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.