Reality Check

By Roland Nipps

On a recent December morning, I woke to the sound of gunfire.

It thrust me back to a summer night. A police officer shot a drunk driver dead on Kuhio Avenue, two blocks from my home. Police cars, emergency vehicles and fire trucks descended upon Waikiki. Streets closed, sirens blared, tensions mounted.

That night, I tried to drive my visitors to their hotel. Yellow tape barred my way. I saw a bus pointing at an angle stalled on the sidewalk.

My mother-in-law asked: “Does this happen often?” “That’s tough to say.”

The next morning, I’m on the phone with my sister. Sounds of gunfire leapt into the phone.

She asked: “What is happening?”

“It’s tough to say.”

Jumpy, I tried to maintain my morning routine: coffee, a little reading, some breakfast. But every 20 minutes, new gunfire jolted me.

“That’s it,” I said.

I headed out, passing Princess Kaiulani Park and arriving on Koa Street.

Yellow tape barred my way. A mass of people crowded on the other side of the street, with iPhones in their hands, filming the scene. A car was crashed into a tree. I saw a big man with “security” emblazoned on his shirt.

“What’s going on?” “Hawaii Five-0 filming.” “Does the director know what happened a block away last night?”

“The show must go on …” I suppose.

Fast forward back to this December morning. My wife said, “Machine gun.”

Whiteness blanketed my view. Pigeons, aroused from their perches, soared, not sure where to go.

Another blast of machine gun echoed. It came from the hotel two blocks away. A black helicopter hovered over the hotel.

By the third blast, I was no longer jumpy. I sipped my coffee.

I had an errand to run. En route, I walked past the stage set. A catering food truck was putting away breakfast. A few tourists milled. I stood before a 1960’s three-floor apartment called Waikiki Prince.

I saw muscled men in blue shirts with blocky yellow acronyms. The letters spelled either HPD or H50.

This past month has imprinted “Ferguson” and “choke hold” into my cultural memory.

I hear some frightening screams at night from my bed. Policing the streets can’t be easy.

But there is a “but.”

We’ve wrought something perverse in this country by constitutionally validating gun ownership.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against people owning guns. Some of my best friends in America own guns. It’s when you don’t use them properly that really angers me.

You see, my friend, who has recently read the information about concealed carry weapons in New Mexico ( only uses his for self-defense purposes. He would never open fire on someone for no reason.

And I think that’s what people forget. All the gunfire I heard definitely didn’t suggest to me that the person was following the relevant laws in their area. In fact, I had never seen anything like this before.

A man, dressed in a shirt announcing SWAT Gun Club, passes pamphlets to tourists, encouraging them to head out of town and take a few shots. Guns as entertainment is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Yes, many people in Hawaii feel good having their home fictionalized on a national network, but there is something surreal about hearing one set of gunshots and to be wracked with fear, and the next moment be expected to say after another round, “Relax, it’s showtime!”

Which show is reality? Which reality show is for fun?

We want our television shows, but we don’t want Ferguson.

Or, maybe we’re fine with both.

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