When I leave the house, I go through the age-old ritual of making sure I have everything I need for my venture outside. Men usually tend to keep things in their pants pockets in this country, so I check for my keychain, wallet, phone, and, usually, a pocketknife. Mind you, all these are in my front pockets – after a bout of sciatica and back pain years ago, nothing will go into my rear pockets. I don’t check for my glasses as they’re always on my face when I’m not in bed or in the shower – I couldn’t check for any of this without them.
My father carried many things in his pockets, too. Wallet, keys, pocketknife, and handkerchief in his pants pockets. He also had sunglasses, pen, pencil, and a small notepad in his shirt pocket when he went off to work. As a lifelong Scout, he was always prepared. My neighbor, Uncle Tom, carried around similar things, but he added a handgun. He served as a county police officer and was required to have a weapon whether on or off duty. I understood that it was his job as an officer of the law to be prepared, and the handgun was part of that job. In turn, that made me feel safe knowing that he was ready for anything, so I had no need to carry a weapon of my own.
The idea of feeling safe is a tricky concept. Having locks on our doors, security lights on our garages, tracking our kids on a phone app – these help us in our quest to feel and be safe.
When I was a kid in suburban Louisville, we did lock our doors at night but had no outside lights. Our pool at the Moose Lodge had a lifeguard, which helped in our sense of safety. In the summertime, we’d get on our bikes in the morning and ride all around town, and our parents usually had no idea where we were from one minute to the next. Our church youth group had a visit from a rural Canadian church group after convincing their parents that the United States was actually safe. All they knew of this country was what they saw in movies and on TV.
When I moved back to Louisville in the late 90s, I worked the early morning shift at the public radio stations, arriving around 4 am at the downtown studios. I had to walk a block or so, and through a dark alley to reach the front door. I usually kept my keys in my hand to help me feel safe. No harm ever came to me. That’s not to say that bad things never happen — of course not. I’ve heard many stories from friends about being hurt or injured through personal attacks, and my heart breaks for the Fletcher family in Memphis after the young mom was abducted and killed while out for her morning run.
Do we ever feel truly safe? If we stop and consider the millions of opportunities that harm could befall us in a typical day, it’s astounding and could surely be paralyzing. Car accident, dog bite, food poisoning, random attack, sprained ankle, broken finger from a heavy window falling on it, bruised rib from sneezing too hard, falling down the stairs, or falling up the stairs. This is all before 10 am.
A local church is advertising a “concealed carry deadly weapon” class with classroom teaching and off-site handgun instruction. This church also has a vision statement of “equipping and empowering people to become passionate followers of Jesus.” I doubt Christ would be seen carrying a nine mm or Glock to the synagogue.
Perhaps there are people who either want to be so prepared for everything or are so fearful of other human beings that a concealed deadly weapon is necessary. The only reason to carry is to be prepared to hurt or kill someone. Not to hunt for tonight’s dinner. Not to have pop-up target practice. Not to shoot tin cans in a field, or rats at the sewage plant. They’re carrying a weapon to give themselves a sense of safety.
On some level, that’s fine for them – if they’re properly trained in the use and handling of weapons, open-carry weapons are clearly visible and safe, and all permits are in order. (Of course, Kentucky did away with concealed carry permits three years ago).
It doesn’t help when you read of so many firearm attacks and accidental gun discharges in this state. But, my sense of safety feels threatened if I know someone near me has a deadly weapon. It’s bad enough when so many folks in Winchester driving 3‑ton weapons-on-wheels can’t obey simple traffic rules like using turn signals, not texting while driving, or stopping at red lights. But then adding handheld deadly devices like guns gets my anxiety level a bit high.
My life is lived with an inherent level of safety already in place. If not, I wouldn’t leave my house. I pray that my kids are being safe in their far-away homes, having learned some lessons from their parents. I have trust in most law enforcement organizations and officers, and in fellow human beings to do the right thing and watch out for each other. I look both ways when crossing the street or even the grocery store aisle. And my faith in God prepares me for Christian discipleship and knowing that I will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love. That keeps me safe. That gives me hope.