The day I had an assault weapon in my car and was confronted by police
A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about Gun Control and mentioned that I’ve owned a couple of SKS rifles. The SKS fires a 7.62x39mm round, the same as early AK-47s and is also similar to the cartridge used by the M-1 Carbine. The SKS was a military rifle, used by the USSR and supplied to their communist allies in the 50s. It was replaced by the AK-47. While pedantic gun nuts will argue (rightfully) that the SKS isn’t an “Assault Rifle” it is an assault weapon. The differences between the two terms don’t warrant much discussion here. The SKS is the weapon that Micah Johnson used to shoot 12 police officers in Dallas on July 7, 2016. It has an effective range of 400 yards.
I had one in my car one day in June 1992 during an encounter with the police.
One day in June 1992 I was driving down the road and saw some friends playing lacrosse in a field across from a church in our neighborhood. I pulled over next to them and chatted for a while. My friend Mike eventually came by in his 1971 Monte Carlo. In case you’re unfamiliar with the ’71 Monte Carlo, that’s the car that Ace Ventura drove.
Mike’s car looked (and ran) exactly like it, but over the previous winter we did a fair amount of work to it so it would be faster. After a little bit of chit-chat, I told my friends I was on my way to the shooting range and left. As I got in my car, Mike got in his and followed behind me, revving his engine and acting like he wanted to race me. I decided to take the bait. I knew his huge tank of a car didn’t stand a chance against my Corvette. We drove through Linthicum, MD and eventually onto Rt. 170, which had a long straight away along the BWI airport. We made a left turn onto BWI and both of us put the pedal to the floor. My Corvette pulled away easily and I let off the gas and let the car decelerate on its own.
If you look at the right-side of this map, there’s a 90-degree turn. The map makes the turn look tighter than it is, but it is a turn I’d taken in my Corvette at over 60mph before. This time I was going more like 50 mph, but as I got to the apex of this turn, a pedestrian jumped out on front of me. I panicked and jerked the wheel left to avoid him and then right to compensate as the rear end came loose over some gravel in the intersection. It didn’t work, and my Corvette skipped over the median like a rock skipped on a lake. I ended up landing on the wrong side of the road, going the wrong direction. In other words, I spun in a complete circle. I got out of my car, shaken and pissed off. I looked at my car and it was a mess. The entire front suspension was destroyed and the fiberglass front end was cracked up.
It wasn’t long until the police arrived. This was before cell phones, but the Transportation Authority cops patrol the area around the airport frequently. A female cop stopped and surveyed the situation. When she came over to me I explained what happened. She asked me for my license and registration. I gave her my license and then told her my registration was in the glove box. C-III Corvettes don’t have glove boxes in the dash, but rather behind the seats. In 1976, the rear window was vertical and they have this cubby hole that goes underneath the back of the car. The cubby hole is barely big enough to fit a large suit-case. It was just wide enough to fit my rifle in its case.
“I need to get my registration from inside the car”, I told her, “and I have a gun in my car”.
“OK you need to step away from the car”, she responded as she positioned herself between me and the car.
“Its OK. It isn’t loaded. I was on my way to the range”, I explained.
She had me walk further from the car to create distance between me and the gun. She then called the State Police who have a barracks not far from there. A State Trooper came by, grabbed my rifle case from the car, took the rifle out and inspected everything. He then asked me where I was going, what I was doing, etc. Everything, of course, went fine. I had the rifle in a case, it was unloaded, and I had no ammunition in the car, either. As I said, I was on my way to the range.
The events this week, with the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile got me thinking about this event so many years ago and how different it was for me. Philando Castile had a Concealed Carry Permit for his gun. In other words, he was legally allowed to carry a loaded handgun and the police shot him anyway.
In both cases, the car’s driver informed the police officer that they had a gun. Both drivers were responsible gun owners cooperating with the police. One of us lived. People can try to argue this isn’t about race all they want, but I shudder to think that maybe Philando Castile would be alive today if he was white.