Unintended Consequences

A few years ago I worked in a town with a small university.  I was rarely in the office and more often than not I found myself in a local coffee shop for several hours between visits to client sites.  It became known as a satellite office and if my co-workers were unable to reach me, they were to call the Barista who doubled as my personal secretary.  It was a great company to work for and I was fortunate they allowed us to conceal carry a firearm, which I was the day the following situation took place. It was a mild Fall day and I was sitting at one of the indoor tables using my wi-fi to catch up on e-mail and put in my billing time from a client meeting earlier that day.  The coffee shop had three employees working that day and there were five customers in the shop, not counting me.  There was a lady with her young daughter sitting outside, a couple reading books and listening the their iPod sitting in a couple lounge chairs and a large man sitting next to the door in one of those little round tables that can barely fit a coffee and a computer on it.

I was sitting away from the window in a position that I could see the front door.  I had been there not quite an hour when I caught something out of the corner of my eye outside.  A very nice BMW M3 pulled into the parking lot.  Out popped two what appeared to be males who were wearing ski masks.  As I watched them I noticed after they got out of the car they threw a sling over their shoulders with what appeared to be AR-15’s.  They then proceeded to walk towards the coffee shop.  At this point, a million things are going through my head.  I am beginning to plan out my ambush and looking around for things that will stop bullets that I can get behind if the need arises.  I had a light jacket on and I quickly moved it back out of the way and exposed my holster under my shirt.  My hand was starting to sweat but I got a good high grip on my firearm without trying to draw too much attention.

I had planned out how I would take these two out and how I needed to get out to my truck to get my medical kit after it was all done.  I was starting to calculate the number of casualties.  The large guy near the door, he’s dead, I thought.  The couple in the lounge chairs might get it also.  I may take rounds but at least I can stop them from going further. I was really wishing I had grabbed my second mag sitting in my truck.  I had my Glock 19 on my with 15 round and one in the pipe for a total of 16 rounds.  I knew that would go fast.  Everything happened so quickly and before I knew it, the two were at the front door walking in.  I saw the lady outside grab her child and quickly run to her car.  I assume she left since I did not see her after that.  The guy near the door was startled but grabbed his laptop and bolted out the door almost as quickly as the two with ski masks entered.  He was in such a hurry to exit that he left his coffee sitting on the table.  The two in the lounge chairs didn’t notice them at first and when they did they bolted out the door and I saw the women on the phone (evidently calling 911).  The three workers were basically frozen.  Two of them were trying to hide behind each other in an odd dance of sorts.

As the guys entered I noticed that the guns seemed to be oddly small.  In my tunnel vision I noticed that there was tape covering what appeared to be an orange muzzle break.  Instantly my brain recognized these as airsoft guns with the muzzles taped.  I almost laughed out loud as they casually came walking in with this attitude like nothing was out of the ordinary.  They then did something that defied logic; they walked up to the young barista and placed a coffee order.  The few of us that were left were stunned.  The young ladies were still uncertain if they were getting robbed and I think shocked and confused when the gentlemen paid for their order (still wearing ski masks with slung “fake” AR-15’s). To make a long story short, these were two university students doing research on their “Masters Thesis” on how humans profile each other.  After they sat down the three of us had a nice discussion and spoke about the gravity of what could have happened to them.  That conversation lasted until the local police showed up to give them a ticket for disorderly conduct.  As they were being escorted off the property, the two were still claiming to the officers that they had done research online and there was nothing illegal about wearing a ski mask and carrying a toy gun.

I posed an abbreviated version of this on my Facebook page with a question on what others would do in the same situation, just to see what kind of feedback I would get.  In a very small sampling I got the whole range of the spectrum from shooting the guys dead when they walked through the door to watching them closely and being ready for them to do something that would require intervention.  Until recently I didn’t really realize the value of the little lessons from this incident.  So here’s what I learned.

Although you may not understand it, there are people out there that are terrified of firearms.  It’s no different than your fear of guys wearing ski masks or clowns, or whatever.  I think the key is to put yourself in the shoes of everyone there and take an unselfish look at this.  Was there anything illegal about two guys wearing ski masks or carrying toy guns around?  On the surface, no, but actually, “yes” and they were ticketed.  When you intentionally cause disorder and disrupt the public there are laws on the books in some places that allow Law Enforcement to return order to the area.  Having people in a business ducking for cover and finding the nearest exit doesn’t sound like order to me.  These guys should have done their homework a bit more before trying a stunt like this.

To the open carry crowd.  It’s funny, but most of the responses I got from the open carry crowd were to shoot the guys dead right there.  How hypocritical is that?  You want to practice your right to carry a firearm openly without judgement but you are the first to drop another man dead for doing the same thing but in a way that scares you?  These two men did exactly the same thing you are advocating, they just did it differently.  Yet you would be the first to protest a concealed carry guy shooting an open carry guy dead just because he had a rifle slung on his shoulder.  That’s just as wrong.  I think this gets down to the core of the thought process of some open carry advocates.  Please understand that I am not throwing all us who open carry under the bus.  I carry openly at times when it is appropriate.  But I don’t do it where I am going to cause disorder and scare the sheep.  Regardless if it is legal or not, there has to be some thought process about the consequences of our actions.  I don’t want to be the guy who’s picture is plastered on the morning news as an example of why the gun grabbers want to take our guns away.

As a business owner, you just witnessed a couple customers come in and 6 leave (maybe never to return).  You can say you support a cause all you want until it starts hitting the pocket book.  Then you begin to wonder.  With only a small percentage of gun owners having carry permits and even fewer of those constantly carrying, surely you can see how a company might weigh the loss and pick a side (good or bad).  It’s a no win situation YOU have put them in.

I also picked up on a few other lessons.  One is to always have a second magazine with me.  The other is to keep at least a small medical kit with me.  I have learned and developed a lot since this incident, but it stressed to me the need for constant training.  Thankfully I had enough training to not panic and the recognition drills I had practiced over and over helped me make a good decision under a very stressful situation.  That day I was lucky and didn’t have to shoot anyone.  I very easily could have dumped 16 rounds into them and called it a day.  However, I would be sitting in a jail trying spending every penny I had to justify to a judge why I shot two kids with toy guns.  Believe me, that is not going to go well for you.

I am just as devoted to the 2nd amendment as the next guy and I would rather not have the government interfering with my ability to protect me and my family.  However, you don’t go yelling “fire” in a theater and not expect something bad to happen from it.  Please don’t stop what you are doing on my behalf, but I do ask that you do some soul searching before you open carry a toy gun while wearing a ski mask.