Thursday, August 28, 2014

Annie get your gun? Or probably not.

I used to believe, naively, that a "home invasion" was a melodramatic synonym for "burglary" until two weeks ago, when at about ten-thirty at night four punks in their twenties broke into the small ranch of a retired American couple in their late sixties who live a few miles deeper into the countryside than us. The assailants tied up the woman and then seriously beat up her husband when he tried to intervene, despite pleas to the burglars to just take whatever they wanted and leave them alone.

The couple's ranch looks like the original Ma and Pa Kettle spread, what with a vegetable garden, chicken coop and small corral with seven goats, rather than a rich gringo's fantasy of a Mexican hacienda. A substantial portion of their income comes from selling goat milk products, such as cheeses and yogurt. One of the biggest losses was a stash of pesos they had saved to fix the roof of the house. Around here they are known as kind souls and unreconstructed hippies, she with graying braids over her shoulders, he with a pony tail, both with matching round eyeglasses.

The assailants reportedly went at it for an interminable forty-five minutes and their motive seems to have been equal parts theft and gratuitous violence. Similar home invasions have taken place elsewhere in the countryside but also in the heart of San Miguel, in some cases driving the victims to leave town if not Mexico altogether.

Annie Oakley looked like a confident, empowered
gal though her hair needed a little work. 
Where is the police you might ask. The San Miguel police came to the couple's ranch alright and one of their first questions was what possessed them to live so far out in the country, which is like scolding a rape victim for wearing a too-tight pair of jeans. In response to another burglary nearby a few days later, when the owner was away, the cops officiously dusted the premises for fingerprints.

No one expects any arrests or results; Mexican law enforcement is famously inefficient at solving any crimes. The system is more like a bottomless cold-case file. If anything officers seem more adept at shamelessly shaking down citizens, usually poor folks. Three months ago we heard a story of a traffic cop stopping a pick-up near our ranch carrying a half-dozen people on the truck bed, a technically illegal but universally common practice. When the driver said he didn't have enough money to pay the mordida—as bribes are known in Mexicothe cop calmly suggested he ask the riders to pitch in. They did and so the case was "solved."

Which takes us back to guns. The couple whose home was invaded are part of a small cluster of Texans with small ranches and the first response from the group was to buy guns—an idea that for the first time resonated some with Stew and me, lifelong liberal wusses on the subject of firearms.

A couple much closer to us who'd never touched a gun in their lives—she's an Italian architect and he a pianist from Ohio—even enlisted a local to demonstrate how to use a revolver and try some target shooting. Nobody hit anything during the outing, a bad omen for a nascent vigilante campaign.

Stew and I have installed a couple more deadbolts and padlocks, adding two more keys to a collection that anymore resembles what the warden would carry at a medium-security prison. We also ordered a remotely activated alarm triggered by a fob on a key ring.

Still, the fear of assault and injuries beyond the loss of property hovers over our minds. Stuff can be replaced far more easily than a broken jaw, lost teeth or possible eye damage, all of which our neighbor—the one with the goats—suffered during the invasion of his home, aside from the bone-chilling fear that still haunts him and his wife.

Following a previous posting in this blog about guns, Stew's brother Greg, an enthusiastic gun owner, argued with us that owning a gun most of all gives you a sense of empowerment, the confidence that you're no longer a hapless victim waiting to be pounced on.

Right now that argument rings a bell. Stew and I have talked about getting a gun and walking around the ranch at night, shooting into the air, howling at the moon while grabbing our crotches and generally putting on our our best impression of a couple of macho Texas ranchers. Wouldn't all that theatrical racket scare off potential home invaders?  It might. Or they might just laugh at the show.

Then there's reality. First, there's the challenge of getting gun permits and the legal morass that would be created by an American shooting, possibly killing, a Mexican citizen, even in self defense. Dealing with the Mexican legal system is like falling into a pool of molasses from which you might never come out.

Our gardener Félix, an eminently sensible Mexican, made a second point: The scenario of two old gringos—no matter how loudly they howl or how empowered they feel—fighting off four or five young Mexicans, some of them armed, doesn't sound like good odds. The scene of a ballsy owner protecting his castle against a gang of intruders still seems like something out of a National Rifle Association comic book—amusing, interesting or reassuring—but not very real.

Still, I'm going to call the government agency in the nearby town of Irapuato in charge of gun licensing. We might even talk to the guy our neighbors used for some target practice, just to see what a gun feels like in our hands.

But owning a gun and keeping it in the night stand? Not quite. No matter how much we try to channel ol' Annie, we just don't seem to connect—yet.

--30--











13 comments:

  1. I have a friend in SMA who has lived there since the mid 50's. He brught a gun back from the USA and drove to Celaya to register it. I can put you in touch with him for all the specific details if you're interested. Sorry to hear this news. I would think that burglars would think twice about going somewhere where there are 2 men rather then a wife and husband. Just a thought!

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    1. I'm not sold on a gun yet. I think that would cause more problems than it would solve but I could change my mind. The Americans in the community where the two home invasions took place are having a powwow today and we'll see what they decide. Thanks for the offer.

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  2. I thought the alarm idea sounded great until I realized it makes you a prisoner in your own home? If you're out working in the yard, I imagine the alarm wouldn't do much to stop a home invasion. I'm anti-gun and living in the states I would prefer to take my chances on being able to dial 911. I used to live in Mexico so I understand that depending on the police for protection is basically futile. I wish that the Mexican citizens and expats could unite change the corrupt system.

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    1. Both the Americans and their Mexican neighbors where the attacks took place are really pissed and plan to go see the mayor. I don't expect a revamping of the entire Mexican police system but better protection might come our way.

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    2. Can we get an update on the couple. Is he OK?

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  3. I too, am sorry to hear your news. I have a friend who kept a gun in the house. One evening while he was away, the house was burgled and the gun was taken. He realized that now he had to worry about a thief with a gun--his!

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    1. That's what I'm afraid of with guns: The unintended or unexpected consequences.

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  4. I know you live 7 miles outside of town but can you give me a better idea of where? I know someone looking outside of town and I want to be able to tell her the area. Thanks.
    vlynnpierce at g mail

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    1. We live three miles from the junction of the highway to
      Queretaro with the road to Jalpa. The area where the incidents took place is about eight or night miles beyond us. They live about three or four miles beyond Jalpa and actually closer to the state line of Queretaro than to San Miguel.

      Al

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  5. Maybe you should move to Napa

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    1. I'm afraid of earthquakes. LOL. Besides, I doubt we could afford to come anywhere near Napa, wonderful as it is.

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  6. I would definitely try to get a gun or two in your case, you poor gringos. :) Love ♥

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    1. Better get a gun in Chicago too, particularly on weekends.

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