Triggered… April 11, 2013

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gunI probably should never have done the gig.

I was twenty-four years old, and through a combination of my pride and pressure from a new friend, I agreed to do a concert in the park for the homeless in downtown Baltimore as an outreach for his ministry to the poor. He had jokingly suggested that our group perform, figuring that we were too “prissy” to do such an event. I leaped in and volunteered our services.

So we dressed up in our duds, deciding that we were not going to give these folks any less of a show than anyone else. We set up in the park and drove to situate our van in an alley near a meat market, where the proprietor had graciously offered us a space.

Just as soon as we stepped out of our van and were heading toward the park, a young man emerged from behind a dumpster, brandishing a knife and demanding our money. He couldn’t have been any more than sixteen years old, a hundred and nothing pounds, with eyes bloodshot and obviously an overabundance of nervous tics.

Fortunately, I had told both girls in my group to be sure to leave their money behind, so we wouldn’t get started giving out dollar bills to the homeless, ending up with them lining up for donations instead of to hear our creations. I stuck twelve dollars in my shoe to buy hotdogs after the concert.

As I stared at the young man with his shaky hands and squeaky voice, I felt no fear whatsoever. It’s not that I’m extremely brave–it’s just that he was so lacking in intimidation, even though I knew he was still dangerous because he was wielding the knife.

I motioned for the girls to get behind me, and for some reason, that action totally confused him. Before I could explain to him that we had no money, he looked to his right and left, shuffled his feet and suddenly ran away. When I arrived at the park, my friend who was in charge of the outreach said that I should have had a gun.

You see, I’ve heard this all my life. “You’re traveling on the road. You need a gun to protect you.”

So I asked him–where would I put it? He looked at me confused, as if he didn’t understand my meaning. Here’s my meaning: that day, in the back alley in Baltimore, if I had put a gun in my glove compartment, it would have been of no use to me. If I had it under my seat, it likewise would have made no difference, unless I planned to run away from my perpetrator to dive for my van. The only way a gun would have been of any help would be to carry it. So it begs the question–if we’re going to insist that guns are valuable for personal security, are we also prepared for everybody to walk around wearing holsters, with their pistols at their side? Because short of that, a gun locked in a box in your house, or secured in your closet, will do very little to help you during a home invasion, when people bust through your door and order you to lay down on the floor.

Here’s what I know about guns: guns shoot and guns kill. Guns don’t protect–because unless you lead with the fact that you’re “packing heat,” your gun will be far from you in your hour of need.

What I used that day to avoid being stabbed by a twitchy addict was calmness, level-headed thinking and maintaining eye contact. Honestly, it was better than a knife because I would have had no knowledge of how to involve myself in such a struggle. And to make a citizen’s arrest, pulling a gun on a person with a knife, would certainly be an over-reaction.

I think guns for recreational use–hunting or for display in a collection–are somewhat intriguing. But a gun will not help you in the middle of an attack from someone who has decided to do harm.

In that situation, your best trigger is an intelligent spirit.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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