Is it time for a gun?

September 05, 2001|By Kathleen Parker

HERE I am going out to dinner. I grab my purse, keys, cell phone and am half out the door when I realize -- dang -- forgot my pistol. What am I thinking?

That's precisely the question posed by a number of readers responding to an earlier column about two men who were shot recently in my neighborhood. I said I was angry that I no longer felt safe walking to my favorite restaurant.

In fact, the next night we did drive the few blocks to dinner, but mainly because we wanted to get home in time for the Condit-Chung standoff. I should have taped it for future bouts of insomnia. Hello, Gary; goodbye, Ambien.

But back to the OK Corral. I admit that my column ended on a wimpy note. I more or less conceded that fear has become a part of our lives, and there's nothing we can do about it. I couldn't think of anything, anyway, other than to live more cautiously, to lock my doors, check shadows, the usual drill.

What I hadn't considered is carrying a concealed weapon, the only plausible answer, according to many who took time to write.

"Shoot back!" said one. "Better yet, shoot first; shoot fast. Use formidable firepower; don't flinch!"

"Buck up," said another. "Don't take it."

I may be a limp-wristed writer on certain overcast days, but I'm no gun-sissy.

My father collected all types and taught his kids to shoot. "If you point a gun at someone," he always said, "aim to kill." So I'm not afraid of guns and don't belong to the group of Americans who believe guns, rather than people, kill. Guns in the wrong hands are a problem; guns in the right hands aren't.

Including handguns. Years ago, I interviewed various murderers, rapists and their victims for a series on gun violence. One intended victim of rape did carry a small pistol in her purse. When her attacker pinned her against the wall, the woman reached inside her purse, pulled out her pearl-handled derringer and stuck it in the man's side. He died that night, and she never needed a Condit video to fall asleep.

I'd like to think I'd have such presence of mind under similar circumstances. I'd rather think that by living more carefully, I'd never have to worry about being raped or shot down in the streets.

But chances are about 100 percent that the two federal prosecutors who were shot around the corner from my house never imagined that four teen-age boys would shoot them, either. One of the men died from a bullet in the back as he fled. The other was wounded and escaped.

According to my letter writers, the attorneys might still be alive if they'd been carrying a concealed weapon, which is permitted in South Carolina where this happened, but not in Illinois, where the two victims were from. Illinois is one of seven states that forbid concealed weapons.

Was there time for the two men to wheel around, whip out their pistols and fight back? Would they both have survived? Would they have shot one or two of the boys, only to be finished off by the other two? By my count, that would make four dead instead of one, and that's with a lot of "ifs."

I'm almost certain that in the same situation, I wouldn't have been able to pull out a pistol in time to save myself. As a rule, I can't even get to my cell phone in time to answer it, or find my keys without a great deal of patience from companions.

That said, I may change my mind some day. If I do, I'll be glad I live in a state where at least I'm allowed to defend myself.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her e-mail address is

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