The trouble with carrying a gun.


According to AZ Family, a man accidentally shot himself in the leg while at a Wal-Mart store in Phoenix on Saturday.

My first reaction on reading this was, It serves the SOB right, but my second reaction was to remember a time when I carried a weapon (carry may not be the right word, the weapon was in my briefcase and I was carrying the briefcase, not the weapon). I was 33, married with a baby at home, and how I ended up carrying a weapon is one of my favorite stories.

We had sold a house to a guy named Bob Shimbari – I’ve changed the name a little for reasons that will become obvious – and Shimbari changed his mind and wanted his deposit back. The salesperson gave him the usual forms to fill out but he refused to do so. He just wanted his money. As I recall, it was 500 bucks on a, around, 40 thousand dollar home (we always called them homes, rather than houses). The salesperson bumped Shimbari to the Sales Manager who confirmed that he had to fill out the forms.

This was the early 70s and I was the Director of Operations for Shapell of Northern California, so the Sales Manager now bumped a pissed-off Shimbari to me. Shimbari said that he wanted his money back and I sweetly said Sure..long pause…just fill out the forms (I was a much bigger smart ass then, than I like to think I am now). Shimbari went nuts, telling me that he was going to kill me if I didn’t give him the $500. I told him that he had to fill out the form before I could give him the money and he hung up.

Maybe an hour later, he called back and told me he was going to wait in the parking lot, shoot you down, and then go to your house, I know where you live, and kill your wife and kids. The fact that he said kids, led me to believe that he really didn’t know where I lived or that I only had one kid, but still, it scared the hell out of me. I went to my boss, Sam Berland, and asked him what to do. Sam, who never panicked, who was always cool,  assured me that people make threats all the time and they don’t mean anything. If I didn’t believe him – Sam said – call the police and they will tell you the same thing.

I did call the police and they did tell me the same thing. With Sam’s calm assurance of my safety and now the police’s reassurance, I was starting to calm down. However, as I started to hang up, the cop told me I had to fill out a complaint form (hummm, what a pain in the neck and how ironic, fortunately I could fill out the form over the phone). The cop asked me the threatener’s name and I told him Shimbari. The cop then said – almost yelled – Shimbari!, Bob Shimbari? When I told him yes, the cop said I should be afraid, Very afraid.

It turned out Shimbari was the local bad boy, he owned several massage parlors and was known as a dangerous hothead. The cop said I should be very careful and, now, my panic reached a new level. I went back to Sam and, after some discussion – in which, among other things,  I stubbornly refused Sam’s suggestion that I give Shimbari back his money without the forms – Sam offered to loan me his Army issue Colt .45 automatic. I was pretty good with a .45 in the Army, so I said Yes.

The next day, I had Sam’s trusty .45 and, when Shimbari called to threaten me again, I dug in my heals. But, now that I had the gun, all kinds of real, practical questions came up. Did I load the gun? I don’t mean should I put a loaded clip in?, that was obviously Yes, but should I chamber a round?  Do I take the safety off if I have a chambered round? How do I carry the gun? I decided to put in a full clip, chamber a round, and half-cock the weapon (because I had heard stories of people dropping their fully cocked .45 and having it go off). I didn’t – and in California, I am glad to say – couldn’t carry the weapon around in my hand or in a holster, so I put it in my briefcase.

As I went out in the parking lot to get into my car, I realized the problem. The sun was bright, there were cars all over the parking lot, and anyone of them could hide a shooter. In my imagination, in the shimmering light, Shimbari is over by his car and he yells at me, Hey Asshole, I want my money! I put my briefcase down on the closest car hood, struggle it open – sweating in the heat, my hands almost slipping off of the shiny, brass, latches –   and take out the .45. The .45 is cool – it has been asleep in a briefcase in an air-conditioned office all morning – the safety is off, and it is easy to fully cock  the weapon. Now! I am ready to go.

But, if this whole thing were real, if it weren’t my imagination, if Shimbari had really been hiding behind that car, I am probably already dead.

Standing in the parking lot, looking at all those cars – I recognize that one, it’s Sam’s, that’s Dan’s, but where did that black Cadillac come from and is that somebody hiding behind it ? –  I could feel the sweat running down my sides from under my armpits, I could feel how exposed I was, how vulnerable. I began to realize that a gun in a briefcase is worthless and I thought about doing this for days (for weeks maybe, depending on how persistent Shimbari is). After, maybe 10 seconds, worth of thought, I went back into the office, filled out Shimbari’s forms for him and told the Salesperson to tell him the money was in the mail.

I gave the weapon back to Sam.

As an aside, there is a postscript to this story. Several years later, Sam and I started our own company, bas homes,  and the first contract our salesperson brought in was to Bob Shimbari. When the salesperson brought in the contract, I told her that I wouldn’t sign it. An hour later, Shimbari called me screaming that he was going to sue me for discrimination and I told him that the last time, he said he was going to kill me. There was a long pause and Shimbari said See, I’ve matured. End aside.

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