It was late at night and I had fallen asleep at a family member’s house not that long ago. I tend to get up early in the morning to write before the family wakes up, so that means I crash pretty early as well.

I’d just gotten a few hours sleep when I heard it. Eight gunshots ripping through the air. They were close, too. Not at the house, but one very close to it.

While I tend to be a pretty heavy sleeper, but that snapped me right out of it. I immediately reached for my pistol, a flashlight, and was up before I’d done much more than processed those were, indeed, gunshots.

My wife saw a car drive away as calmly as you please. As the family member called the police, I went outside to make sure there wasn’t anyone skulking around the house.

It wasn’t long, though, before the police showed up. It seems they’d gotten multiple phone calls.

Someone took shots at a home about 50 yards or so away. It looked like one resident was hit, though not fatally. Still, it was a stark reminder of a few things that far too few of our fellow Americans seem to understand.

In this shooting, the police responded in less than five minutes. While I’m not an expert on police response times, that’s pretty damn good. However, it didn’t help the person who got shot.

Those five minutes were from the moment people realized what happened and called the police. That included the people being shot at (no, I don’t know why they were being shot at. I didn’t ask) as well as the rest of us in the area.

Five minutes didn’t stop this person from being struck with a bullet. It wasn’t quick enough to stop the vehicle from driving away, either. In fact, it was long gone by the time the police arrived.

And this was a fast response time. Imagine this had been in a rural community with one deputy covering a hundred square miles. There’s no way he’d have gotten there that quickly.

That’s more than enough time for someone to be killed.

Look, I’ve known a lot of police officers in my day. Most of them desperately wanted to protect people. Hell, that’s why a lot of them went into law enforcement. However, they know damn good and well that most of the time, they’ll arrive just in time to draw a chalk line around the bodies and that’s about it.

If I had any doubts about that, this incident reminded me quite clearly that the police not just won’t protect you, but can’t.

The person who lives in the house I was at had a gun in the nightstand. They were in bed just inches from the nightstand. They have it in case of a burglar or some other threat decides to pull what happened to their neighbor. He’s actually worried about someone popping shots at his home, something that’s not completely unlikely since he’s in an occupation that makes him enemies.

He has a reason to worry, but the problem is that by the time he had the gun out of the nightstand, the shooting was over and the gunman was apparently back in the car and driving away.

A nightstand thing is a common place for many people to keep a gun. It’s close by but out of sight so as to not alarm other folks. I get it. I’ve kept my handgun in my nightstand while I sleep as well

That’s over.

I piss people off for a living, too. More than that, I piss off the kind of people who see no issue committing violence against people like me because of my politics. While I have no credible threats against me or mine, I also face the routine violence that any American living in a poor community faces, and that means I need to remain vigilant for my family’s sake.

Seeing how long it takes to retrieve a gun from a nightstand, particularly if it’s also stored in a holster while in there, is just too much. Sure, it’s only a second or two, but when seconds matter and you’re already at a disadvantage because you’re not expecting a violent attack in your home, that’s a problem.

While it’s not likely to happen, the same can be said of any violent encounter.

Yet someone is going to have a violent encounter each day. We don’t carry guns because we expect to be the target, we carry them in case fate has other plans.

The same should be true of protecting your home.

I like to think I’m better prepared for some of this stuff than most people, but this particular incident was a stark reminder of just how suddenly something like this can hit you. It’s also a stark reminder to evaluate your surroundings and try to mitigate threats that way as much as you can. While this family member never thought of their neighborhood as particularly bad despite being less than prosperous, it’s important to look for any potential warning signs.

You also need to find a way to walk the line of being prepared for anything without crossing over into paranoia. You can live your life in fear, but you can’t live it with your head in the sand either. Bad things can happen to anyone.

Of course, the tricky thing is just how to walk that line.