Van sensei: Thanks for the advice. Next time I am at the gunshop I will check out the .38. I'll take Bill Glasheen with me to the range someday and we can practice firing and then later some disarms.
Legal question now - Should I get a permit to carry a concealed weapon or just carry it? Virginia handgun laws are fairly lenient and if I chose to just carry a gun in plain view I'd be fine as long as I stayed out of banks and DC. A concealed weapon permit is not too difficult to get in Virginia, however. No priors or pending. A job. Four to eight hours of formal training and a trip to the judge to get his/her signature is all that is required.
My wife has no interest in guns but she is ok with them and has no problem when I take my 15 year old to the range. She might, however, be against a concealable piece. We will see.
As far as getting in harms way with the family, if you want to enjoy theater or the arts, you must go into the city after dark. And unfortunately, the theaters are in fringe areas. Also, we have our share of homeless and street wanderers, some mental cases. Once my wife took my daughter and friends on a girl scout trip to a show downtown. They wandered a few blocks to find some fast food. Fortunately a city policeman spotted them, admonished them, and escorted them back to the main street. They were walking right into a known drug hot spot. I believe my personal alarm would have gone off any where near where they were. Nieve suburbanites.
For myself, I often travel to old manufacturing sites in old parts of cities and towns. Sometimes to very rural areas as well. Usually I do my homework ahead of time, but sometimes I end up in a nasty place. There I am, maybe in a rental car, possibly out of state plates, clearly out of place. I stopped wearing a suit and tie years ago and try to fit in as best I can. None the less, I am ofter clearly out of place.