BY HERSCHEL SMITH
1 day, 10 hours ago
It’s been 18 months since I stood in line behind the guy at the Safeway a mile from my house. He was older — in his 70s, I guessed. He wore jeans, yellow and red running shoes, a ball cap and a green lightweight jacket, the hood bunched up behind his head. Oh, and he also wore a gun.
It rested inside a tanned leather holster on his left hip, the rain jacket intentionally tucked behind the holster, it seemed, so everyone could see it. The gun had a black grip and a glistening silver steel back.
People were staring and moving slowly to other lines and no one even whispered, just shuffling away in silence, two women and a man, pushing their carts to nearby queues. There was, no doubt, a sense of fear.
I stayed there behind the man with the cat food and dog food and two kinds of cheese, a box of cereal and the black and silver weapon.
Then he turned and caught me staring at the gun. I felt awkward, scared maybe, and he said, “What’s up?” in a pleasant-enough voice, the way you would when seeing a friend.
“Just looking at your gun,” I babbled, having decided a split second earlier not to lie to him because, well, he had a gun.
And I did not — definitely did not — want to say what I was really thinking, which was: “Who carries a handgun to buy cheese?”
He never replied to my “Just looking at your gun” blurt and seconds later he had bags in his hands and off he went, to wherever guys go with handguns on their trousers on a Saturday morning in Colorado.
Oh, and I also remember quite vividly having this thought: He must be a nut.
I’m not alone.
The town of Castle Rock, for example, is now looking to repeal its ban on the open carry of firearms in town-owned and operated buildings, along with parks, trails and open spaces.
From a YourHub.com story last week: “In September, some residents raised concern that allowing open carry … could create panic in public places.”
That sentiment goes to the heart of the issue. The cold truth is when the average Joe or Joan Schmo sees someone with a gun, outside of a hunting situation, we think bad things. We think the gun-carrier is not right in the head. A few ants short of a picnic. Maybe a jerk getting a self-esteem boost by carrying a fearsome killing weapon. To buy dog food.
The author doesn’t understand open carry. Nor does he understand his own psychological framework for understanding his reaction. I open carry when I can because it’s such a pain to conceal, and because it’s an uncomfortable experience at best. If you decide that you are going to be prepared for self defense, then that’s the controlling decision. It isn’t fun or intimidating. It’s a discipline you must develop, and buying dog food may just be the very time that you need protection. A grocery store in my own home town was recently the target of crimes, and not just a couple. This food store chain both prohibited carrying of weapons (disarming innocent people) and suffered multiple crimes at multiple stores from gangsters carrying concealed weapons.
Whether it’s comfortable or not, if you’ve decided that you’re going to carry, then that’s what you do. But it’s always better to be comfortable rather than not, and thus, open carry appeals to some of us. Also, the man who was carrying in the article was openly carrying for legal reasons. He probably didn’t bring along his concealed handgun permit, and thus any concealment would have made him in violation of the law. It has nothing to do with trying to intimidate people.
As I’ve said before, folks where I come from don’t seem to mind when I open carry. The writer is projecting his own psychology onto everyone else. But it is his own psychology that is the interesting part of this article. It is inescapable. What he is saying is that he would rather not know if someone is carrying a weapon. Oh, someone may be carrying around him and probably is, but he would rather not know it. Ignorance is bliss in his world. Ignorance doesn’t make it safer, it just means that he doesn’t know what is going on around him.