The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 30, 2012

Pistol packs power, but also fear


After the recent school shootings in Connecticut, some people — including a few lawmakers — started talking about arming teachers. Lots of regular, law-abiding citizens already pack heat.

Which reminds me of the time I carried a concealed weapon. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. I was as nervous as a three-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

It was a Friday afternoon in late 1983. Laurie and I were living on Garrard Street in Covington, Ky., near Cincinnati. I had gotten a job at The Commercial-News, and I was scheduled to start the following Monday.

On Saturday, we were going to load two trucks and move to Danville.

Our car was in Illinois, and Laurie had my pickup. That meant I had to walk downtown to the bank, close our savings account, empty the safe deposit box, and bring the booty home.

As I got ready to go, I started thinking … what if somebody should rob me?

Money was tight. We had been married for less than a year, and we had bought a house in Danville. I was taking a pay cut to return to my hometown. Laurie didn’t have a job there yet. The house needed new wiring, new shingles and a new furnace.

Covington, Ky., in 1983 was not the safest place in the world. My truck had been vandalized. Burglaries, robberies and muggings were fairly common.

So there I was, getting ready to walk through its streets with our life savings in one pocket and my choicest heirlooms in a sack. The heirlooms included letters, photos, old coins, pocket watches, rings, savings bonds and stock certificates.

That’s when I thought about the gun — an old .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, no bigger than my hand. I took it from the dresser, hesitated, then stuck it in my coat pocket and headed out.

I am a law-abiding citizen with a squeaky clean record. But there I was, walking into a bank with a loaded gun. I closed the account, emptied the safe deposit box, and left.

Our apartment was a few blocks away. I walked fast, but I thought I’d never get there. I had our savings, in cash, in my pants pocket. I held the bag close to my body with my left hand. My right hand stayed in my coat pocket, with the pistol.

No one tried to rob me, of course. But if someone had tried, I wouldn’t have run away or yelled for the police. I would have shot him. I was so fidgety, I really think I would have.

For those few minutes, that little pistol was the center of my universe. It was the only thing I could think about. I was empowered, yes, but scared, too.

Looking back, I can’t believe how crazy I was. I should have just asked for a cashier’s check. The other stuff wasn’t really that important, anyway.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at