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.

  • Jim Trimble

    Jim Trimble is a priest serv­ing Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He grew up in Louisville, grad­u­at­ed from Murray State University, and worked in a vari­ety of roles at pub­lic radio sta­tions for 12 years. After sem­i­nary and ordi­na­tion, he served church­es in Kentucky and South Carolina. Married to Nancy Gift, a Berea College pro­fes­sor, he has a son and two step-daugh­ters, along with a num­ber of dogs, cats, and chick­ens near College Park.