Thursday, June 24, 2010

Firearms and Panic Attacks

The pistol was on the coffee table in front of him.

“Hey, that’s nice,” I said. “Can I look at it for a minute?”

He nodded without sitting up from the sofa. I could see he’d been drinking.

I held it and admired it. It really was a nice firearm. 9mm Glock, small, designed for concealed carry. I slipped it in my pocket.

“So what’s going on?” I asked.

And he told me his problems, which were many and made him to wish he were dead. However, he also had many things to live for, which we also talked about.

“Can I borrow this a while? I’ll get it back to you when you’re feeling better.”

I was pretty sure he had other weapons, but he was sleepy and I figured he wouldn’t have the energy to pull himself up and go to the next room. It took a little negotiating, but I finally got a no-harm agreement from him.

This happened just the other day. And of course, his story isn’t over yet. He still has some more healing.

It’s not the first time I’ve quietly taken someone’s firearm. Several years ago a woman got her husband’s shotgun and threatened to harm herself. She punctuated her intentions by firing it into the ground. It was then that I drove up on the scene. I got her to talking and while she was screaming at her husband, I quietly picked up the weapon where she had laid it, and I put it in my trunk. Then we went inside to talk.

Another time, I rode my motorcycle in the middle of the night to a man’s ranch to talk him out of suicide. He didn’t have a gun—he was going to use a big, wicked looking knife. He was calmer when I got there than when I’d talked to him on the phone, and he was touched that I went to some trouble to come see him.

In truth, they were not terribly dangerous situations. These people needed someone to care and listen. Their tension eased the more they talked.

One time, things really did get dangerous when a man in a drunken rage emptied his gun into the house of his relative who was hosting the Bible study I was teaching at the time. I went to visit him later in the jail, and he was sorry for what he did. I got him to come to church when he got out.

However another time, I escorted a man out of our church. I heard he was harassing some of the women. I warned him once and when he continued, I told him he’d worn out his welcome. I listened contentedly to the curses spewing from his mouth as we walked down the long hall to the door he would never come through again. 

He returned with a gun and waited for me to come outside. I wonder if he thought I’d swagger out the front door to talk to him like they did in old cowboy shows:

“I thought I told you not to show yer ugly face around here again, ya lowdown, lily livered, no-good varmint!”

Instead I went to call the cops. But a couple of fellows who were heavy into martial arts told me they’d speak to him for me. They were able to help him leave the premises quietly. And he never came back.

I am not frightened during these occasions. To tell the truth, I’m usually exhilarated. They help me feel validated in my work.

What puzzles me is that I often have panic attacks when there’s nothing to be frightened of. When I was a younger man, thunderstorms would set me off. Nowadays, it’s hard to travel alone because I’m scared I’m going to die, or that my family will die if I’m not there to protect them. And I have the occasional nightmare of things I can’t make myself write about here.

Here is the crazy thing. I used to love the adrenalin laced moments of risk. They were the only times I felt… normal. Maybe the word is “high.”

I don’t seek those moments out like I used to. I’m more careful for the sake of my wife and children.

There’s no point I’m trying to make. I’m not saying that the ministry made me like this. Nor am I saying you HAVE to be crazy to be a minister. But it helps.


  1. I've stepped into similar situations to prevent potential violence. Not sure why. I'd like to pick some noble reason, but I'm not sure I could honestly.

  2. Mike, I figure there is at least some nobility in your actions (a lot, really). Nobody's motivation is completely pure and I wouldn't worry about it.

  3. I really do have a nearly uncontrollable desire to see people not be harmed.

  4. You're not crazy! The mind does things with stress and anxiety..displaces it onto other places far away from the source. It might be akin to finding the source of a leak in a roof. Water travels and finds a circuitous route to come through sometimes. So does the mind. You have to carefully trace a stream to find the source. I am sure your awareness of your own struggles have helped you to be more compassionate towards the struggles of others. ~K

  5. K, thanks for sharing a very helpful insight. And reassuring to read that I'm not crazy, although I'd rather not take a poll on the issue--the results would no doubt be mixed. :)

  6. Yeah....I'm not saying you're crazy but....

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen....

    Kinda tells me that you just may be...
    ...and that's good enough for me.

    When you believe in something that no one else can see, you really have to have that 'something'. You, sir, really want everyone to have a better existence.

    Yeah, I know, noble schnoble.

    Take a walk on the wild side every now and then. The strip club is still looking for a bouncer/preacher.

  7. Sistermoon, you sure can quote the really good passages. Now about that job as bouncer/preacher, could I have Sunday's off?