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Rep. Bell: “Powder, Lead, Walnut, Brass & Steel”

Updated: Apr 13

The following is a guest op-ed by State Representative Nate Bell, a second term legislator from Mena.

It was a spring night in the quiet Birmingham, AL suburb of Pleasant Grove.  The year was 1981. I was about 12 years old.  It was one of those nights where the air was perfect and most everyone was sleeping with their windows open.  Pleasant Grove was one of those towns where everyone knew each other. Our neighborhood was quiet and peaceful. Our house had those old crank-out style casement windows that opened out.  Mom, Dad, one brother, two sisters and I lived in a cement block house behind the church where my Dad was the Pastor.  The house sat on the edge of a steep slope and while the front was on ground level, the back of the house was about 7-8 feet above grade. On this beautiful spring night, Dad was out of town (in Denver) for a week of church related business.

I don’t remember much about the early evening.  I shared a room with my brother. We had bunk beds. I was older and I had the bottom bunk. I have always been somewhat of a night owl so I probably read a book until Mom made me turn out my light and go to sleep.  I’ll never forget the urgency in my Mother’s voice when she quietly came into my room and said “Nathan, get the gun and load it. There’s somebody outside messing with the electrical box and the phone won’t work.” My Dad had two guns at the time. One was a very old single shot .22 that I’d shot hundreds of rounds through. It was one of those $3 Montgomery Ward rifles from the early part of the twentieth century.  I was very familiar with that gun but I knew it would be almost totally ineffective against an intruder. My only other option was a Marlin 336C 30-30 lever action rifle. It wasn’t a good option either but it was better than a .22. I went to my Dad’s closet where he kept the gun, retrieved some of the cartridges he kept on the top shelf in the closet and crept back into the room where my Mother was.

My brother and sisters had by now been awakened and there was quite a bit of activity in the house. We were totally cut off from any help.The phone was disabled and cell phones were still many years in the future. We moved around the house closing windows and turning on every possible outdoor light. Our bathroom was at the end of a shotgun style hallway that extended the full length of the house. The bathroom door was open and the light was on. Mom always left the bathroom light on at night so anyone who woke up could find the bathroom. I could see that the bathroom window was wide open. It was a full height casement window and I knew from experience that anyone could easily climb in or out of it. Just outside that window was the central heating and air conditioning unit. It was a large unit and the window sill was a little more than 6 feet above the top of the unit.  Carrying the rifle, I went towards the bathroom to close the window. As I did, I saw the hands of a man reach up and grasp the window sill as he began to pull himself up to enter the open window.I clicked the hammer of the rifle into fully cocked position (it makes an unmistakable sound) and in my deepest 12 year old voice said “If you raise your head up I’ll blow it off your shoulders.” The hands disappeared and there was a thud as a heavy body hit the ground followed by the sound of running feet.

We finally got up enough nerve to open the door after daylight the next morning so we could go to a neighbor’s home and call the police. They found tracks, an open electrical panel, disconnected phone wiring and the marks where a large man had jumped from on top of the air conditioning unit into the soft dirt behind it.

I’ll never know what evil intentions that man’s mind contained as he attempted to enter our home but he clearly intended to harm us.He knew we were there, he knew that we were awake, he had disabled our phone and had attempted to turn off our electricity. He knew he was entering a home that contained a family and almost certainly must have known that Dad wasn’t home.  He also clearly did not plan on hearing that solid “click” as the hammer on that old 30-30 dropped into ready to fire position.

That early spring morning, I learned that having a firearm at the ready could give a terrified little boy the ability to successfully defend his mother and siblings from the evil intentions of a criminal.  No one was harmed, no shots were fired, and what could have become a horrific crime scene instead remained the home of our unharmed family.

Physically, I was no match for the grown man attached to those large hands on the bathroom window sill. Powder, lead, walnut, brass and steel made an adult criminal flee from a 12 year old boy.

I know firsthand that firearms in the hands of responsible individuals prevent crimes and save lives. As a citizen and elected official, I am 100% committed and dedicated to protecting and preserving the right of EVERY American to defend himself, herself, or loved ones from those who intend to commit evil.

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