Unholstered

I have surrendered my gun. It's been several months since I took my beautifully machined .38 Special handgun out of my purse. It was a sleek weapon, with which I could handily shoot human figures on paper targets. I could hit the targets in vulnerable places.

I was fully aware, though, I carried a weapon meant to kill.

I surrendered my handgun the afternoon President Reagan was shot. With that simple act I achieved freedom.

Living as we do on the fringes of California's great Mojave Desert, nature often entices me to walk the desert floor. Hikes and explorations are often alone, except for the companionship of my friendly Queensland Heeler, Juniper. I walk isolated trails seldom visited by other human beings.

My hikes were unimpeded until an unfortunate incident a few years ago. Three college students filming a picture for a glass were shot to death a short distance from the town of Mojave during a senseless rampage.

Fear swept the region. It was only with a promise that I would never again venture alone into the desert without a firearm for personal defense that my husband and well- meaning friends agreed I could continue my isolated walks.

I purchased a beautifully machined .38 Special handgun, a sleek weapon with which I could handily shoot human figures on paper targets.I was trained to shoot human figures in self-defense. I carried my weapon everywhere: in my purse or in a holster on my hip while hiking.

People began to look at me strangely if they happened upon me in the desert. Sidling up with caution, some would ask if I could really shoot "that thing." Others wouldn't sidle up at all, just mosey along another way.

Alone at night on the freeways as I pursued my employment, I was always ready for the unexpected -- everyone became a suspect.

I remember clearly the thoughts flooding my consciousness when I heard about President Reagan: stop it, fight fear with love, stop it.

I went to my purse and removed my .38 Special handgun. When my husband came home that evening, I handled it to him as he looked at me quizzingly. "Take it, " I told him. "I'll no longer carry a gun." Bud never questioned "why." He seemed to feel the peace about me and left me alone with my reasons.

Need there be a reason to love? Isn't it time to reach the world with thoughts and reflections, demeanors of peace and tranquillity? Love, filling the atmosphere until no room is left for hate or revenge, fear or mistrust. Only love. Those were the reasons I surrendered my weapon of death. I've not regretted the action.

The last few weeks I've found myself remembering the three men I met hiking in a nearly state park some months ago, as I tromped a trail, fully armed. They were like children in their enthusiasm of the desert beauty and I could hear them from a great distance. As they approached me their delight welled toward me, including me, until one of the men saw my .38 Special automatic handgun. They backed away and walked in another direction. My fear became their fear and I was e xcluded from their joy.

Never again.

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