How Old Is Too Old?

In my mind’s eye, I still see myself as 37 years old. I was between marriages with a job I enjoyed that paid enough to travel and buy a home. Does everyone have such an image? A time that our minds wander to as we see ourselves getting older? All I really need to do is stand in front of a mirror and shave to see the truth. It isn’t 37.

Folks fond of saying that “age is just a number” are being gentle with themselves, I understand. They’re not fools. Most bodily functions peak shortly before age 30 and then begin a gradual but continuous decline. People generally understand that cells have a limited reproductive span; that internal organs and blood vessels become less elastic; that vision and hearing may require assistance. While most functions remain at least adequate, the decline means older people are often less able to handle stress, including strenuous physical activity, extreme temperature changes and potential self-defense incidents.

Polymer Palooza

So, I’m writing this while staring at handguns arrayed on my desk for cleaning: a Smith & Wesson .380, Walther .40 and my wife’s five-shot S&W revolver. A year ago, I competed in Polymer Palooza, a USCCA writer’s event (a couple days of learning about new gear, including the Walther Creed and an inside-the-waistband Comp-Tac holster designed for it). While we sat, listened and read, I was fine. Then came competition…

Out of the dozen or so writers the USCCA had gathered, I was the oldest. Thus, when Executive Editor Kevin Michalowski announced that the inside shooting event was “for speed,” I realized that I didn’t stand a chance against the younger shooters. But I was methodical and won the trophy … for being dead last. With all the graciousness of a young hotshot, Kevin awarded me a trophy — a cheap one, at that — labeled “LOSER.” Thanks, Kev.

Author Rick Sapp poses with USCCA President Tim Schmidt

Not only do we think we’re younger, better looking and better drivers, but we also imagine we’re taller. At the 2019 SHOT Show, USCCA founder Tim Schmidt “awarded” me a USCCA lapel pin with official “mouse ears” backing. I’ll wear it proudly until they pry my concealed carry handguns from my “cold dead hands.” (Photo by Rick Sapp)

From My Cold, Dead Hands…

It’s at least a year later now. Out the window in front of my desk, snow drifts into cactus and creosote bush in the gray afternoon, and the mountains east of Albuquerque are shrouded with cloud. So perhaps it’s easy today to think about mortality. When does one put down the carry gun? When is it no longer a good idea? When one’s reaction time has slowed? When one’s hearing and visual acuity just aren’t good enough? When does that time come?

Maybe it’s like going to a doctor or lawyer and asking a general question. He’ll reply with a shrug and some version of “It depends” or “Everyone is different” or “Well, on the one hand…”

I’ve been lucky. Good genes, I suppose. Last year I hiked 100 miles of the Colorado Trail, and I want to do more this year. Nevertheless, I’ve put aside the weights because the shoulders ache; I stopped jogging because of shooting pains in my knees. It’s only a matter of time.

I think of the retired Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves, who shot and killed Chad Oulson in a movie theatre in 2014. Chad was holding a box of popcorn and a cellphone. Captain Reeves, 71 at the time, claimed a “stand your ground” defense, but a judge who recently reviewed the circumstances and preliminary testimony refused to allow it. Reeves is charged with second-degree manslaughter and will go on trial this month. If he had been 20 years younger, he said, he might have “tussled” with Oulson … but he wasn’t 20 years younger and he made a deadly mistake.

Considering everything, I recall Charlton Heston’s words: “From my cold, dead hands.” And that helps me come to a decision about when I’ll stop carrying.

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