The evening was advancing much too quickly for me and I regretted staying in the city so long, then was dismayed to find that I was running low on fuel. I pulled into an old station in a small town just east of Custer, South Dakota, ran my credit card and started the pump. There were no other cars in the lot, and only a single clerk in the mini-mart.
Scanning the area, as always, I noticed a man come from behind the building and start to walk toward me. Continuing the scan, I saw another man coming toward me from the opposite direction. He seemed to be trying hard not to look at me, but failed badly. I was immediately on full alert and turned my head to see the other person. He was now within my 20 foot “danger zone” and maintaining eye contact as well. I put up my hand flat out with a command to stop. He just laughed and said, “Give me some money, lady.”
I turned my body at that point, backed up against the car, and swept the coat away from my holstered gun, gripped it firmly and flipped off the retention strap. His eyes had followed the motion of my hand and he stopped suddenly, then waved his hands over his head and ran toward the street past another pump. I turned my head instantly to look for the other man, and saw him running away in the opposite direction.
Nobody but those men will ever know what their intentions were, from simple begging to carjacking or murder, and it doesn’t matter. I had zero obligation to read their minds or establish their motives before I took a defensive posture. Either one of the men could have overpowered a woman my age easily, but since I had a gun and was obviously ready to use it, they ran away instead.
Smart move… Even stupid criminals don’t want to get hurt themselves, and even hardened felons with years of crime behind them will say they fear the armed citizen far more than the police. That doesn’t mean they would never attack a potential victim who is armed, just that it is far less likely. Those who carry concealed have to consider that the criminal doesn’t usually have the opportunity to disengage early, and that the defender might well be forced to shoot in a situation where it would not have been necessary if the mugger understood the danger to him/herself before the attack began. But that’s a discussion for another time.
I was shaken and very angry after that, mostly for being forced to even contemplate drawing the gun. I walked into the mini-mart to warn the clerk about possible robbers at the pumps, and was sad to learn that she had not even noticed the men “bothering” me. She was upset at that point and asked if I wanted to call the sheriff, but I declined. There was nothing the police could have done about it, even if they wanted to – and I had no desire to be detained and hassled about it myself.
One of the things discussed often by those of us who carry a gun is the possibility of needing to come to the rescue of another person, sometimes a stranger. This can be very dangerous, and great care must be taken not to make a bad situation worse.
I had just come out of the grocery store in Rapid City, South Dakota one late afternoon, and discovered a young man and a woman in a heated argument right next to my car. He began to hit her in the face and she was crying. I yelled at him to STOP, and he turned with a snarl, taking one step toward me. I gripped the gun and flipped off the retention strap. He saw what I was doing and immediately ran around the front of his car and got into the driver’s seat. I asked the woman if she needed help, but she snarled at me as well saying, “mind your own business.” Opening the car door, she got in and they drove away.
What if he had continued to come toward me? I could have turned and run away, of course, but I hate to think what would have happened if he’d grabbed me and I had to draw and fire the gun. His woman would not likely have been a friendly witness, and there were no other people around close just then. It was a very frightening experience.
I didn’t call the police that time either. No proof, no license number for the car, and no real interest in being further involved. If that woman didn’t mind being beaten, it wasn’t my job to prevent it.
About six years ago, I happened to go to the general merchandise store in my rural Wyoming town about five miles away. It was an early winter evening with snow on the ground. It takes much longer to tell the story than it took to live it, so remember that all the action described here happened within a matter of seconds.
I got to the rear of my car and turned toward the store, scanning in all directions. Coming toward me was a young man in a long coat. He made eye contact, and came straight ahead, raising my level of awareness as he got within 20 feet or so. I brushed the coat away from the gun, hooking the material behind the grip. His eyes followed the motion of my hand, and then grew very wide. Immediately, he turned and ran between parked cars and out into a snowy field where I lost sight of him. Did he plan to attack me? Who can tell? All I know is that nothing happened that night. I did my shopping and then went home safe, the perfect outcome of any trip to town.
There have been a few other incidents where the intent of the other person was not quite that clear, but it has been very obvious a number of times that the sight of my holstered gun altered another person’s demeanor significantly and prevented an approach when such would have been unwelcome. I’m sorry if some of them were simply fearful of the gun itself, and even sorrier for their ignorance. I have no responsibility for that ignorance, and no obligation to make them feel better. My responsibility is my own safety.
Many people have read the story of the time I actually had to shoot a man to save my life. Most people will never experience that, depending on where they live, but an unknown number of people may well have a serious close call whether they carry or not, and there are no statistics for those because most of them are never reported to police. Think of that the next time someone tells you there is no need for anyone but police to carry a gun.