"The best decision that I could have made": NPR's revealing interview with mom and new gun owner

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Anytime NPR does a story on guns, gun owners, or gun control you have a pretty good idea of what angle it’s going to take. And it’s clear from the transcript that NPR’s Scott Simon knows his most of his audience (and perhaps he himself) are no fans of the Second Amendment.

I can’t help but wonder though, if anyone listening Simon’s interview with Misheika Gaddis, a single mom and new gun owner who lives in Aurora, Colorado, actually had a change of heart or at least a new perspective on the right to keep and bear arms after listening to what she had to say.

SIMON: Misheika Gaddis is 33 and works in accounts receivable for a chain of doughnut shops. She is a single mother and the new owner of a 9-millimeter pistol. An industry trade group estimates nearly 5 1/2 million Americans bought guns for the first time last year. And Black Americans represent the fastest-growing group of gun owners. To understand what might be driving gun sales, we’re going to talk with some new gun owners every now and then. And we begin with Misheika Gaddis.

GADDIS: So there was a couple of nights where I’d come home, and there would be people in the hallway, like, really close to my door. And the way my apartment building is set up is if you don’t know anybody up there, you shouldn’t be upstairs. There were a couple of nights I felt like I probably needed some protection or probably should have let somebody know I was going in late. But I didn’t think about it until there were people standing way too close to my door.

SIMON: I gather you’re a new gun owner.

GADDIS: I am. Just recently, about six months ago, I got my first gun.

SIMON: And why?

GADDIS: Really, I got it for the protection of my home. I have a 8-year-old, and it’s just the two of us right now. I’m actually pregnant with my second child, and I think for me, I’d want to be able to protect them if need be. I don’t have a record. I have no criminal history or anything. So I think the best thing for me is to exercise my Second Amendment rights and be a gun owner.

Simon was quick to ask Gaddis about her gun storage habits, given that there’s an 8-year old in the home, and while Gaddis said she makes sure that her child doesn’t have access to her pistol, she also made it clear that she’s not hiding her gun ownership from him either.

The NPR host was also very curious about why Gaddis has decided to protect herself and her child instead of just following the advice of gun control activists and just wait for police to arrive if trouble shows up on her doorstep or tries to break in to her home through a window.

SIMON: What would lead you to reach for that gun in your mind?

GADDIS: If someone was actively trying to, like, to kick in the door, or – I have actually a bell that is on the back of my door, so if I heard the bell and wasn’t expecting anyone to walk in at that moment, then I would reach for it.

SIMON: And why not just call the police?

GADDIS: Honestly, I’ve had incidents where I’ve called them and I don’t feel like they got there in enough time. Or – like, even the call with the emergency responders, it’s like, well, what’s your name? Where are you at? What’s your phone number?

SIMON: Yeah.

GADDIS: What’s the emergency? It’s a long process. So by the time the police get to you, if you get all that information out to them, it’ll be too late.

SIMON: I gather you know about deaths up close in your own family experience, don’t you?

GADDIS: Yes, I do. My aunt was brutally murdered in her apartment. And there was a knife involved, and she ended up passing away at home. For me personally, I’d rather something that I know is there to be able to protect myself.

Simon had absolutely no answer when Gaddis talked about police response times, and honestly, I don’t think gun control organizations could do much better… especially these days. The Associated Press has a feature today about the dwindling ranks of law enforcement officers having to cope with a rise in violent crime, and while they focus more on declining clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings, the staffing is also having a huge impact on some departments’ ability to respond to even serious crimes in a timely fashion.

New data uncovered by Wirepoints through public records requests to the Chicago Police Department (CPD) reveal that in 2021 there were 406,829 incidents of high-priority emergency service calls for which there were no police available to respond.

That was 52 percent of the 788,000 high-priority 911 service calls dispatched in 2021.

High priority calls include Priority Level 1 incidents, which represent “an imminent threat to life, bodily injury, or major property damage/loss,” and Priority Level 2 incidents when “timely police action…has the potential to affect the outcome of an incident.”

In pre-George Floyd, pre-COVID 2019, there were only 156,016 such instances for which dispatchers had no police available to send – 19 percent of the total number of high priority 911 service calls made that year.

According to Wirepoints, there were more than 16,000 “person with a gun” reports in Chicago that police were not able to immediately respond to in 2021, along with more than 2,000 cases where someone had actually been shot or stabbed but there were no officers free to respond to the call for service.

Aurora, Colorado, where Gaddis lives, is having its own issues, including one home invasion earlier this year that police couldn’t respond to for hours. The response from the city of Aurora makes it clear that there weren’t enough officers working at the time to immediately dispatch cops to the scene of the crime.

On 06/16/22 at 02:54 hours Aurora911 received a call from (home address redacted by FOX31). They advised that someone had robbed them at gunpoint and sprayed their dog with pepper spray at about midnight. They told Aurora911 that the suspects left two and a half hours prior.

Due to the suspects not being on scene any longer, the call was coded as a Priority 2 call.

Priority 1 calls are typically an “in-progress” crime. This would be something where the suspect is still on scene or there is an immediate threat to life.

Priority 2 calls are calls where the suspect is no longer on scene and there is no immediate threat to life. There are also priority 3 and priority 4 calls which are usually informational or administrative in nature.

Prior to this incident there were six priority 1 calls and ten priority 2 calls that were being handled or waiting to be handled by patrol officers.

After this incident, and before the call was dispatched, there were eight priority 1 calls and fifteen priority 2 calls received by Aurora911. Of those priority 1 calls, there was person threatening suicide, a domestic violence situation with an injured victim, a male actively threatening to hurt people in a convenience store, a welfare check where someone was injured, an active family dispute, and two separate shots fired calls.

District 1 Graveyard Patrol works 10 pm through 8 am and was staffed by 14 officers in 12 patrol cars. This is fully staffed for the time period but any time there is a high number of calls, it quickly drains resources and response time can suffer.

Each call is a two-officer response at minimum and might require more depending on the type of call.  When one District is taxed with a high number of calls, we often depend on the other districts to assist.

Unfortunately, District 2 was also very busy with calls. They had 36 priority 1 and 2 calls during that time.

Due to this high number of calls and the delay in reporting, we did not respond to (home address redacted by FOX31) until 7:30 am this morning.

We strive to respond to calls in a timely manner but due to call load and occasional staffing constraints response times can be extended. We understand this is not the level of service that our community members expect from their police department.

Even in the best of times police are unlikely to be able to get to your home in time to stop someone from breaking in, no matter how quickly you dial 911. And clearly, these are not the best of times when it comes to staffing levels in many police departments. Mishieka Gaddis has three very good reasons to take responsibility for the security of herself and her children, and it’s no surprise to me that millions of other Americans are making the same decision she did. I hope this was an eye-opening interview for Simon and his NPR audience, and I hope that Simon will follow through on his pledge to talk to more new gun owners in the future because Gaddis isn’t the only one with a compelling story to tell.