The thing about being awake at 5 a.m. is occasionally you witness a crime.
I've mentioned before there is a thief in our midst. We have since learned that our otherwise safe street is routinely scourged by the same kid. I've seen him around, and even caught him scoping out my house once. He's thirteen, skinny, and alone, wearing oversized clothes and looking like trouble.
Saturday morning, 5:23 a.m. and the entire family is awake. We were loading up for a walk when I saw the same skinny, loping kid running down the road with a children's dirt bike. The bike looked new, and was too small for him to ride. "What do you think is happening right now?" I said to Brian. "Petty theft," Brian replied.
He called the police as he walked out the door to see which direction the kid went. Brian found where the kid stashed the bike and where he lived. The police patrolled all morning, questioning every kid on a bike in the area. I don't know if they ever found him. As the officer was leaving the vacant yard where the stolen bike was hidden, Brian explained that he really hoped the kid would be arrested. "I'm afraid he's going to look in the wrong window," Brian said. "Some of our neighbors would love to have a reason to use their gun." "Well," said the officer, "I'm not suggesting anyone break the law, but a well-placed bullet would certainly teach him a lesson."
As if he were a dog.
And this is why we won't have a gun, no matter how much I'm home alone or how often my purse is stolen. There is nothing I own that is worth a human life. He's a kid - a punk, to be sure, who needs to be arrested, needs to have the shit scared out of him, needs to spend some time in juvenile detention - but he's still a kid. Somebody's grandson, somebody's student, somebody's friend. Plus he's so skinny, I'm pretty sure I could take him if necessary.
I understand it is a right to protect your property. But against whom? And to what end? What does it say about us as a society that we uphold the right to kill another person over belongings? If someone was trying to harm my children, I can safely say I would die trying to save them. But to protect my cell phone and wallet? Or some kid's dirt bike? Is that really worth this child's future, however bleak it may be? Exactly what lesson would he learn from a bullet, Officer?
There is nothing I own that I value more than a life - even the life of a thief. If that makes me a bleeding heart, well, I can live with that. So long as no other blood is spilt.