A few years ago, I walked out of the parking garage on my way to my office in downtown St. Louis. About a dozen paces away, a tall young woman with beautiful long red hair waited for the light to change so she could walk across the street. As I closed the distance, I noticed a man in his early twenties. He had the manner of a person who was mentally impaired. He was looking up and down, making short, irregular gestures with his hands. He was moving toward the young woman. I stepped up my pace . . .
I stood a pace or two behind the redhead, closely watching the young man. Sure enough, his hand reached out and he wafted his hand through her hair, seriously creeping her out. I stepped forward even as his hand was passing through her locks and held up my hand to silently say “stop.” The man turned tail and took off down the street at a rapid pace.
I tell this story to illustrate the idea that even madmen can be rational when it comes to their own personal safety. It was clear he needed more care than he was getting at Christ Church Cathedral or St. Patrick’s center. Still, he was rational enough to recognize that he was seconds away from a can of whoopass if he continued and responded accordingly.
Now, the young man didn’t know that I wouldn’t have beaten his ass to a pulp. I would have simply restrained him until police arrived. However, despite his impairment he believed that his day was about to go south. I’ve dealt with others who were similarly impaired, and the credible threat of resistance has kept them from acting.
I doubt if the killer in the Aurora Colorado shooting will ever say he picked out the movie theater because it was a gun-free zone. That said, there’s a reason he did not try to commit mass murder at a police station. He was not completely irrational.
While I have no idea how someone’s moral sense can be so compromised that they would commit such a horrible act, but I’m confident that a credible threat has an effect, even on a lunatic.
There are certain neighborhoods that I do not frequent. East Saint Louis is a good example. I don’t go there very often, and never at night. It’s because East Saint Louis has a reputation for being a place where men and women are regular victims of violent crime. I wasn’t always like this. East Saint Louis once had a reputation as a place of culture, industry and prosperity. Over time, as the city deteriorated, so did its reputation.
If you and I can make rational decisions about personal safety when deciding where we spend time, why would we think a criminal would not? I lawfully carry a firearm less for the purpose of defending myself than for creating an environment that’s not conducive to criminal activity. I join hundreds of men and women in the city of St. Louis who carry concealed. Occasionally, a miscreant is injured while committing a crime and word gets around that the Gateway City isn’t as safe as it used to be for criminals. It will take time – the reputation for East St. Louis didn’t hit the toilet overnight. But over time, as violent crime is less prevalent, the reputation will follow.
Well-intended signs on places of business declaring themselves gun-free zones work against this shift in perception. Politicians who decry the existence of inanimate objects retard the shift in the mind of criminals and madmen that the world is still safe enough for their trade.
I truly wish leaders would stop whining about the availability of guns, and start praising the men and women who use firearms to protect themselves. We will never eliminate those who would do violence in pursuit of evil from our world. We can only mitigate it with the credible threat of force wherever they might come to do evil.