On the day the couple visited the Egyptian exhibition, Smitty was carrying a pistol in her purse, a fact she suddenly remembered as she saw her handbag moving down a rolling belt into the museum's metal detector.
Fortunately, Smitty had so much other metal junk in her purse that the attendant didn't notice her pistol, and she and Bob had an enjoyable day looking at Egyptian artifacts.
Why did Smitty travel to Memphis with a handgun back in 1987? Was she afraid that she and Mr. Bob might have to shoot their way out of the Memphis museum, like in a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Had she seen the movie Deliverance and feared she and Mr. Bob might be waylaid by a gang of genetically-deranged hillbillies on their drive home through Arkansas?
I don't know. But I do know this. Carrying a firearm is a lot more dangerous than it was thirty years ago.
It is fashionable now in some regions of the country for people to obtain concealed-carry permits that allow them to keep small pistols tucked into their clothing. And in my corner of the world, a lot of men keep handguns in their pickup trucks, which is legal in Louisiana.
But it is risky to carry a loaded handgun, and it is getting riskier.
A few days ago, just a half-mile from my home, Jayce Boyd, a 24-year-old young man, was arrested on a murder charge after he reportedly shot and killed a panhandler in the parking lot of Trader Joe's.
Was the shooting justified? According to some reports, the panhandler was aggressively harassing two young women, and Mr. Boyd had come to their defense.
A few days before that, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old kid from Illinois, was charged with murdering two people during the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I saw a video that apparently depicts this young man shooting at some people who were chasing him. At least one of his pursuers appeared to be armed.
Was young Mr. Rittenhouse acting in self-defense? Ultimately a jury will decide.
Here's my point. I can hardly imagine any threat to my personal safety that would justify me killing someone in a public place. In fact, I might be better off getting injured or even murdered by an attacker than dealing with the consequences of killing another human being--even in self-defense.
So I don't carry a handgun, and I never will even though the state of Louisiana allows me to openly carry a pistol without a license.
Who knows what will happen to Mr. Boyd and Mr. Rittenhouse? Will they be acquitted on their murder charges?
Maybe. But if you were to ask Mr. Boyd or Mr. Rittenhouse today whether he wishes he had not been carrying a weapon on the night he pulled the trigger, I feel quite he would say yes.
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