By Dan Pool
Over the summer I spotted a man in a restaurant with a pistol strapped to his belt who looked suspicious. He looked suspicious to me primarily because of his age - very young, mid 20s at most. Now, he could have been an off-duty police officer, decorated combat veteran or some kid who bought the pistol that morning because he thought it looked cool – all could have been legally carrying that firearm in public.
While waiting on my food, I began to ponder in exactly what situation this young man might draw his gun. I ran through a list of different imaginary scenarios in my head wondering when is it time to pull your pistol?
For example, if we heard what sounded like gunshots in the restaurant parking lot would you get your gun out, just in case?
What about a large man savagely beating a woman?
What about someone holding up the restaurant with a gun?
Aside from that restaurant:
What about someone storming up to your car after a traffic mishap, between you and them?
What about if you were inside a mall and clearly heard gunshots? Lots of gunshots?
Most online resources advise that knowing when to draw a firearm is a judgment call -- and we need to just essentially hope the people carrying have good judgment.
For it is this judgment which will determine if you are a hero, a vigilante, an overzealous nut who hampers a law enforcement response or someone who makes a tragic mistake.
The general laws regarding self defense are also subjective. Not only do you have to be threatened, but it has to be a case of imminent self-preservation. Again it goes into that gray area of a judgment call for the shooter: did you feel yours or someone’s life was in immediate danger?
Carlton Wilson, who has taught virtually every NRA course imaginable for more than 10 years, as well as teaching law enforcement gun classes, is clearly a strong Second Amendment supporter, believing no limitations should interfere with gun rights. But the associate magistrate in the local courts agrees that the prospect of people carrying guns in public with no training is frightening. From mistakes he corrects in classes, Wilson said there is a component of training needed for every gun owner, even those who may be comfortable shooting from a lifetime of hunting.
While classes here are fairly limited at this time, Wilson is working with a partner and Appalachian Gun and Pawn to open a new range with expanded opportunities.
Answering the above questions of when to draw, Wilson said he teaches to not draw a gun until you are confident you know the circumstances and are ready to shoot someone right then. Don’t draw a gun “just in case,” such as hearing gunshots in a public area, as you may be mistaken for the shooter by arriving law enforcement. In the case of the savage beating, Wilson said his first suggestion would be to hit the attacker with chair or something; only shoot when the victim is clearly about to be killed.
Wilson encourages anyone who wants to carry to do so with a concealed, not open, weapon to prevent exactly the type of reaction I described at the opening, “Who is that guy with a gun and what is he doing?” There are several cases the NRA instructor was familiar where people with weapons displayed had provoked panic from the public believing they were about to start a shooting spree after some perceived suspicious action, even though they were later found to be legal weapon-carriers.
Like the longtime NRA teacher, we agree that Second Amendment offers important protections for gun ownership, but also that citizens who want to enjoy the rights have a responsibility to seek out opportunities to learn to handle their weapons safely, especially if they carry them into public areas.