Hindsight runs 20:20 in my family. My grandfather played first trumpet with a bandleader in the early part of the 20th Century. Had the opportunity to tour with him. My grandmother talked him out of it. So John Phillip Sousa went on to fame and fortune without him. My dad? He was offered 10% of a company that was going to put a Geiger Counter in a plane and criss-cross the continental US to look for uranium. The buy-in was all the money my folks had saved. They passed. The guys found the largest uranium deposits in the USA. So I’ve learned – the hard way – that my foresight is not the most reliable thing in the world. Which is why you’d think I’d be just this side of militant about carrying concealed. You’d think…
I live in a nice neighborhood in a city that used to resemble your basic, idyllic town. As a kid, I can remember walking barefoot with my sister, 10 blocks or so in a residential neighborhood, crossing a busy street, entering a Pak-A-Sak (the 1960s answer to 7-Eleven) and buying an 8 oz. Coca-Cola (with real cane sugar!), a candy bar, and a comic book or two, doing the same for my sister, and getting out of there for 50¢, tops. All unescorted. Safe as you please.
I mention this because, although I live in a relatively safe part of town, and my daughter goes to one of the best public schools in the area, I would no sooner let her walk to school than I would allow her to juggle hand grenades. Not today. Not in this day and age.
So I look at having a CHL as only a first step in my “keep my kid (and me) safe” plan. It’s an on-going project. But Livin’ Large in Louisiana (a temporary condition) is vastly different than Takin’ my time in Texas. Louisiana’s laws are founded not on the great traditions of the U.S. Constitution, or the Virginia or Massachusetts constitutions (which both influenced the U.S. Constitution, by the way).
Nope. Louisiana law is based on Napoleonic code, which from my experience is like having your governance authored by the two castle guards from the wedding scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You just never really know WHAT you’re gonna get, or what kinda weird, brain-dead, inexplicable kind of law you’ll deal with in the Sportsman’s Paradise.
[NOTE: For those not from here, Louisiana has changed her slogan over the years. At one time they even went for “A State of Excitement” but then figured out that some other state – New Mexico, I think – had already grabbed that. Local wags suggested “A State of Endictment,” but the Tourism folks nixed that.]
In Texas, you can carry, for instance, in a restaurant or other public place, as long as they don’t earn more than 50% of their daily bread by selling alcohol. That’s weird enough. In Louisiana (the last state in the Union, far as I know, to have drive-thrus that sold Daiquiris and frozen Margaritas), they don’t allow concealed carry if the establishment sells liquor, period. So if you wanna dine out, you go in defensively naked. Not a pretty picture.
But out on the street, you’re good to go. Which is why I should have been carrying last weekend, when I pulled in, in broad daylight, mind you, to a strip center anchored by one of those Michaels Stores – you know, the ones that sell all that craft stuff for beading, flower arranging, and other metrosexual pursuits. My offspring needed some materials for a school project. Now you might assume (as I did) that this shopping center, in a busy, nice part of town, is relatively safe. Did I mention that I drive a rag top Jeep, that goes sans-doors in the summer?
We pulled into the parking lot and parked by the store entrance. Not 10 feet away was a skinny guy with dreadlocks, wearing a wife-beater shirt, baggy pants and a Rasta-esque knit cap. (Yes. He was black. It’s not germaine to the story, but I knew you’d be curious. I have lots of black friends, thank you very much, and I don’t buy into racism, at all.) Just after we got out of the car, this guy launches into a very loud tirade over the phone.
And let’s just say that his side of the conversation was peppered with enough expletive-deleteds to make me wonder if he could return to he school and get his money back. He got gypped. It wasn’t so much the language – Lord knows I’ve been known to let a few fly in my day. It was the forum – a retail strip center – and the repetition. Within 30 seconds, I’d determined his cussword vocab ran the gamut of emotions from “A” to “B,” or to be more precise, from “M” to “F” (if you get what I mean, and I think you do).
His verbal assaults might have employed a limited vocabulary, but he did know how to use what he had on hand. His M-F’ing diatribe ran the table from using the term as a noun, a verb, adjectives, adverbs – Hell he even worked it in as a preposition a time or two. Strunk and White would have been speechless.
All this verbal bravura was accompanied with a waving of arms in the approved gangstaz style, with mouth frothing, eyes bulging, and a body language that said “I’d just as soon shoot yo’ wuthless ass as look atcha.”
We did not make eye contact.
My first thought was, “Oh, shit…my only child is with me, and if this ass clown’s friend shows up, there’s liable to be a re-enactment of the OK Coral, right here, right now.”
My second thought was, “Double-shit…I left my sidearm at home, where it will do me every bit as much good as not owning one at all.” All that training. All that preparedness. All for naught.
So I did what I would have done, even if I had a gun. Since retreat would have put us closer to this idiot rather than farther away, I put myself in between my daughter and the potential perp, and walked her into the store as quickly as possible, without looking as if we were running away. (No reason to attract his attention.)
Once inside, I made a beeline for one of the employees and said, “Um, you may have a bit of a problem. There’s a guy outside, pacing back and forth in front of your store, talking on a cell phone. He’s obviously upset and agitated, and he’s using some very offensive language and acting in a very aggressive manner. You might want to consider notifying the authorities, as at the very least, he’s liable to scare off some customers, if you allow him to hang out there much longer.” The clerk thanked me for reporting it, and got busy with her phone.
Unfortunately, we didn’t need but one thing, and that didn’t take us long to buy. And we had deadlines – mine for work, and hers for homework. I weighed my options – leave as quickly as possible and avoid being there should the situation worsen, or stay inside and wait for the guy to leave/shoot someone/get shot/or get arrested. Or all or most of the above.
I walked out the door to assess the situation. The guy was still there, but was pacing away from our car, and further from the store entrance. I signaled to my daughter and got her behind me, got to the Jeep, piled in as quickly as possible (which for me was PDQ – my daughter, not so much.
As I sped away, I heard more of the less-than mellifluous sounds of our gangsta friend, regaling his phone (and presumably the poor, dumb mook on the other end of the line) with more verb-tense disagreements, split infinitives, and other dialectical nightmares that would have Magoo in a major snit fit.
Discretion (and safety) being the better part of getting the Hell outta Dodge before High Noon strikes, we left, unceremoniously and unscathed. (I hate to be scathed.)
As I was leaving, I pondered the meaning of all this. I didn’t have my gun, because I had just picked my daughter up from her middle school, a “gun-free zone” (read: “target-rich environment”), natch. I could have secured the gun in the trunk, but what’s the point? I obey the law, even if I think it’s a dumb one. (This, of course, separates me from our President, who apparently thinks it’s not a violation of his oath of office to simply enforce/defend only the laws of which he approves.)
What I realized is that I have a couple of options here:
- Lobby for revisions to the gun laws that reduce or eliminate the overly-restrictive parts of the statutes, so I can carry in most places, legally
- Carry anyway and hope I don’t get caught (the old “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6” theory)
- Jump through the legal hoops and alter my plans, my carry options, and my routines, to carry as often as I can, legally
- Hope that a disaster doesn’t occur
My options suck.
For now, I’ve resolved to stick with Plan C, and start lobbying for Plan A. Not sure what kind of luck I’ll have, but the restrictions in the conceal carry laws make the practical aspects of carrying problematic.
Were we actually in any real danger? Hard to say. That’s just the kind of situation that could have gone South in a hurry. Shreveport has historically had some gang-related violence. So it’s not inconceivable. I could see a car load of pissed-off gang members pulling up and air conditioning this moron for mouthing-off. And generally when that kinda thing happens, you don’t wanna be anywhere near it. Gangstaz don’t really stop to think about things like stray bullets, trigger discipline, or gun safety.
Did I handle this the right way? Well, pilots say “any landing you can walk away from is a good one. And no offspring were harmed during the making of this Michael’s run. But it could have so easily gone the other way. Until I figure out a way to improve my divination abilities, I think I’ll stick with “caution” as my operational plan.