Gloria Grahame DT

“Thing is, he’s going to kill me.”

“Have you gone to the police?”

“Yes, of course I have.”

“And what happened?”

She shakes her head from side to side, wraps her arms protectively around her chest.

“I got a restraining order against Ned, that’s my ex. But you know what good that is, don’t you?”

“Tell me.”

She inscribes a big zero in the air.

Five Minutes Earlier

It’s a crowded Sunday morning in the Martin B. Retting Gun Shop in Culver City.

There’s the usual cross-section of customers:

Two elderly black women, sisters, who have been robbed countless times by drug-addicts. Ignored by the LAPD, they have no choice but to buy a gun for self-defense. The women wear colorful bonnets. Yup, they dressed up to go gun shopping.

There are a couple of hunters buying high-powered ammunition; they sound like Los Alamos scientists as they discuss the exquisite physics of various exotic slugs. It’s way beyond my comprehension.

Two Marines on leave are stocking up on rugged, combat-ready clips for their side-arms. Semper Fi.

There’s also a young Hispanic apartment manager who lives in a high-crime area. His wife just had a baby—Mazal Tov!—and he wants to protect his family from the local “desperadoes.”

I’m waiting my turn.


And so is a young woman who absolutely sticks out in the gun shop. She’s wearing a cream colored linen baby doll with blue grosgrain trim; on her feet, pink flip-flops that just pop off her white skin. Her hair is the color of Kansas wheat. Mid-twenties, she’s an iconic all-American beauty. Flash of memory to my great childhood crush: Tuesday Weld in The Adventures of Dobie Gillis.

Tuesday Weld, my childhood crush.

Tuesday Weld, my childhood crush.

Looking as if she’s on the edge of a meltdown, she paces, glances nervously at the display cases lined with gleaming rows of pistols and revolvers. She makes a move to exit the gun shop, then returns, as if yanked by a fishing reel.

“Excuse me, do you, do you know about guns?”

She’s even got that vulnerable, tremulous Tuesday Weld voice.

And she is talking to yours truly.

“A bit.”

“I’m terrified of guns.”

I hold out my hands as if checking for rain.

“Sounds crazy, I know, thing is—do you think the salesmen are going to be much longer?”

“There’s tons of paperwork if you buy a gun.”

Her eyes dart about, then she just looks at me straight-on:

“Thing is, he’s going to kill me.”


That’s when she tells me about Ned; the evil, the obsessive, the ex-boyfriend.

Ned is a stalker, a human virus who has infected every aspect of her life.

She speaks of restraining orders:

“The thing about them is that people like Ned always find a way around them. He’s there on my computer. He’s a computer guy, for Chrissakes. He knows when I start going out with a new dude and he makes sure to tell the new one all sorts of trash about me. And d’you think the dude sticks around? No one wants that level of drama. I’ve moved twice already and he always finds me. Ned’s always there. Sometimes I wake up at night, go to my window and I’m telling you he’s watching me. Hey, I’m sorry for unloading on you. You must think I’m such a loser chick.”

“It’s fine. I feel awful for you. But it’s good you’re taking steps to protect yourself. It’s admirable. Men like Ned count on women being scared and defenseless.”

She pauses. Looks down at the display of guns.


“I can’t believe I’m here. I’ve been against guns and violence my whole life.”

I let this pass. Now is not the time for a self-righteous lecture.


Peggy Cummins, in Gun Crazy, 1949.

Do not mess with Peggy Cummins, Gun Crazy, 1949.

“Did Ned threaten you, physically, I mean?”

“Said I belong to him and no one else. That’s about it. But I know what he means.”

“What did the police say?”

“The last cop, as he was leaving, whispered for me to get a gun.”

I tell her that owning a gun isn’t sufficient. She has to take safety classes, self-defense classes. She has to know what she’s doing. From the counter, I grab a handful of NRA brochures and press them into her hands. I make her promise that she’ll sign up as soon as she gets her gun in ten days.

“Ten days?” she says.

Nodding, I explain:

“First you have to take a test, here in the store, a written test. They’ll give you a booklet to study. Then you get a certificate making you eligible to buy a weapon in California. After you purchase the gun there’s a ten-day waiting period until you take possession.”

“But why?”

“Background check. To make sure you’re not a felon, a psychopath, an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, a drug addict. It’s the law.”

Once again, she wraps her arms around her chest, as if trying to keep her heart inside her body.

“Ned’s really smart—a psychozoid like you wouldn’t believe.”

Rising Tension

I do not ask her why she went out with Ned in the first place. The answer is obvious: psychopaths are clever at disguising their pathologies. Evil is seductive.

“You’re going to be okay. I know you are.”

She shrugs, scans a row of pistols.

“Are those good?”

Her hands are tiny. I doubt she could even rack a .45.

“Those are .45 automatics. Probably too much gun for you. I’d recommend a simple revolver. Probably a Smith & Wesson J frame, a .38. ”

She manages a thin smile, her first since I’ve met her.


“One piece of advice, even before you buy a gun, and this is important.”


“Lose the flip-flops.”

She looks down at her feet, curls her toes, lacquered a hot psychedelic pink.


“You can’t run or maneuver in those things. Get in the habit of wearing a good solid pair of running shoes.”

“Oh, right, right. What was I thinking?”

I lead her to the glass case that holds the wheel guns, weapons that are simple to load, easy to handle, jam-proof. And, you better believe: lethal.

She scans the display. She seems overwhelmed, lost.

Finally, she looks up at me and says: “What’s to stop Ned from killing me in the next ten days?”

I have no answer.

Resolution, Not So Much, But This, Unfortunately, is Reality

Hours later, I tell my wife Karen about the conversation. In the background FOX Cable News is reporting the brutal murder of a pregnant woman. The chief suspect is her ex-boyfriend, an evil piece of human garbage with a history of stalking women.

“I’m terrified I’m going to wake up one day and see that she’s been murdered. Maybe I should have done more.”

“What more could you have done?”

Shrugging, I admit I have no idea.

But Ned is out there, obsessively dreaming, watching, waiting for the right moment — to make her his own.

Lana Turner considers the virtues of a weapon.

Lana Turner considers the virtues of a weapon.

The Cornered Cat is an excellent resource for women who wish to learn about self-defense and firearms. Highly recommended.

Seraphic Secret friend Shrink Wrapped links to “Stalked” with a fine piece titled: Leveraging Suppressed Aggression.

As Shrink Wrapped explains:” I linked to “Stalked” as an example of what happens to a pacifist when reality intrudes.”

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  1. No profanity.
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  1. Larry
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Just fyi, I am an educated, well-read individual, and I have no idea what you mean by Israel-bashing, aside from you saying that it is some brand of antisemitism. It might be worth expounding upon in your rules. Great article and best wishes for you and Tuesday.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted December 21, 2007 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for narrating your horrific story for us. We wish you safety and happiness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Tammy
    Posted December 20, 2007 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Robert and Karen,
    Having been stalked by a member of my old shul down in Los Angeles County (I moved to Someplace-Else-in-California), I can share my experiences.
    I am in my 40’s and had never dated the Stalker. I never (in my mind) ever, ever expressed even the most remote interest in him. I was busy with a boyfriend that I absolutely adored then and adore more now that we live in the same county. The Stalker was a married gabbai in his late 60’s. I did not know what he was up to because I had a serious injury and he was offering “as a friend” to drive me to a couple doctors’ appointments. (I had a broken/dislocated shoulder and couldn’t drive.)
    He started calling at all hours of the day – and night to both my cell phone and home phone. (I disconnected my cell for 18 months, mostly because AT&T overcharged me $1200 and thought I would pay it, but I didn’t replace it because of Stalker-Boy. Then I got caller ID on the home phone and only answered it if I knew the number/person calling.)
    Then he propositioned me and, when that failed to get the desired response, he assaulted me in my office. Which happened to be the shul. To which Stalker-Boy had a key. He showed up at the shul and would sit in my office talking. When I turned my back on him, you know, to work, he would get up and turn my chair to face him. When I yelled at him and told him to get the “F” out of my office, I usually got one of two responses: either (a) he would storm out (my favorite) or (b) he would stay in the hall and sob. This crap went on for months. I started looking for other jobs, hard to find when one is not able to drive and had the self-esteem of a turnip. I was not sleeping, having nightmares, binge eating, started drinking at night (I didn’t drink much alcohol before) and stopped going to religious services (or even social functions) at my shul. And I didn’t say anything because I knew nobody would believe me.
    A few months later, Stalker-boy bragged to rabbi/friend from another synagogue what he was doing and what he wanted to do – which, from how rabbi/friend reacted, was not anything I would agree to do. Not knowing what was said was crazy-making. Especially since Stalker-boy had military experience and owned firearms. And I couldn’t remember if I had said anything about selling my small arsenal – assault rifles and hand guns. (I went through a phase of liking guns a lot – and I had two boys who wanted to be in law enforcement, so I had an excuse. My favorite handgun was a S&W snub-nose.308 – really nice piece.)
    Rabbi/friend encouraged me to go to my Rabbi. The fact that Rabbi had just been released from the hospital after almost dying, I was reluctant. I thought the police route would be more effective. Plus, I “knew” he wouldn’t believe me. He trusted Stalker-Boy with keys to the shul, for goodness sake. And I had ratted him out to the Board of Directors for something I thought was not right. (The Board disagreed.) Rabbi/friend explained that Orders of Protection are most effective after the Complaintant was dead. Less effective before assaults occur.
    SO we sat and talked to Rabbi about Stalker-Boy: me, rabbi/friend and Rabbi. He,as I predicted, did not believe me. Thought I was imagining things. (Yup.) The rabbi/friend asked me to leave and he told Rabbi everything Stalker-Boy told him, or so I was told.
    Rabbi called Stalker-Boy in for a meeting and confronted him. Made him write an apology letter to me, approved by Rabbi. He was not allowed to come in the building when I was working and he had to give Rabbi a letter of which services he would attend and he was not allowed in when I attended.
    I have to tell you that it did not make me want to come to shul more. I became even more of a recluse since everyone asked about when Stalker had gone off to. A couple years later, his wife asked him to leave and he moved to Oregon. I still receive emails occasionally from Stalker-Boy, which I forward to both Rabbis with a note reminding them that I think a heart-attack, shark-attack or even a large dose of cyanide would do him a world of good.
    Last winter, I moved out of county and have a new job. I thought I was safe. Then a friend called and told me Stalker-Boy was moving back to LA. (I live 4 hours away and asked everyone I know to not give out my address or phone number. Unfortunately, he has my boyfriend’s name and address…*sigh*) Two months ago I received an email for SB. I started having nightmares and binge eating. Darling BF suggested the Order of Protection, but, in order to get one, I need to have his address. If I ask around for it, Stalker-boy could get the f-ed up idea that I want to see him.
    I tell you, nothing – and I mean nothing – says Female Safety – like a loaded firearm and woman willing to pull the trigger.
    Thanks for the blog.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Posted July 15, 2007 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Interesting story indeed. Thank you for helping that young woman – not everyone would take the time or effort to help a complete stranger, let alone one who has “I’ve been against guns and violence [their] whole life.” Some might have been tempted to debate why this person would assign a value to an inanimate object…

    Interestingly enough, that scenario would have been even harder here in the volksrepublik of MA. While MA doesn’t have a waiting period per se, the permitting process is quite long and depends entirely on the whim of the chief of police in the town in which you reside. Waits of 3-4 MONTHS are not common. Police chiefs can and have decided that they will no longer issue or renew ANY permits – and when that happens, you have three choices: Move, turn all your guns in, or become a felon.

    This woman would have had to have taken a gun safety course (with which I don’t disagree), then gone to her local chief of police with $100 in hand and a completed application. Some towns have additional hoops – Boston proper requires a proficiency test before issuing a permit, made all the more Kafka-esque by the fact that public ranges are few and far between, and you can’t even own so much as a single piece of brass without a permit.

    Now, once her permit application has been submitted, she plays the waiting game. A friend of mine waited over 100 days for his permit, and when it came in, it was a “target and hunting only” restricted permit. Essentially, he was allowed to do what you in CA can do without a permit: buy a firearm and keep it in his home.

    Meanwhile, an hour north, no permit is required for anything other than concealed carry. If a NH resident wants a concealed carry permit, it costs $10 and the turnaround time is a week or so.

    And if that’s too long with a psycho ex-boyfriend after her, open carry is perfectly legal…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Posted July 11, 2007 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    De Becker’s book is good, but he’s a very ‘guns are for us experts, not you commoners’ type. Otherwise, some very good information there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. alakazot
    Posted July 10, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I’d strongly recommend the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (readily available on Amazon).
    One theme in it is being aware of your environment. Another is taking action based on probable results. EG, many people “engage and enrage” with a stalker, instead of denying them the response they crave. Each situation is different.
    De Becker’s firm handles security for heads of state and celebrities, and also (according to the book) for normal people being stalked (sliding payment scale). He has some scary personal insight.
    Just a personal recommendation.
    And hey, Penguin:
    “Her psycho ex may also have obtained a deadly weapon. If so, I wonder which of them is quicker.”
    If he has, do you fancy her chances more or less unarmed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Posted July 9, 2007 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    A gun is a tool designed to fire bullets. All tools are an extension of the will of those who use them. If the choice is to kill, a gun enables it; if the choice is to scare away, a gun enables it.
    The police are charged with stopping criminals during a crime, or catching them afterward. They prevent when they can, but they are not responsible for the safety of the people in their jurisdiction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Posted July 6, 2007 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Very well-written, and shockingly well thought-out; thanks for putting this up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Posted July 5, 2007 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    As mentioned above, biggest single factor is attitude, because the real weapon is between the ears; all else is a tool.
    It can be a huge problem to get someone to actually believe that someone actually will hurt or kill them, deliberately. And if someone doesn’t really believe that, they won’t take self-defense measures seriously. As mentioned above, you wind up with someone getting some weapon, firearm or otherwise, with no intention of actually using it. Which means they’re effectively unarmed no matter what they’re holding.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Terrifying. Thanks for telling the tale.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Spade
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    On we had a dealer in FL post who had to tell a guy that he’d have to wait 3 days for his pistol to protect himself from a guy he fired from the place he owned.
    On day 1 or so the buyer was forced to wrestle a gun away from his attacker, and shot the attacker down in his driveway. The dead perp’s family and friends continued to make threats.
    The next day the dealer lent the buyer one of his personal firearms to have until the waiting period cleared.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted July 1, 2007 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    …except in New York:(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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