My wife and I were on our way to one of our granddaughter’s soccer games one recent Saturday. I was hungry and decided to stop for something at McDonalds but the drive-through was jammed so I parked and went inside.
In the crowd as I waited to order, I inadvertently stepped on someone’s foot.
The mid 20-ish young man who owned the foot reacted instantly. He yelled at the affront and loudly demanded an apology. He pushed his red face toward me. I could see his balled-up fists and tensed arms.
In my pocket I had my licensed concealed carry, a Smith & Wesson model 36 snubby revolver, and I realized that, in the next few seconds, I might actually need to use it.
Several more thoughts went through my mind. I wondered what sort of a day this guy was having that had contributed to his instant, ready-to-fight outburst? I tried to ponder how many punches I would need to receive before a jury would find me justified in bringing out the weapon and shooting my assailant? And I wondered if he was also armed?
But the young man was correct: I had stepped on his foot.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You’re right. It is crowded, I was trying to hurry, and I accidentally stepped on your foot. Please let me apologize.”
Luckily for both of us — and perhaps realizing he’d gone off the deep end rather abruptly — he started calming down. He lowered his head and mumbled something about the crowd. I saw his fists relax.
In a calmer but still insistent voice he repeated, “But you did step on my foot.”
I nodded. “Yes, I’m sorry.”
The situation apparently defused, I moved to a different line to put some distance between myself and the now cooling young man and his friends. But the lines were going extremely slow and, considering his display, the starting time of the soccer game and the probable wait time for my order, I decided to abandon the effort.
I circled toward the exit keeping an eye on the young man but he didn’t seem to notice my leaving.
Good, I thought as I crossed the parking lot, still glancing over my shoulder.
“This one’s too busy,” I told my wife as I got back into the car where she had been waiting. “We’re going to pass another McDonalds a couple of miles down the road.”
Half an hour later as we sat in our folding chairs and watched the soccer game, I ate the sausage and egg McMuffin from the second McDonalds and re-processed the events in the first.
I realized that, while the revolver in my pocket had provided the assurance that if I needed to defend myself I would be able to do so, I was pleased to see that my response had been to recognize who had been at fault — myself — and to try an apology first.
Whatever was contributing to the young man’s ill mood had been assuaged by an honest apology … and perhaps by a little common sense on his part.
The anti-handgun crowd claims that, if more people are armed, situations like this will escalate into gunfire more and more often. More guns equals more gunfire, they claim.
But the science fiction author Robert Heinlein said it well. In the fictional society he used in several books, he proposed that “An armed society is a polite society.”
In my case, at least, I was pleased to find fiction becoming fact, and that I myself was in that latter — polite first — category.
My concealed carry, by virtue of the degree of violence I could unleash, had engendered the polite response.
I knew I could defend myself but, frankly, I’d rather not have to.
It’s noisy, damn messy, I’m probably gonna hurt like hell from his punches or, worse, from his shots if he is also armed, the day is gonna be really screwed to say nothing of the coming weeks, months and probably years till it all gets sorted out in the courts, I’m going to have to spend a ton on attorney’s fees to defend myself even if I’m completely exonerated, I’ll have to live with whatever happens to the assailant, to the bystanders some of whom are kids, and … Nuts!
I’d much rather find a peaceful — a polite — way out.
Because I knew that if my polite apology had not been accepted and the young man had chosen to attack me, I knew that I could — and would — defend myself.
It was possible.
I was able.
And I would.
How many punches would I receive first? I don’t know.
Would a jury have agreed with my armed response? I can’t tell you.
Would the other people at the store, called as witnesses in a case against me, have backed up my story, my viewpoint, my judgement? I can’t say.
But I did have — in my pocket, loaded and ready — the ability to protect myself. And knowing it was there helped push me toward finding a peaceful solution first.
It enabled finding peace and what motivated that effort was not the threat of an armed response, but rather because I knew I could unleash violence, and that I’d really rather not — the consequences are just too undesirable.
Because I was ready and understood what would happen, what could happen, and what would probably happen after that, I was highly motivated to find a peaceful solution.
My handgun gave me good reason to be polite.
4 thoughts on “Enablement”
Interesting post, Ed. I tend to agree that an armed society is a polite society. But I'm not sure that works out in our day and age. We live in a day of such overwhelming selfishness, shallowness, and conflict that people's reactions to things are hard to predict.
The young man clearly overreacted to you stepping on his foot. If he had known that you were armed (or likely to be armed) he might have been more cautious.
On the other hand, if he was armed he might have been more bellicose – looking for an excuse to shoot someone. (The old west had such people – briefly.)
If the armed thugs out there were faced with armed resistance, it might cut down on armed thugs – but as you point out in your blog, the current legal system would be punishing even if you were completely in the right.
I carry regularly. I am ready to defend myself and my family if the need arises. I hope it never does.
Isn’t it amazing how the mature mind works? Actually, I’m not surprised by your response or how the event played out.
I’ve got a permit too and with it comes far more responsibility than average person can even comprehend.
And you’re right about the consequences in our modern society. Even if adjudicated “not guilty,” you could kiss your home and retirement savings goodbye.
Take a look at the above local news story. The guy sentenced was the victim of road rage where someone else intentionally used a vehicle as a weapon, against him and his children.
Ed, You happen to represent the epitome of what a citizen should be when carrying a firearm. You are well trained in the care, use and social implications of exercising that right. Also, your demeanor and behavior reflect the personal accountability you carry along with your weapon. If we could have a society filled with such citizens, the window for violent criminal behavior would close extremely tightly.
Actually, I just don’t like loud noises.