Devoted family man is a gun owner

By Cristina DC Pastor

Let me introduce Art Tadiar (not his real name), hardworking health care employee, devoted family man, proud Filipino American and unabashed gun owner.

Art, a Virginia resident, has something in common with Newtown, Conn. shooter Adam Lanza: a Glock hand gun. But while Lanza may have used this weapon to kill himself following a December 14th shooting rampage, Art has used his Glock only for target practice. He keeps the pistol under lock and key by his nightstand drawer. He may own a weapon, but was quick to point out that he is not a member of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA).

“I bought it for about $460,” Art said in a phone interview with The FilAm. “That was 10 years ago.”

Ten years ago was his watershed moment, a period in his life when owning a gun gained a sense of urgency. Art had just moved his family to a middle-class neighborhood in Virginia. He got a new job with a hospital facility and had to relocate. The property he bought was adjacent to a walking trail that leads to a bus stop. People walk this path to go to work. At night, some neighborhood teens would occasionally chill out here and use drugs. Fed up by the noise and threats to his family’s safety, Art called 911 while the teens were ‘in action.’ The officers came and picked up some of the teens, but not all. Unfortunately for Art, the teens saw the cops talking to him just outside his door.

From that moment on, Art has seen mysterious cars slow down in front of his house, not threatening him directly but seeming to intimidate him. “Sinisindak lang ako,” he said.

With his wife’s blessing, he made a decision to arm himself. “I need it for protection for my family. We have a young daughter.” He and his wife had a 4-year-old daughter.

At Galyan’s Sporting Goods, the purchase took less than an hour. Art took a written test. On passing, he was asked to produce his driver’s license and car registration. The store made a quick call to the Virginia State Police for a background check for possible criminal history. “No background check on mental health,” he recalled. Soon, he was holding on to his permit. He and his wife grinned at one another nervously.

He was asked if he would like to sign up for the NRA, which provided him literature on gun safety and responsible ownership. He had the option also not to be a member but would have access to the organization’s shooting ranges across the state for a fee. He chose the latter.

Every month for many years, Art would go the range for target shooting. Sometimes he would bring his young daughter. The firing noise turned her off, also the fact that she did not see any girls around the range. She lost interest and stopped coming.

Art, too, had lost interest and stopped going to the range in the last three years. But even before that, the drive-by harassment had stopped altogether. His unloaded pistol is safely stored in a case in his nightstand, the bullets in a separate case under the bed. Never close to each other, he stressed. Only his wife knows where to find them.

“Hindi naman ako mayabang. I don’t need to show people that I have a gun,” he said, although in his home state there seems to be no taboo to gun ownership; it’s talked about openly.

Virginia is very lenient when it comes to owning guns, said Art echoing what everyone – including New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg — already knows about the state and its coital relationship with the Constitution’s Second Amendment: the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. Bloomberg is quite vocal about his exasperation over the proliferation of loose guns in Virginia that eventually find their way to criminal elements in New York. The NRA is headquartered in Fairfax. Deeper into history, James Madison, one of the founding fathers, is considered the father of the Bill of Rights, which includes the Second Amendment. Eighteen years after the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, the Virginia-born Madison became the fourth president of the U.S.

“Here in Virginia, you can carry a gun from the shooting range to your home (and back) loaded and exposed even without a permit,” said Art. In other places, an exposed firearm would promptly invite curious looks or questioning by police officers. It is not uncommon for owners to keep their guns inside the dashboard of their cars or the passenger seat.

Out of the 15 people in Art’s department at work, 10 are gun owners including his manager, who has a collection of about 150 pieces, including high caliber rifles. “Common talaga dito.”

Art said gun violence is not so much about easy access to firearms but about “people killing people.” In the absence of a gun, the killer’s weapon could be a baseball bat or a dagger, he argued.

Meantime, Art’s Glock remains hidden, unused for years. Every now and then, he brings it out to clean it with a special solvent. It’s just reassuring to have around, he said. “I know my family will be safe.”

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