Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pistol Packin'

Debby recently wrote about an experience at work that disturbed her a little.

Seems a regular customer, by all accounts a nice guy, walked into the store to get some hardware. Nothing unusual about that. Only this time Debby eyed a handgun sticking out of his pocket.

She had no reason to believe this customer was up to anything out of the ordinary but it gave her a little bit of a jolt and she kept her eye on him, and on that gun.

I am not a hunter. I can count on one hand the times I have shot a gun in my life. It’s just not my thing. But I have countless friends and family members who love to hunt, and a few who don’t hunt but just love guns and go to these ranges where they shoot for sport. Sometimes they go to gun shows.

As I have told them when I have received an invitation to accompany any of them, they have my blessing. I fully believe in their right to “bear arms” as the Second Amendment says; it’s just not a hobby I’m interested in.

As I told Debby when I commented on her blog, I consider myself “pro-gun” but I am also “pro-common sense.” Is there really any reason to carry a handgun into Tractor Supply unless you’re a law enforcement officer? The fact of the matter is that exposed weapons scare people.

And maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see any reason this guy needed to be toting his gun into Tractor Supply and making good folks like Debby uncomfortable. I just don’t see the point.


Debby’s story reminded me of something that happened to me a number of years ago when I was working at a law firm in Little Rock.

There was a young lady who worked for us doing title and lien searches, if I remember correctly. Her name was Emily and she was a tiny little thing, maybe a hair over five feet tall.

I was working in my office one morning when my phone rang.

“Mr. McKinney,” the male voice on the other end said in a serious tone, “this is the U.S. Marshall’s Office.”

The guy then proceeded to tell me that he had Emily there in their holding unit. She had set off the alarm when going through Security in the Federal Courthouse. Upon inspection, a handgun had been found in her purse. That’s right, this little wisp of a girl was packing iron. After being taken into custody, she told them to call me.

Now you must understand that the call to me was almost laughable. The only experience I had ever had with Criminal Law at that time was (a) the course I had taken my first year of law school and (b) entering a plea for a client of one of my colleagues, something that took about a minute. I knew nothing of how to get someone out of jail or anything like that.

As I recall, I asked the guy in the Marshall’s office what I should do and he rather sarcastically said he didn’t know, but Emily wasn’t going anywhere until somebody showed up to, I guess, get her sprung -- however that was supposed to have happened.

I asked him if I might be able to talk to her. He put her on the line. She said “hello” as if I had just called her at home.

“Uh . . . Emily,” I said, “the guy tells me you had a gun in your purse – like a loaded handgun,” just knowing there was some mistake.

“That’s right,” Emily said in a very matter-of-fact fashion.

I know I was taking a risk asking the next question, but I proceeded with a really stupid one. (To say I was winging it would be 100 percent accurate.)

“OK Emily, can you tell me why you would be taking a handgun to the courthouse?”

“Oh yeah. Well, I’m going out of town later today.”

“Not sure you understood me there, Emily. What I asked was, why did you take a handgun to the courthouse?”

Emily repeated that she was going out of town later that day. She had forgotten she had to go by the courthouse first when she stuck said handgun in her purse.

At this point I was just wishing the gun were readily available so I could put myself out of my misery but I just told Emily to hold tight and I would see what I could do. She put the officer back on the phone, who again told me that Emily would be sitting right there and would be booked if somebody didn’t soon appear on her behalf.

What he did not tell me was what in the world I was supposed to do once I got there. I didn’t much think my showing up and saying, “Emily didn’t really mean anything by it, have a nice day,” would go very far.

I hung up the phone and went looking for my colleague, Jack, the only guy in our small firm who practiced criminal law, the one for whom I had gone to court a couple of years earlier.

His secretary told me he was in a hearing and, as it turned out, he was in the same courthouse where Emily was being held. Somehow I found him, told him what was going on and, when he was done with whatever he was doing, he and I went to the Marshall’s office.

And there sat petite little Emily with her legs crossed, reading a magazine as if she might have been sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. She smiled and waved at me, seeming not the least bit unnerved by recent events (unlike me).

From there Jack did the talking and my memory completely fails me from there. But I know he got her out and I guess she got her gun back.

I did ask Emily again what the point of having that gun might have been and she, beginning to lose patience, told me a third time that she was going out of town later that day.

To this day I still chuckle, picturing little five-foot Emily with that gun, just ready to take out anybody that might mess with her on the roads of Arkansas.

It definitely takes all kinds.


Debby said...

Good post. Emily's story made me smile.

Bob Barbanes said...

To this day I still chuckle, picturing little five-foot Emily with that gun, just ready to take out anybody that might mess with her on the roads of Arkansas.

And that's the point, isn't it? A gun levels the playing field.

I used to make a weekly commute from Florida to Louisiana for work. It was a five-hour drive and I'd leave just in time to be there for my required sunrise show up. One night, I got a blow-out out in the swamps of Mississippi, way between two distant exits. As it turned out my car was full of camping gear for a trip planned for the following week, all of which had to be unloaded to get to the spare tire.

As I crouched by the side of the road changing the tire, I realized how vulnerable I was. And it made me very, very uneasy.

There are big parts of this country where there are few cops and you are very on-your-own. It might sound a trifle paranoid, but there are a lot of bad people in this world and I really don't want to be a victim. So after a LOT of deliberation and study, I purchased a handgun for when I travel.

Just like Emily, whom you seem to be ridiculing.

No, the gun does not make me Dirty Harry. No, it does not make me invincible, or give me magical powers to ward off evil-doers. It merely levels the playing field. *IF* anything bad happens, at least I have a tool at my disposal that might help save my life.

Society has so demonized guns that the mere sight of one makes the general public nervous. I don't get this- or at least it shouldn't be this way.

I was traveling once and visited my sister in Chicago. I didn't want to leave my gun in my car (stolen car = *two* problems) so I brought it into the house. My sister was literally horrified by the sight of it. She handled it (unloaded) delicately, like a grenade with the pin pulled, like it might inexplicably go off at any second. But then, we grew up in NYC, where only the criminals had guns.

Me, I'd like to see more law-abiding citizens carrying openly. Maybe it might have discouraged a certain crazy kid in Tucson, Arizona from acting out his particular fantasy a couple of weeks ago. Or maybe he could have been stopped before shooting and killing as many as he did.

I'm sure Congresswoman Giffords wishes that someone in that crowd...other than that nutcase kid...had been carrying their firearm that day.

Bob said...

Point well taken, Bob. As I said, I AM pro-gun and I agree, it levels the playing field. If I had to travel like you used to, I might learn to use one myself.

Still don't see why that guy needed one in Tractor Supply, though, and Emily? Well, she certainly should have put it in her glove compartment rather than carrying it into the courthouse!

Kelly said...

I have to wonder if Emily had a carry permit. That would have made all the difference in the world.

You know I am a "gun person" and enjoy hunting and shooting. I also feel safer in my home knowing I have guns and the knowledge of how to use them. (safely, I might add) I tried to instill gun safety in all three kids. One prefers guns of the virtual variety, one is married to a hunter, the third wants to get their carry permit, as do I.

Good post, Bob. And good comment Bob B.

Bob said...

Hey Bob B. -- went back and read your excellent comment again and just wanted to point out that I was not in any way meaning to ridicule Emily and sorry if it came across that way. My main points were that it just struck me as ironic, with her size and perky personality, that she carried a handgun, and that there was humor in the fact that she chose to contact me. Assuming she had a legal permit, she would still have my full endorsement to carry that gun (just not into the courthouse).

Steve H. said...

Kelly, I'm not so sure a permit would help when a courthouse is involved. I'm with you Bob, if you're going to have it as a travel "piece" keep it in the glove compartment. The "Ooops sorry I forgot I had a gun on me as I am going through security at a COURTHOUSE" defense sounds iffy. Its people like that with loaded guns that make me nervous///not the guns themselves.

Kelly said...

You're absolutely right, Steve. I wasn't thinking location when I made that comment. I was thinking more of just having a gun in her purse in general. After all, without a permit she'd have no business having one there period.

Courthouse, Federal Building, Airport...all places where they're not allowed and posted as such.

quid said...

I am not pro-gun. That said, I wonder how many my 24 year old son has while living in my house.

This was timely. I am busy writing a weapons policy at work. FL is one of the progressive states that passed a law that says employees can keep their guns in their cars in the parking lots of their place of business. That always comforts someone who has the power to terminate employment.

In the policy, I have to put in how employees can have their guns in their cars in the parking lot. And since we work in patient's homes, as well, and that is their "place of work", the FL legislature has made sure that they can have their guns locked in their cars on someone else's property.

At least, the legislature did not dictate that employers could not add words that says they must be out of site, locked in the trunk or the glove box. So that is what we'll do.