Salomaa: It's up to you to have a plan

Story highlights

  • The CNN Guns Project explores the role of guns in the United States
  • Martha Salomaa shot an intruder who broke into her home
  • She says criminals have plans, and you should too
I'm a light sleeper, so when sudden cracking of wood and clashing of metal echoed through my home before dawn on August 14, 2012, my feet were immediately on the bedroom floor.
I ran into the family room believing that a recently adopted stray cat must have knocked something off a table. What I found was a man dressed only in boxer shorts standing between me and the hall that goes to my daughters' bedrooms. I yelled at the man, and when he turned to face me, his eyes were flat, vacant, dead. A mother knows when her children are in danger, and I knew.
In that moment, several decisions I had made in the past saved my family from what would have been a life shattering experience. As a single mother who had gone through a harrowing divorce, I made the decision to keep weapons in my home and to know how to use those weapons. My teenage daughters and I had discussed and planned for "What if?" situations. Most importantly, we made the determination that we would not be victims.
Martha Salomaa
My father had taught me how handle guns, with respect and care. I knew how to load, shoot, unload, and clean one at a young age. He emphasized gun safety and the importance of knowing and obeying the law. He had always cautioned if I pulled a gun, I would have to be mentally prepared to use that gun. Otherwise, an attacker might simply take it away and use it on me.
It was my father's advice that I keep my .38 revolver in the dresser beside my bed. When I reached for it in the dark during that early morning hour, all these factors came into play. I chased the man from my house, but he returned after I had called 911. As he climbed the stairs, the realization that I was the only thing standing between my daughters and this maniacal individual gave me resolve. I shot him. He stopped his ascent, turned, walked out the front door, and lay down in the grass.
It took the police approximately 12 minutes to get to our house: not because they weren't doing their job, but because we live in a rural community where crimes can be miles apart and our small police force is already spread thin.
He lived, and he awaits prosecution.
I grieved for those students, teachers, and parents at Newtown, Connecticut, as I have for every other incident of gun violence perpetrated on the innocent. But, how many times a week, a month, a day does a gun stop a violent act? Statistics on gun use are so shrouded in the fog of left/right politics that it is next to impossible for a lay person to discern them.
Moreover, could the Newtown incident have had a different outcome if even one member of the school faculty and staff would have had a gun at the school and been trained to use it? Would Adam Lanza have chosen that target if he believed that he would be met with an armed adult when he entered the school? These are questions that beg for an honest national discussion, without the fog of politics blurring our collective vision.
Criminals will get guns regardless of the law. They plan their attacks just like Adam Lanza planned to kill those precious children. Unfortunately, it is often the law-abiding citizen who fails to plan. My attacker had a plan. He had removed his clothing and hung these items neatly on the neighbor's porch.
His mistake was that he chose a family who had a plan as well.