Open letter to the mentally unstable

Today I took a long lunch.

For the first time in a long time I just plain didn’t give a sh*t. It was reasonably nice out, so I took my time, trying to milk the warmth out of this 57 degree day, feeling fairly comfortable in my sneakers and my jeans and my t-shirt. I’m usually a fairly socially observant person, as I believe that a lot of really interesting things happen around you every minute, and if you take just a little time to realize that you’re not the only person in this world, you can find yourself entertained by lots of little situations happening all around you. So today I figured I’d concentrate on doing more of that.

I went to the ATM to grab some cash. The guy who used the ATM ahead of me had just stepped outside of the bank, and the woman in line behind me, after a few seconds, opened the door and called out to the man “Excuse me,” – and I’m thinking, what on earth do you stop someone outside a bank for…maybe he dropped money? A card?

She says, “Where did you get those shoes? I like those shoes”.

I guess people generally aren’t all that bad.

I continued on downtown, happily avoiding traffic, remarking at the impatient line of drivers stacked up behind a Saab unloading an elderly couple in front of a deli. I smile and keep walking. In another fifty years, God willing I get that many more, I’ll take all the time I want, just like I already do.

I pick out a couple of slices at Joe’s, and have a seat at the window, facing into the street. It’s not the greatest view in Portsmouth, but at least things are happening in front of you and there’s something to look at. You can observe life. You can people watch. And thanks to Cho Seung-hui, my people watching was a little different today.

For some reason, as I’m sitting behind these two massive slices of pizza, I evaluate every passerby in terms of how dangerous they are. Is this guy crazy. Is that guy crazy. Is that guy coming in here to blow this place up. Does this guy have a gun. Does that guy have a gun. What’s in that guy’s box and why is he coming in here. Look at those people – what are they up to. If this place blows up will this soda machine next to me take most of the blast. Why would they want to blow up a pizza place.

What the hell was running through that kid’s mind – that kid – being Cho Seung-hui.

Then I remembered how long it had been since I had even fired my gun. Probably two years ago; at least two years. And I thought about my concealed carry permit, and how it expired last October, and how I never even used it. And how impractical my gun was for carrying in the first place, and how, if I were going to carry concealed, I’d get a smaller one, but not too small; something that could still put down someone like Cho. I thought about how I’d been to SIGARMS Academy, but hadn’t been shooting regularly at all since then, but knew that if the time ever came, everything I learned there would come back in an instant if it had to. Where would I be, and would I be prepared, in so many ways, to save my life and the lives of others if I ever had to. I have skills, I have experience, I have equipment – I have all the tools – but when is it ever all assembled in one place at the same time and could I even do it if I had to?

I’m not exactly sure how all that sits with me. But a few things have been revived for me. I will renew that permit. And I will start shooting regularly again. And, where and when legally permissible, I will carry my gun. And if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong intentions, you can bank on this: I will not be your victim. I can be okay with meeting my end in a lot of different ways, but not like that. Not when I have the kind of means that I have.

Now read that the right way – you cannot just run out and buy a gun and be ready for action. Today, anything can be bought. The days of working – earning – something are long forgotten. I fear a scenario in which the streets are littered with Dirty Harrys and Scarfaces armed with the best weapons that money and no brains can buy. I have had formal weapons training. I have more experience than most with a handgun and I have a level of comfort that others do I not. Many others have far more than I do. Ownership of any gun is a life-changing experience and procurement is only the first, most basic step, and even that step is daunting to say the least. An amalgum of instruction and experience create a level of comfort and confidence that allows one to consider the prospect of carrying a weapon. And even then, it requires something more than that to actually follow through. For everyone that something more comes from a very personal and unique place.

I found it on Friday watching people through the glass at a pizza place.

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