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Now I Lay Me Down…

How many people remember the prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…”? I learned it from Mom when I was very young. It was a lovely way to end the day: her sitting on the side of the bed, talking for a minute, then telling me, “Say your prayers and go to sleep.”

I usually had a book on the nightstand and wanted to read before turning out the light. Within a few pages, though, Dad would open the door and growl: “Turn off the light.”

Then I pulled the covers over my head and proceeded to read another chapter with a flashlight until my eyelids collapsed. We had no air conditioning — that was for rich people — so I fell asleep with the book beside me, listening to the chirp of crickets, the chuc-chuc-chuc of a neighbor’s rotating sprinkler and the drone of cicadas.

Today, I keep a Walther .40 PPS on top of the book beside the bed on the nightstand. And that is beginning to feel like a problem. Where do you keep a defensive handgun when sleep comes calling? Beside the bed seems perfectly right, but problematic.

Watching the recent video from USCCA, “Angry Ex-Boyfriend Looking for a Fight … What Would You Do?” emphasizes the suddenness — the absolute unexpected nature — of an attack.

Is the nightstand the right place for a defensive pistol at night? Maybe not if you have kids in the house … or if you’re a heavy sleeper. But then, where?

I remember 1990, when a killer stalked kids at the University of Florida. I owned — but did not carry — a Ruger .357. For two weeks I slept with it under my pillow, an entirely uncomfortable position, but my house’s windows and frames were so cheap, so poorly mass-produced, that any moderately sized man or woman could easily have pulled them away and climbed inside. And until that time, living outside town, I often didn’t lock the doors.

Complicating this for me has been a tendency to carry without a cartridge in the chamber. Somehow, it just felt safer, more practical. I imagined I would have time to rack the slide. Then, just a couple weeks ago, I watched the USCCA video and put it together with my own experiences and judgment. I walked the dog around the neighborhood on a full-moon night and imagined how quickly an assailant could rush out of the dark. I realized I wouldn’t have time to drop the leash, find and draw my Kel-Tec .380 out of my pocket, rack the slide, point the muzzle and get off a shot. I’m just not that fast.

So I’ve decided to carry with a chambered round. It means I have to remain continuously aware of my situation and be careful in crowds. I can do that.

And that brings me full circle back to the problem of a gun on the nightstand. I never carry around the house. I usually stash a gun in the top drawer of the nightstand and another in the desk. My wife keeps her Smith & Wesson in her bedside nightstand as well. I’m a light sleeper — sometimes — and we have a dog. But if you’re out of the house or a perp slips in through an open window when you’re watching Three’s Company reruns, I imagine the first place they’ll look for valuables is the nightstand … then under the bed.

Where do you keep your gun(s) when you’re not carrying? Where’s your gun when you lay your head down to sleep? After all, that children’s prayer continued — at least it did when I was a kid — “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Then it ended with a bunch of “God blesses” naming the relatives. There may be better or more inventive endings today, but recalling the prayer, watching the USCCA video and being honest about my own reaction time have made me change my habits because I don’t want to die before sunrise.

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