GREAT BARRINGTON -- Guns are on a lot of minds these days. Years ago, my friend Glenn Doty, the then-editor of the Legislative Gazette, convinced me to get a shotgun.
I lived way out in the country in Alford and since I was a bit of a lightning rod and had a wife and young children, he thought I should be prepared in case some crazy person came at me.
After a lot of back and forth with my friend, I authorized the acquisition of a shotgun. However, when I told Roselle what I had done, she made it very plain that there would be no guns in the Chartock house. She could have used a lot of very persuasive arguments including, but not limited to: no guns around children; crooks steal guns when they break in your house; the perp might rip the gun right out of my hands and try to shoot me with it.
But she didn't use those arguments. She just gave me the look that we husbands have come to fear.
I called Glenn back and told him to sell the gun that I had never even seen. He did and I have always considered that to be a very important moment. Roselle was right on that one.
Years later, a guy rolled his car through our gardens, knocked down our Eagle box, and left me a present. It was a green towel filled with some interesting stuff. Let's see, there were two mugs filled with a mustard-like substance, large garden shears and other assorted stuff.
I called the Great Barrington Police who quickly found the man and when they asked him why he did what he did, he responded, "Well, you know, Alan Chartock."
Roselle got a little impatient with my anxiety over this incident and sternly told me that the guy was harmless. Apparently, he had a mental illness. When he went off his meds, he sometimes got into trouble -- witness his tour of our garden.
Roselle had coffee at Fuel every morning and the same guy, well-dressed and quite nice, was sitting just seats away. He lived almost across the street from us and there was never any problem. There was a problem, however, when he tried to burn down certain sections of Great Barrington. The poor guy has now been temporarily segregated from the rest of us. There was not one thing a gun would have done to help me.
Another time, a stalker decided to sit in his car outside my house. That's when we got our surveillance system that we recently upgraded with Alarms of Berkshire County. Not that long ago, this guy went on the Internet and warned people to stay off our property because we had a surveillance system. Why would he have done that? Would a gun have helped me? Fugetaboutit.
It's this simple. Too many people have guns. We are experiencing too many tragedies like the shootings at Sandy Hook and we have to put a stop to the carnage. There ought to be a background check on anyone who gets a gun.
The New York State attorney general told me that he sent his agents into so-called "gun shows" and no matter what the undercover agents said that should have set off a giant red flag -- "My wife has an order of protection against me" -- no one was denied.
Of course, the violence-prone mentally ill should not have guns, but we should be providing a lot more services for those who are afflicted with mental illness. If people have guns, they will use them against lovers and bosses and children. The polls are all showing by a wide margin that people want more gun control. The president and the governors are pushing for sensible regulation and I say that it's about time.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.