wickedness out of the hearts of men. So, that’s how it all started for me. I’m actually glad it all happened just the way it did. I learned some important lessons that I will pass on to my children.
You are responsible for your personal well-being as well as your family’s. Our Constitution is precious and should be guarded with your life. Don’t take our Freedoms and Liberties for granted. They are easy to lose, and far more difficult to reclaim.