160614001325-01-orlando-attack-vigil-0613-exlarge-169

TTAG reader Ing writes:

I was standing among a crowd of a couple hundred people in Friendship Square, showing my teenage daughter how to shield her candle from the evening breeze, when my wife tapped me on the shoulder.

“Did you see that guy in the straw hat?”

“Huh?” I hadn’t noticed anything. My daughter had spent much of the day sobbing in her bedroom, and I was trying to be extra attentive.

It had been all over the news this morning: some homicidal maniac had busted into a drag show at a trendy nightclub and murdered 50 gay and transgendered people. Blocked the exits, fired a rifle into the panicked crowd, and laughed as he slaughtered them. Called 911 himself to taunt the police and publicly pledge allegiance to the Islamic terrorists of Daesh while he was at it. Glory to Allah. Death to gays.

My daughter is a sensitive soul, so this kind of tragedy would have wounded her regardless—but she came out as a lesbian a few months ago. She was already worried about people not accepting her. And now this happens. Now she’s absolutely terrified.

I’ve been told that my natural response to events like this is too blunt to soothe a teenage girl’s wounded soul—something about how logic and reasoning and “somebody in there should have shot that guy” are inappropriate in times of stress (sigh…women…), so I was trying to just be present in the moment and give emotional support. (Was it working? I don’t know.)

“He’s been pacing around the edges of the crowd for a couple minutes now,” my wife continued. “He’s acting really weird.”

Then I finally saw him. A tall, slender man wearing an odd straw hat. He was on the other side of the square, shouting incomprehensibly at one of the women who had organized the candlelight vigil. Even from across the crowd I could see that he was quivering with rage. He towered over the much smaller woman, the extended middle finger of one hand practically touching her nose, the other hand clenched into a fist.

I recognized the woman—she sported the same androgynous haircut and wardrobe as always. She and her wife run a local hobby/gaming/costume shop. I took the kids to her store for Pokémon league on a weekly basis for years. I bought the Savage Worlds rulebook on her recommendation. Their costume shop is Halloween Central every October. It outfits the local cosplayers. And all the queens at the annual Tabikat Club drag show.

A freezing pulse of adrenaline shot through my system. This guy was going to explode any second, and I was too far away to stop it. But I couldn’t stand there doing nothing. Maybe I could get over there before it went too far. I handed my candle to my wife and made my way through the crowd.

The guy took off when I was about halfway across the square. It was a relief, because I hadn’t been sure what I was going to do when I got there. And then a cause for alarm. Where was he? I scanned the crowd; he wasn’t in it. There was only one way he could have gone out of view so quickly: he must have slipped around the corner of the restaurant that bounded one side of the plaza and gone down Main Street.

I hustled to get an angle that would let me see down the sidewalk, and after a moment of scanning I found him. He was getting into a blue compact four-door sedan a little less than half a block away. The straw hat made him fairly easy to spot.

I strode forward, figuring I might get close enough to get his license plate number before he drove away. Then I remembered an article I’d read a few weeks ago, about a man who had done exactly that when trying to help a convenience-store clerk who had been assaulted by an agitated customer and wound up having to shoot when the rage-nozzle clocked his presence and attacked him.

That slowed me down and made me start taking stock of my surroundings. The sidewalk was empty in front of me. Half the parking spots sat vacant. A typical sleepy summer evening in a small college town.

I saw, for the first time, that there was a police officer discreetly stationed near the entrance to the restaurant. She stood a few feet to my left, staring intently at the straw-hat man, gloved hands poised above her duty belt. The Glock on her hip looked ridiculously large on her tiny frame.

It was a relief to see her. If she didn’t think it was necessary to close up and get his license plate, then I surely didn’t have to worry about it either. I could stand back and let a professional decide what to do about this guy.

But then I thought about why she might be hanging back. What if she was staying close to cover because she knew the guy was dangerous? She definitely wasn’t relaxed. What if Straw Hat Guy came right back out of his car with a weapon? And here I was, just standing out there in the middle of the sidewalk. Shit. My hand went to my side—at least I think it did, because I was thinking about the concealed gun I always carry and suddenly realizing that I might actually have to draw and fire it.

Then the car backed out of its parallel parking space and revved along the street, right past me. I stood rooted to the spot as the driver laid on the horn, drowning out the speaker at the vigil. When the horn’s blast receded, the speaker quipped, “I’m going to interpret that as a sign of support.” She got a good laugh.

I didn’t laugh. I admired her chutzpah, but I couldn’t get rid of the thought that the angry guy in the straw hat might come back. He obviously had some severe rage and hatred. I knew homophobia like this was out there, but hadn’t ever seen it in person. I couldn’t help seeing my daughter as his next target.

Intellectually, I knew why the nightclub massacre had hit her so hard. Now I felt it.

I couldn’t stay still and join in the rest of the vigil. No hand-holding or singing activist lullabies for me. I constantly scanned the crowd, assessing the mood and looking for disturbances. I joined my wife and daughter for only a minute or two before returning to the perimeter and watching who came and went.

I spoke with the police officer (but only briefly; didn’t want to distract her from her job). She said the straw-hat guy was well known to the police. He reveled in disruptive behavior and was perpetually angry, but had never done anything violent. She was sure he wouldn’t come back and cause any more trouble.

Well, yeah…the FBI was sure that homicidal Daeshbag in Florida was harmless, too. Until he wasn’t.

Was our local nutjob planning to get violent on that day? Probably not. Odds are he had neither the means nor the desire to be anything more than an obnoxious asshole. On the other hand, it’s possible that getting close attention from a very large man and a police officer changed his plans. There’s no way to know.

Personally, I think our hippie-infested college town might have dodged a bullet on Sunday. I’m pretty sure this guy is going to end up in the news for murdering someone, or at least trying to. Multiple someones, probably. I hope we keep dodging the possibility, but I’m not counting on it. Rage like that doesn’t just go away peacefully.

And what if he had come out of his car shooting?

I would have tried to stop him. Of course I would have. It’s my right as an American to try, and my sacred duty as a parent. Would I have succeeded? I don’t know. Those of us who practice preparedness (even at my minimal level) know that you can do everything right in a gunfight and die anyway, and you can live despite making mistakes.

We were pretty much at rifle range, and I only had a pistol. A good one—my 9mm Springfield XDm compact with full-size magazine and 21 rounds of Speer Gold Dot JHP on tap—but still not ideal at 50+ yards. And I’m not that great of a shot. Passable, but I don’t know if I could put rounds on a moving target at that range. Especially under stress.

Maybe all I could have done was draw his fire and hope it slowed him down. If all I can be is a speed bump, then so be it…if it keeps my family alive. But I don’t HAVE to just be a target. As an armed American, I have a fighting chance to do a hell of a lot more than that.

The people in that nightclub in Florida—a gun-free zone by state law—had absolutely none. No chance at all.

I don’t want my daughter ever to be stuck in that kind of situation. No one should ever have to die like that, disarmed by laws that make them helpless against those who hate them.

I want my daughter to be able to defend herself. And she’s willing to do it. Unlike so many in the gay community, she’s no hoplophobe. She’s a kind-hearted, thoughtful kid who knows that evil is out there and it’s armed—and she’s made a conscious decision not to be a victim.

She carries a Cold Steel tanto point neck knife everywhere she goes, and I’m pretty sure she will shank a bitch if she has to. I taught her how to shoot, and she’s a natural with a rifle. The girl absolutely loves blowing up milk jugs with my lever-action .30-30. When she’s old enough to get her concealed-carry permit, I plan to help her exercise her Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

I know my Ron Swanson-like libertarian rants ruffle her social-justice sensibilities to the point where she thinks I’m partially insane (she may be right, but that’s another story). Point is, I’ll fight like hell to make sure she gets to exercise ALL of her civil rights. Even if it means brutally and repeatedly pointing out that her favorite politicians aren’t really on her side if they want to take away her right to own and carry effective tools of self-defense.

I hope she appreciates it…if not now, maybe later. Heck, maybe I can get her to help me revive our area’s long-defunct chapter of the Pink Pistols. That’s a social justice cause I could get behind. And it would be a great excuse (not that I really need one) to talk guns to everyone, all the time. And get out to the shooting range. Let’s not forget that.

Recommended For You

40 Responses to Orlando’s Friendship Square: An Armed Citizen’s Experience

  1. I’ve made a standing offer elsewhere to any gay/lesbian/trans who wants to get an intro to guns in Colorado Springs to contact me; I’ll repeat it here.

    • Have you considered that you’re just arming more hardcore, firearms infringing liberals with the street cred to be able to claim that “I’m a gun owner, and even I support common sense gun safety”, or whatever euphemism they’ll use for gun grabbing?

      • You’re right. Let’s cease all outreach to anyone who MIGHT be a liberal, because by promoting guns and educating them, we’re just creating more danger for our side. /sarc

      • “Teach them righteous principles and let them govern themselves.”

        It is our obligation to teach our fellow man righteous principles, including how to protect themselves. It is on their heads in how they govern themselves, including how they use their knowledge. We should never deny someone exposure to truth because of how we think they will behave in light of that truth.

  2. Amen, Brother. Stay vigilant. Stay prepared. Love the kiddos, even when we don’t really understand them (my son is gay and I mostly don’t get it, being rabidly hetero myself). Be the bulwark between evil and your family, between the darkness and however you define your community.

    What a great Father’s Day post. Thank you.

    • Spend more time raising your “sensitive” daughter rather than letting the freaks at the government school do so. Start by stomping on their moronic pro queer indoctrination program. by explaining to her that she is NOT a lesbian just because she doesn’t understand metrosexual boys. Perhaps get her out of the hive.

  3. Yet another wake up call.

    For all the persecution the LGBT community has had put up with, it’s surprising they didn’t arm up a long time ago. They certainly had more than enough reason.

    People that refuse to accept reality (the good and the bad) and still refuse to “burden” themselves with the responsibility of being in charge of their own protection now have yet more evidence of the ramifications of being ill-prepared for an active shooter scenario (or any other attack).

    So the question is, is maintaining the delusion that you should default your protection to the police or govt worth it? You do have another option that is legal and granted to you by the Constitution. Take control of your personal safety.

    The only thing standing in your way is hoplophobia, manufactured social stigma, and political bias.

    Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

  4. “I knew homophobia like this was out there, but hadn’t ever seen it in person.” Phobia? As in, “an extreme or irrational fear of something?” What made you think he was in fear of homosexuality? Hate? Sure. Disgust? Probably. But a “phobia?”

    When we adopt the terminology of the left, we lose the narrative completely.

    • Bingo. It’s the complete denial and downplay of the evil in some people that is most discomforting.

      People act like you have to be an alien to contemplate hurting another human. Wrong.

      The correct mindset is accepting there are some sick twisted and rational people out there that want you dead because of skin color, orientation, or even the slogan on your shirt or your haircut that day.

      Don’t dismiss evil, that just opens yourself up to a surprise attack.

      Every gun owner has accepted evil exists and we are prepared for when it pays us a visit. Don’t be a victim.

    • It is most assuredly irrational to hate homosexuals. Phobia is certainly an adequate if not accurate description. The Bible says right in it to treat others how you would want to be treated. I realize there are portions that condemn homosexuality in the old testament and thats fine but I dont believe it says to call them names or segregate them and treat them like pariahs. Dont start no sh*t wont be no sh*t is my motto…

      • It’s perspective. To the crazy person, you are the irrational crazy person.

        People need to realize the not so fuzzy reality that the most twisted minds out there are, in their own way, completely clear, rational, and logical. The only difference?

        The means in which they acquire the results they desire. Productive members of society have empathy and want an outcome that benefits themselves and the community as a whole.

        Pyschopaths do not have empathy, which is why they go straight to the path of least resistance and they also generally lack a moral compass.

        Hence why murder is their solution.

      • Christ also says that to love your neighbor is relatively easy; but to love your enemy does true glory unto G-d.

        So if G-d commands us to love those intent on doing us physical harm, even unto death; then to love those that simply choose to live by other choices than our own, should also be relatively easy.

      • So, am I now also pedophile-phobic and drug-dealer-phobic and wife-beater-phobic? I can’t disapprove of behavior without being labeled as “phobic?”

        • ” I can’t disapprove of behavior…?”

          The whole theme of acceptable social interaction is to not be critical of anything or anyone else, lest you announce your own prejudices and bigotry. Nothing can be better, or worse, than anything/one else. Everything must be acceptable, else you risk having your favorite “thing” declared untouchable and outcast.

    • I paraphrase from some actor, the shooter and the idiot in the post aren’t homophobic, they’re not afraid of anything. They’re just assholes.

      • Murder and hate are two seperate issues.

        The writer for Star Wars said it well:
        Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

        You cannot control what people choose to hate or when they will act on their feelings. The politicians and anti-gunners understand this which is why they are focusing on guns — they want to mitigate the amount of suffering that can be inflicted by that segment of psychopaths.

        The problem is instead of a better method to identify track and stop psychopathic and murderous intent, opportunity, and capability, they want to trample over a Constitutional right that is an active deterrent against psychopathic behavior and tyranny.

        The real crimes that remain at large and largely unaddressed are gun free zones, victim mentality, and media bias.

        The real reason people want to give away their right to self protection and personal responsibility is because it’s inconvenient to their lifestyle. If you carry a gun, you have less access to “fun” activities like drinking, parties, etc.

        Most people think gun owners are paranoid delusional and laugh at anyone being “situationally aware”. They think gun owners are just playing soldier. Then a mass shooting happens and it’s a big surprise. “I cannot believe this could happen,” they exclaim. Well that mentality is part of the problem.

        You have two options. Rely on the police and party on or be more aware and protect yourself.

        Sorry, but the hard truth is, we are not, nor will we ever be a utopian society where everyone gets along. Someone will always have to be there to fight off the wolves.

        But self-important sheeple that insist it’s not in their own interest to protect themselves and would rather benefit from other people’s vigilance have no room to complain when the wolves come and they were willfully disarmed.

  5. I was more upset about my right being threatened than anything when the Orlando shooting happened. I have a step daughter that has gone back an forth about being gay 3 or 4 times now. She did not cross my mind when this event happened. The only other thing I thought about was that I hoped the public would now realize that we have a real problem on our hands. As a soldier and now a veteran all too many times I have been told to keep my eye open for people who may target me. When I have explained this to people they laughed or dismissed it. Not in America they would explain. Then treat me like my tin foil hat was a size too small. We have been told to not let ourselves be easily identified for safety’s sake. We don’t tend to organize events to go stand in the road and scream about veteran’s and soldier’s rights and concerns. Now these same homicidal maniacs are targeting the Homosexuals and people are starting to see we may have a problem. So hopefully now that the people who have been hunting us are going to start hunting people everyone else cares about something will change. That is what the Orlando event put in my thoughts. I hope you are able to use this event to push advocacy in your area. In time your daughter will get over it and realize that this is part of the life in these times.

  6. So are we to piss ourselves every time someone is loud in public?
    Real mass shooters are almost always reported as calm and cool.
    Colorful story but i think there’s alot of enhanced details just to blow this up a bit.
    My opinion…..for what it’s worth, which is bupkis…..oy.

    • Disagree, pointing finger up in someone’s face other hand balled in a fist. Classic pre-attack indicators, especially from someone who is as Obama wants to call them a “justice involved individual”.

    • Nope, not enhanced. That’s exactly what happened, what I did, and what I thought at the time. When people look like they’re about to physically attack someone much smaller and weaker, I tend to take that at face value.

      Remember how the dirtbag in Orlando became enraged when he saw two men kissing? As far as I can tell, this particular nutjob in my town is at the same stage. When will he get to the calmly-killing-people-he-hates stage? (Will he ever?) I don’t know. But the point is, it’s my job (our job) to stay prepared.

  7. The tangos love to create a first-order chaos, and then plant secondary explosives to hit the first responders. So when is some d-bag going to target one of these vigil thingies? I’d never attend one, but good on the author for being there, armed, to lend some situational awareness as well as support.

  8. “I’m pretty sure this guy is going to end up in the news for murdering someone, or at least trying to.”

    I agree. Mr. Straw Hat obviously has no problem letting his emotions rule the day. Furthermore, such people (in my experience) tend to escalate and escalate and escalate. And why shouldn’t they if they never pay any penalty for letting their emotions dictate their behavior.

  9. “Maybe all I could have done was draw his fire and hope it slowed him down.”

    Or, maybe you would have drawn the fire of the cop standing near you?
    Gun out, no uniform, unknown to the cop.

    Too many verified tales of uniformed cops shooting undercover cops. You were right to do nothing. If there had been no cop, different matter.

  10. A great many teenagers are confused about a great many topics, including personal matters and especially sexuality. A parent shouldn’t accept a teenager’s proclamation of their supposed homosexuality at face value.

    Now, I’m not suggesting to shunt them off to some sketchy so-called conversion clinic. I am saying that extremely few people are genuinely homosexual. Per Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is more likely. Thus, if a teenager is confused about his or her identity, prudence would dictate providing him or her with the professional resources to explore likely causes and countermeasures, rather than seize upon a remote cause that is likely to make matters worse if it isn’t true.

    Put another way, if a teenager is oh so well equipped to assess their lifelong orientation and proceed to live their life thusly, incurring all the foreseeable consequences of it, then what should be a parent’s response if the teenager declared that they never wanted to have children? (Or that they did want to have a tattoo?)

    Would a responsible parent drive him or her to the doctor for a vasectomy or hysterectomy (or to the shopping strip fir a tattoo)?

  11. Ing drives the armed citizen debate down to one particular. Because of his choices, if something worse started happening, maybe he could have stopped it. Maybe he’d be just a speed bump, which might have done some good. Maybe nothing at all.

    BUT, he chose to try, and was allowed the choice which one thinks “choice & variety”-oriented people would understand.

    Any citizen disarmament person is free to remain unarmed, then when a scary guy in a straw hat, or a true believer in a night club happens, make due with what they’ve allowed themselves. Imposing their choice to be disarmed on others is something else. I have more respect for people who go quietly to the fate they’ve decided to accept. Sadly, too many people realize too late that deciding to do nothing for yourself – like remain disarmed and oblivious – *is also* deciding to accept the fate that comes after that. If you won’t act, you live or die entirely at the discretion of the people who would hurt you.

    The politics of this are sadly tangled. I blame The Stupid Party for driving off the civil rights / personal autonomy constituency that’s naturally part of their coalition. Letting themselves get painted as narrow-minded and reactive is bad PR – something they specialize in. Actually being those things is self-defeating.

  12. We get between those we care about and percieved danger. It’s what we do. Who we are. We can no more help that or change our way of being than hillary can stop being evil.

    • “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13, KJV, thus the anachronistic wording.

      I would like good people to be armed, that they might have another choice than simple to “lay down” their life.

  13. “He obviously had some severe rage and hatred. I knew homophobia like this was out there, but hadn’t ever seen it in person. I couldn’t help seeing my daughter as his next target.”

    “I spoke with the police officer (but only briefly; didn’t want to distract her from her job). She said the straw-hat guy was well known to the police. He reveled in disruptive behavior and was perpetually angry, but had never done anything violent. She was sure he wouldn’t come back and cause any more trouble.”

    I must have missed the part where it was verified that he was angry about homosexuals? Unless there’s more information than written or I completely missed it, this reads more like someone jumping to conclusions. Sure, be situationally aware. That is prudent. However, it seems like you jumped to a pretty big conclusion and got yourself worked up.

    • Good point. I don’t really know if he’s anti-gay — although with all the rainbow flags and gayness around, it seemed like a reasonable inference to me. Maybe he was just passionately opposed to people gathering in Friendship Square on Sundays. Either way, his behavior was alarming.

  14. Gee I guess the “L” word is OK now huh? See something say something I suppose. I’m with Jonathan-Houston. I’m not against the gay community being armed but if you vote for the hildebeast yer on yer own…heard it from black folks practically shouting “Obama isn’t taking yer guns”!

  15. Side comment…

    I’ve been in Florida a bit longer than I care to admit without applying for my state concealed weapon license. Orlando/Pulse got me off my rear end and last Monday I went down to the North Port branch and got it done. The nice lady who stepped me through the process told me that the processing delay was usually about 60 days (the law allows 90), but that since I had brought my DD214 Army discharge papers it would likely be around 30 because the paper pushers wouldn’t have to check the credentials of a concealed carry instructor.

    I gripes me to say this, as I am no friend of govt in general and firearm regulators and license issuers specifically, but this time they did a mighty fine and fast job. I applied on the 13th, the folks who issue the license in Tallahassee mailed it on the 17th, and I got it yesterday, Saturday the 19th.

    Thank you Florida. You have my grudging but HONEST admiration.

  16. I wouldn’t worry too much about hitting a moving target- anybody moving too fast to hit won’t be able to shoot in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *