A couple of days ago, my mother gave me a call. From the moment I answered the phone, I could sense that something was wrong. She sounded uncomfortable, and even a little scared. While making a quick trip out to the local Super Walmart, she had leaned over to grab something off a low shelf, and someone bumped into her rear end. Awkward as it may have been, she gave the stranger the benefit of the doubt, and brushed it off as an accident and continued hunting down the rest of the items on her shopping list. However, a few minutes later, she realized that a large male shopper was not-so-casually following her through the aisles. Being the polite lady my mother is, she first assumed that she and he must have similar grocery needs, but she made a mental note to keep an eye on the stranger. She noticed that although he looked at the shelves now and then, he never put anything into his cart. And, wherever she went, he popped up about half an aisle down moments later. That sent her red flags. This particular shopper wasn’t looking to restock his kitchen cabinets. She abandoned the rest of her grocery list and began to actively try to shake her unwanted escort.
Eventually, my mother was able to put some distance between her and the tall stranger, check out with her groceries, and high tail it out to the parking lot. When she recounted the event to me on the phone during her drive home from Walmart, my first response was, “See Mom, that kind of stuff is why I concealed carry.” But, carrying in and of itself doesn’t prevent dangerous situations like what my mother experienced. In fact, it is dangerous to presume that a permit alone will ensure its holder is “safe.” After we hung up, I thought about what I would have done had I accompanied her for that particular shopping trip. Had I been with her and witness this uncomfortable stranger’s advances, I would have responded to him – loudly. Making a scene (I don’t necessarily mean jumping up and down and screaming, just something as simple as, “Hey, I noticed you shopping behind us; can I help you with something?” ) would have undoubtedly embarrassed my mother, but drawing negative attention to the man might have been enough to dissuade him from his pursuit. Not to mention, had I gone shopping with my mum, the two of us together may not have even registered an easy enough target and he may not have attempted to follow my mother in the first place.
Generally, being polite and safe are not mutually exclusive. But, there are occasions when dangerous situations can be averted by acting outside of what is considered socially acceptable. On the other hand, there are also times where it is imperative to be as polite as possible in order to avoid escalating an interaction to violence. The creepy guy from my mother’s shopping trip is one example of a a dangerous situation that may have been avoided had my mother been less polite. However, those of us who concealed carry firearms also need to consider the flip side of that coin: when is it more safe to be extra polite?
The video by my friend Allen, from the YouTube channel ZombieTactics, discusses very well the responsibility of those who concealed carry of avoiding dangerous situations (the entire video warrants a watch, but the section which I’m referencing in particular begins at 7:40). One example that Allen provides in his video demonstrates this concept. This is his proposed circumstance: You’re in out with your significant other in line to enter the venue for a huge concert. A belligerent drunken fellow concert-goer shoves your date, knocking them to the ground hard enough to injure them in the fall. Is it unreasonable for you to confront the offender and address his misdeeds against your partner? I don’t believe so. However, approaching this individual with the goal of chastising or otherwise reprimanding them has great potential to feed their already-present aggression, and may very possibly end in violence. Any violent situation is immediately more serious for someone who carries a firearm, because if the violence becomes severe enough, they have the ability to respond with lethal force. In this example, being polite enough to the aggressor to walk away and disengage from the interaction is more safe than confronting them because of the potential for the exchange to become violent.
Where is the line between when it is acceptable to forgo social etiquette in order to stay safe? I imagine this line is different for different people. And when does it become more safe to avoid or gracefully end an uncomfortable interaction? Because there are an infinite amount of circumstances that could put one in a risky situation, there is no single response that can guarantee your safety. It is therefore important for you to be able to recognize when it is more safe to abandon socially considerate responses, and when it is safer to be more polite than your potential aggressors. How will you respond?