Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Plain Dealer Columnist
It's funny how a gun can in stantly change your perspective on things, make you wish you could rewrite history.
State Rep. Michael DeBose, a southside Cleveland Democrat, discovered this lesson the night of May 1, when he thought he was going to die. That's the night he wished he had that gun vote back.
DeBose, who had just returned from Columbus, where he had spent the day in committee hearings, decided to take a short walk up Holly Hill, the street where he has lived with his wife for the past 27 years.
It was late, but DeBose, 51, was restless. The ordained Baptist minister knew his Lee-Harvard neighborhood was changing, but he wasn't scared. The idle, young men who sometimes hang out on his and adjacent streets didn't threaten him.
He is a big man and, besides, he had run the same streets before he found Jesus - and a wife. That night, he just needed a walk.
The loud muffler on a car that slowly passed as he was finishing the walk caught his attention, though. When the car stopped directly in front of his house - three houses from where he stood - he knew there was going to be a problem.
"There was a tall one and a short one," DeBose said, sipping on a McDonald's milkshake and recounting the experience Friday.
"The tall one reached in his pocket and pulled out a silver gun. And they both started running towards me."
"At first I just backed up, but then I turned around and started running and screaming."
"When I started running, the short boy stopped chasing and went back to the car. But the tall boy with the gun kept following me. I ran to the corner house and started banging on Mrs. Jones' door."
It was at that point that the would-be robbers realized that their prey wasn't worth the trouble. Besides, Cheryl, DeBose's wife, and a daughter had heard his screams and had raced out to investigate. Other porch lights began to flicker on.
The loud muffler sped off, and DeBose started rethinking his gun vote.
DeBose twice voted against a measure to allow Ohioans to carry concealed weapons. It became law in 2004.
DeBose voted his conscience. He feared that CCW permits would lead to a massive influx of new guns in the streets and a jump in gun violence. He feared that Cleveland would become the O.K. Corral, patrolled by legions of freshly minted permit holders.
"I was wrong," he said Friday.
"I'm going to get a permit and so is my wife.
"I've changed my mind. You need a way to protect yourself and your family.
"I don't want to hurt anyone. But I never again want to be in the position where I'm approached by someone with a gun and I don't have one."
DeBose said he knows that a gun doesn't solve Cleveland's violence problem; it's merely a street equalizer.
"There are too many people who are just evil and mean-spirited. They will hurt you for no reason. If more people were packing guns, it might serve as a deterrent.
"But there obviously are far deeper problems that we need to address," he added, as he suddenly seemed to realize he sounded like a gun enthusiast.
They say the definition of a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. DeBose's CCW application will bear some witness to that notion.