Something strange happened to me a few days ago. It didn't exactly scare me, but I can't get it out of my mind.
I was sitting on the patio of a local café, enjoying a late lunch. No one else was around. A young man wandered through, hesitated, then doubled back and took a seat at one of the tables. He sat quietly until two other men approached, whereupon he stood and embraced each with a tender intimacy. The three of them moved to sit down at the table.
That's when I noticed the gun. It looked like a 9 mm, holstered on the hip of one of the new arrivals.
None of them seemed hostile, agitated or strange. The tender embrace diminished the possibility that these were undercover lawmen. The gun-toter unholstered the pistol and laid it on the table. I thought it best not to stare, but I heard metallic clacks as he ejected the clip, demonstrated the safety, and murmured to his buddies. After a few moments, they all moved on.
With such a big hog hanging on his belt, surely the carrier had a permit. But it's the first time I've seen such a thing, unless you count the guy in Burger King, years ago, with a .38 stuck in the waistband of his pants. Turned out he was a deliveryman who probably had his reasons, but it rattled me so badly I left my burger half-eaten and vamoosed.
I won't bore you with my credentials, but I'm not afraid of guns. I make no apology, however, for feeling unsettled when someone appears in a public space with a weapon strapped to his person. And when he unholsters it?
I know, I know. As my friend Gary reminded me, "There are more weapons around you than you notice. Most who carry for protection do not make it so obvious."
I am 100 percent in favor of our right to own and bear arms. But we owe our community the courtesy of not creating unnecessary alarm. Don't all mass shootings start with a person appearing in a public place with a visible gun? I had good reason to be uneasy.
I emailed a number of friends about the incident, shared my reaction, and asked for their thoughts:
Carroll: "Just because I might legally carry a gun does not give me the right to intimidate you with it."
Gary, again: "There are many reasons why one would choose to carry openly. Some carry for the preventive effect, some for shock effect, and some carry to bolster low self-esteem. It is rare to find anyone that carries with the hopes of an opportunity to use it."
Pete: "I carry for the same reason I carry car or homeowner's insurance. I don't expect anything to happen, but life has surprises. Better to be ready than not."
Hoyt: "Immanuel Kant said that an action is moral only if you can universalize the action. So, you can steal if you are willing for everyone to steal. But this turns out to be immoral since we don't want to live in a world in which everyone steals. So do you want to live in a world in which everyone is packing all the time? The question is not the right to carry a gun, but what kind of world you want to create, for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren."
Bill G.: "Take a gun safety course, get a permit and purchase a Ruger .380 LCP for your purse."
Duane: "Seems to me that you're saddened to realize that our society has come to a point where regular people feel a need to be armed. But, once you're past your sadness, your pragmatic view is that Pandora's Box has been opened; so, maybe you need to adapt as well."
I couldn't have said it better myself, Duane. Still, I won't be buying a Ruger. Having a life-altering weapon just a little too handy makes me jumpy.
Though I'm betting against a gunfight at the OK café, I've bought a fresh can of mace, just in case.
Could you hold your fire till I find it in my purse?
Carol Megathlin, formerly of Americus, is a writer now living in Savannah.