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There’s a thin line between having your gun seen and brandishing it. The distinction is usually in the eye of the beholder – and, as James “Junior” Swift has found out, the local prosecutor. “Swift was facing the charge (unlawful weapon use) after being involved in an altercation last November when he was accused of reaching into his car and putting his gun in his waistband following an argument about moving his car at a gas station.” Setting aside for a moment the wisdom of Mexican carry . . .

Swift had a license to carry a concealed weapon. At issue was whether he deliberately displayed the weapon in a angry or threatening manner, a legal requirement for the charge.

He could have simply reached into the car and tried to, um, “holster” it on the down low, but was inadvertently seen while doing it. Then again, he may have made an open display of grabbing his gun and tucking it in his Levi’s to let all parties involved know he was arming himself. My money’s on the latter.

In any case, says the prosecutor just decided he didn’t have enough evidence to try Swift and dropped the charge.

“This is a victory for second amendment rights,” said Allen Moss, Swift’s lawyer. “It’s a victory for those that support conceal-carry law. This gentleman put his freedom and reputation on the line to stand up for his rights, and we think that’s admirable.”

Yeah, Junior sounds like a regular Rosa Parks. Whatever happened, we’ve written about cases where the mere presence of a gun has allowed the user to avoid bigger, nastier confrontations. Despite the bleating of the blood-in-the-streets crowd, guns are every bit as likely to derail a bad situation as escalate one, letting a potential attacker know the would-be victim has the means to defend himself (or herself). Which brings the question, have you ever “shown” your gun to someone that needed to see it?

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  1. No, and I would not. At all cost, I would disengage (unlike a certain Mr Z. from Florida).

    Exhibiting while staying in the area where the argument took place is calling for trouble. Things can only escalate from there.

    “Oh yes, you’ve got heat? Well, so do I…” (And so on and so forth).

    • +1
      Just go get your gas somewhere else.
      I’m sure we’ll all be citing this “Mr. Z” situation for years to come.

    • At all cost, I would disengage (unlike a certain Mr Z. from Florida).

      Yup, being jumped from behind while walking to you car is a “failure to disengage”. I seriously hope that every jerk spouting off that crap ends up in the same position as Zimmerman and realizes that it’s not so funny when you’re the one being lynched for daring to fight off someone trying to murder you.

      • I think the point is that he failed to disengage when he lost track of the person he was following, before he left the safety of his car.
        I don’t think he should face criminal liability (especially not the farce of a 2nd Degree Murder charge), but I think he shares at least some moral culpability for Martin’s death, since he was the one who initiated the contact when he had no good reason to do so.

        • This morning’s update on the Zimmerman story is that his great-grandfather was black, making Zimmerman a black-latino-anglo-american.

  2. Show? Nope; FL has laws against “brandishing” and I don’t have the moolah for a good defense.

    Hint? Never been in a situation where I had to but I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.

  3. NO.

    Brandishing is a foolish thing under nearly any circumstance.A firearm for civil carry is intended for last-ditch self defense.Provoking a fight doesn’t fall under that definition, and in fact carrying a pistol imposes the responsibility to avoid conflict wherever possible. I do not believe “Duty to Retreat” should ever be imposed by a government body or by law, but that is the proper attitude to take in any situation where someone gets in your face trying to provoke a fight.

    So what the other guy called your wife out her name or cut you off in traffic.Proving your “manhood” by killing the vulgar fool won’t do much besides land you in prison, and your assets and money in the hands of the departed’s family in the wrongful death suit to follow.

    • My brother did show his gun once. Story as he told me: He got home about 1 a.m with his girlfriend. Apartment complex in Mesquite, TX. Six young men – teenagers – dressed in white t-shirts and khakis. When he got out of the car they were walking toward him. The lead was walking about 20 feet ahead of the other 5 (the 5 stayed in a tight group) and all were heading straight for my brother. They never said a word. When the Lead “Dog” got about 20 feet, my brother drew his pistol and put it at Low Ready Position. The Lead “Dog” looked at my brother and did a right turn and kept walking and never said a word. The group followed the leader and they never said a word. My brother watched them as they got together at the end of the parking lot by the dumpsters and talked amongst each other and then left. My brother said it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. So it could have just been some kids at 1 a.m out for a walk. Small apartment complex – my brother says he did not recognize any of them from the complex and certainly not from his building. So, should he have not shown his gun?

      • Hi frankgon4,

        I think your brother and his girlfriend should have gotten back in the car and either gone to her place, somewhere else or driven around for a half hour or so before returning for two (2) reasons.

        1. The T shirt gang already knows which complex your brother lives in and what car he drives. No need to show them which apartment.
        2. Lead Dog ” Officer, I was just walking across the parking lot and this guy pulled a gun on me. I think he was going to rob me, but I ran like hell and called you.
        Officer ” Did you get a good look at him?
        Lead Dog “Yea and this is his car.
        Officer ” Can you describe the gun?”
        Lead Dog ” Well it was a black auto.”
        Officer calls in auto tag #.
        Officer and Lead Dog go to brothers apartment.
        Officer ” Mr. Brother, this man says you pulled a gun on him.”
        Brother ” I was afraid he was going to harm us.”
        Officer ” Did he threaten you in any way?”
        Brother ” Well, no but it was late and he had a bunch of guys with him. ”
        Lead Dog ” He’s lying! I was alone.”
        Girlfriend ” I saw them too.”
        Lead Dog ” She’s lying too. She wasn’t even there. There were some guys walking behind me but they were way behind me and I didn’t even know them.”
        Officer ” I don’t know who’s lying. But Mr. Brother, you did threaten this man with your gun and without provocation.
        It is my duty to inform you that you have the right to remain silent.”

        My very humble advise is never expose your gun until you are ready to fire it. If at this time the situation de-escalates and you are alone, leave the area asap and dial 911 to report. Then meet the police back at the sceen.
        If there are witnesses, dial 911 to report and talk to as many witnesses as possible. If they can’t wait for the police, try to get as many names and #’s as possible.

        I don’t believe threatening a person is a good idea under any condition. Always keep in mind if there is no immediate fear of death or bodily harm and pull a gun you are the aggressor.

        My gun only leaves my pocket when I feel justified in pressing the trigger.

        Just some friendly suggestions.

  4. yes, 15 years ago was at an ATM late at night downtown detroit a car came from behind with some occupents that were eye -ballin me and believe me when i started to shit myself …took a breath..and I just prenteded to stretch my arms upward which raised my coat which exposed my “friend” they threw the car in reverse and i got the heel out of dodge…I since then have never used another ATM and also went straight home with no side tracking after the hockey,baseball games….

    • Never used an ATM since? At night, or always? If never, your a little paranoid. Pretty sure at at a dead ATM at 1PM is just so dangerous

  5. No, but I would draw under the right circumstances. I’ll never willingly get into a shouting match with someone over a traffic related incident or something stupid like that.

    For me to draw I’d have to be extremely confident that I was about to be the victim of an armed robbery, gang beatdown or something similar.

    • +1

      I would also add that many an attack that fully justifies lethal force does not require one to pull the trigger. The point is to stop the attack with least chances of harm to yourself. Potential harm not only includes what the attacker is doing but also includes what a local prosecutor might lavish on you.

      If you (justifiably) draw your gun and point at the criminal (without firing) and the criminal immediately turns and runs away, you have accomplished your objective. And if an overzealous prosecutor presses the case anyway, the prosecutor will have a very hard time convincing a jury that you are a “loose canon” when you demonstrated admirable restraint and chose not to fire your pistol.

  6. No. Like a lot of other states, Washington has laws against “brandishing”, and I don’t want to deal with that.. The gun comes out if there’s a threat of grave bodily injury or death.

  7. “Mexican Carry”? Are you shitting me?

    I don’t care if it’s accurate slang or not. You’re supposed to be an authority, a figure, a representative of the gun world.

    I’ve bragged about this website to friends. I’ve referred people here. I just posted on a forum listing this website as a great resource for real information and you post “Mexican Carry”?

    Guess I better go throw out all my holsters.

    • I’m not sure I understand. Are you upset about the use of the term “Mexican Carry” or because you think the author is advocating the use of same?

    • A) it IS a historical term.

      B) if you read Massad Ayoob’s work, it was, at one time, the choice method of carry in Mexico for otherwise law-abiding citizens who simply would not abide the abridgement of their right to bear arms. They carried that way so if the Federales thought something was up, the person could ditch the gun and not get busted with a holster after the fact. In other words, it was used to oppose unjust laws.

    • A) it IS a historical term.

      B) if you read Massad Ayoob’s work, it was, at one time, the choice method of carry in Mexico for otherwise law-abiding citizens who simply would not abide the abridgement of their right to bear arms. They carried that way so if the Federales thought something was up, the person could ditch the gun and not get busted with a holster after the fact. In other words, it was the choice carry method for opposing unjust laws.

  8. This is where states would benefit to have laws on the books stating that a legally holstered weapon seen by another cannot be considered brandishing.

    There are a few cases that I can think of (similar to Ready, Fire, Aim) where “showing” the firearm can have the effect to de-escalate the confrontation. Though I agree with others that keeping it hidden until go time is the best default strategy.

    • Of course, if it doesn’t work to deescalate, then what? You’ve just made an implicit threat, arguably an escalation.

    • Texas has it on the books that for it to be brandishing, there has to be an “intentional” failure to conceal. The thing is, Texas also has on the books “threats as justifiable force” for those incidents where a mob might otherwise be dissuaded.

      While CarlosT has a valid concern, from a legal perspective (at least here) as long as you didn’t initiate, you should be in the clear. Of course that may be of little comfort when that mob decides it has more members than you do bullets, but that’s a tactical discussion for another time.

      • The tactics are my main concern. If your attempt to intimidate doesn’t play, then you’ve got to decide where you’re going to go from there. Do you take a step further and draw? Do you try to play it off as a joke?

        Unless you’re open carrying, leaving the gun concealed until a real, credible threat emerges avoids these awkward situations. The gun only comes out when it needs to. It’s there to be used, not for show.

        • On general principle, I completely agree. Gun does not see daylight if it’s not gonna get used.

          To answer your original question though (what happens if it doesn’t de-escalate?), if the intimidation doesn’t work and you hadn’t planned to follow through to follow through with actually clearing leather, then A) you are terrible at contingency planning and B) you had no business brandishing in the first place.

          I’m with Todd in that I can see (admittedly very, very rare) cases where simply showing that you have the means to defend yourself is sufficient. At the same time though, you still have to remain consistent with rules of engagement for drawing your weapon:

          De-escalate first

          Only show the gun when there is a credible threat

          Be damn well sure you’re gonna follow through if the situation gets worse

          And for f*ck’s sake, reread the part about de-escalating first.

    • Utah also just recently started working on a statute that would protect anyone with a CFP who accidentally gets “made” by printing or whatever. I think it specifically says something about it not being a crime, and police cannot harass you or cite you for it. We’ll see if it gets passed.

  9. I have been open carrying when I used an ATM and a car pulled up behind mine. All 4 occupants started to open the door to get out, but when they saw my firearm, they stopped. At the time, I thought they were just freaked out by the gun and I finished my transaction and left. But after I had pulled out, they didn’t go use the ATM. Instead, they peeled out at high speed and left as well. The car was filled with 4 big guys. I certainly would’ve been in a bad position had they gotten out of the car and chosen to confront me. I’m not saying I know for sure that open carrying saved me from a crime being attempted against me, but I do know there was a decent chance it did, and it made me glad I was open carrying that day.

  10. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing about it in a public forum. I would just go on about my business, happy in the knowledge that nobody got shot.

    • Ralph nails it. That said, I do believe there many cases each year where a display of a firearm stops a crime or intended crime immediately with no shots fired or police involvement for that matter. FLAME DELETED

  11. In 2009, I was approached at night on my way to my car in a parking lot where I worked. I could tell by the footsteps (which started as soon as I was far enough from the door that I couldn’t get back to it before they intercepted me) that it was 2 people, who then fanned out once they were about 10 yards from me.

    I looked when I heard their footsteps separate and saw one had a length of what looked like pipe, but as most of the light in the lot was coming from the store sign, I could only make out a basic silhouette.

    I fanned my jacket back and put my hand on the butt of my Glock 19 while still walking towards my car. I turned my head to look at the one to my left, wanting to know if he had a weapon. The one on my right must have seen my gun and said “asshole.” When he said that, the one I was looking at looked at him, and they both ran away.

      • Yea, I was actually about to draw when I was seeing if the other one was armed and they ran off. I didn’t want to draw before I knew who was the biggest threat. The one on the right did an extremely fast risk assessment, thankfully, and my gun never made it out of the holster.

        Funny thing, they didn’t call the cops and complain about someone brandishing a gun. It must have something to do with the felony they were attempting.

        • “It must have had something to do with the felony they were attempting.”

          Everything I read in your posts suggest to me that these were career criminals. Probably at least one had a fairly long sheet.
          Calling the police would not be a consideration for this type. They are more concerned with avoiding the police.
          My guess is as soon as they broke off from you they were looking for a new target and never gave you another thought.
          They may not have seen your gun.
          Just knowing that you were aware of them combined with fanning back your jacket and placing your hand on your hip (?), would probably be enough to send them looking for a softer, more oblivious target.

  12. OK, this happened a long time ago, and admittedly, I would do things differently today. But here goes:

    I was driving home from a nice day at the beach and, when I got to the highway off-ramp, a dude in a box van pulled out onto the off-ramp from the grassy area where he had been (illegally?) parked. I had to lock up my brakes in order to not hit him. My car was pretty good for an “island car”, but it did not handle very well (it was an early 1980s Honda) – and it spun out of control when I slammed on the brakes. I regained control as I passed him and gave him the finger and a few choice words. For some dumb reason that I don’t quite understand today, I pulled over and got out of my car. He did the same and started running at me with a stick / club / bat / pipe of some sort (my memory has faded on exactly what it was he was wielding). There was about 50-75 yards between us and he was running at me with the bat (or whatever it was) over his head – yelling the whole time. I reached in my car and grabbed my pistol and held it off to my side – where he could pretty clearly see it. Realizing that he had fucked up by bringing a bat to a gun fight, he immediately stopped running, and, with a somewhat dejected look on his face, dropped his bat. Kind of reminded me of the coyote in the roadrunner cartoon – when he realizes that he can’t catch the roadrunner. He had a few more choice words for me, but then walked back to the box truck. Somehow in all this I managed to record his license plate, but I don’t remember exactly how or when. I raced home and called the cops and reported the incident – wanting to have my name in the “victim” section of the report! The cop came over to my apartment and took a report, and told me where the dude lived.

  13. No. If it comes out it will be barking. I “Mexican carry” a Kel-Tec fairly often. I love the belt clip they sell for them.

  14. If I were to show my gun, it would be on the way to shooting my attacker. If he sees it, backs down and leaves me alone before I pull the trigger, I would let him go because he would no longer pose a threat.

  15. No, but I’m lucky- genetics put me in the top 1% for size, and I don’t live in a rough neighborhood.

    Even though I’ve never had to do it myself, I understand that there are times when flashing- or drawing- is the least-bad option on the table, even if you’re risking a brandishing charge. I’d rather be arrested than stabbed.

  16. I have in fact let someone see my gun.

    Someone was asking way too many questions regarding security at my brother’s home and his schedule and the motorcycles and such he keeps in his garage.

    I took off my jacket and the questions stopped and the home has been left alone.

    I never touched my weapon, I never threatened anyone, I never even mentioned the gun, nor did he.

    He however, was eventually arrested for breaking into a jewelry store and cutting himself badly enough on the glass that he had to be taken to the emergency room before he bled out.

  17. I’ve had to “show” my firearm only once, and even having said that I wouldn’t call it “showing”. I would say that I was preparing to draw my pistol, causing it to become visible.

    The incident occured at a gas station in VA around midnight (I was forced to stop or run out of fuel) as I was driving across the country. I was unfamiliar with the area ,but I chose to stop at the most well lit gas station I could see from the interstate. After pulling in, I did a quick visual survey of the whole area and didn’t see a soul. So as I stood pumping gas and generally feeling a bit anxious about being so isolated and exposed. Just as the thought had crossed my mind, two men, one carrying what appeared to be a large pipe came from the dark side of the building and began approaching me. I put the pump and car between myself and them and stared them directly in the eyes so that there was no mistaking that I was aware of their presence. When they continued they’re approach I shouted to them to stop, then took a step back from the hood of my car. They didn’t stop, so seeing no other option I flung my jacket back and gripped my pistol, preparing to draw it if they came closer (They were at this point 25-30 feet away). That did the trick. Once they saw my posture, they quickly decided that there were probably softer targets elsewhere and expediently left in the opposite direction.

    • this is not a statement on whether what you did was right or wrong cause I probably would have done something similar, but in VA handling a firearm in public is considered brandishing unless you are using it aka shooting in self defense.

      • That isn’t brandishing.
        From what he’s posted, his actions were preparatory to using his firearm in self defence & thus justified.
        Or are you saying it was brandishing because he didn’t shoot them before they had time to retreat?

  18. Dan, if you can do it, why do I catch such flack when I do?

    “Despite the bleating of the blood-in-the-streets crowd, guns are every bit as likely to derail a bad situation as escalate one, letting a potential attacker know the would-be victim has the means to defend himself (or herself).”

    ***guns are every bit as likely to derail a bad situation as escalate one***

    Are you basing that on your own common sense and best judgment? I have no problem with it, I’m just curious.

    • I think Dan based it on research done on this topic, not on knee jerk generalizations which don’t match the data, like someone else we know.

    • In all honesty, Mike, it sounds like a judgement call to me. Yes, I know you make those too. The difference is that his judgement call is more in line with “what we’ve heard” or “accepted knowledge,” so it’s easier to accept. We hear far more stories about “I displayed my weapon and the goblin turned tail” than we do stories of “I displayed my weapon, he pulled his, and we had a gunfight at the OK Corral.” Your judgement calls often run directly counter to the “accepted knowledge,” so you are asked for backup information, which you never seem to provide.

      Let me give you a non-gun example. Most people exceed the speed limit (even by a small margin) on a regular basis. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. So were you to come along and say, “As a matter of fact, most people obey the speed limit most of the time,” you would be asked to back that up with data, because it runs counter to “what we all know” from experience or anecdote. On the other hand, if you were to come along and say, “I was doing 10 over and getting passed like I was standing still,” nobody would question it, because we’ve all been there or know someone who has.

      See how it works? The burden of proof is on the outlier, not on the accepted knowledge.

  19. I have had to show my pistol only once. I was in my truck at a very nice park located here in NC and I was enjoying the sunlight and the river that ran by the park. While I was sitting there I had both of my windows down and listening to the radio and reading up on some things from work. I was still very aware of my surroundings and was well aware of the slightly unkept “gentleman” walking up behind my truck. He approched my truck from the passenger side and started to speek with me and was asking if he could borrow 20 bucks. I told him that I didnt have the money and if he would to please step away from my truck. He kept asking me for money and started to get a little belligerent with me and he tried to open my truck door. I told him that would not be a good idea and he then tried to get in my truck, I could see something in his hand that looked like a knife but I am not 100% sure that was it. When he got the door open he was greeted by my pistol. He slammed the door said he was only looking for money and ran off. I promptly cranked my truck and left. I was very shocked by this because this was a very nice place on a nice side of town but it just goes to show it can happen in the least likely places.

    • I did have a similar incident last year. I pulled off the road and pulled in to a gas station. It was a hot day and I had my windows down. I was on my cell phone in the car when a man in Shirt and jeans came to my car and asked for money. I indicated I was on the phone and he leaned into the passenger window. I now think he was going for change I had on the console, but at the time I just saw him coming through the window. I drew my pistol (I have a holster mound in the car) and he withdrew rather quickly.

    • First of all this is wrong: “I have had to show my pistol only once.”

      Take responsibility for your decisions. Don’t blame it on circumstances. You CHOSE to show your pistol, isn’t that right?

      Secondly, what the hell does that mean exactly? Did you draw down on the man? Did you point your gun in his face? Or did you simply pull your jacket back to SHOW him the gun?

      • What are you suggesting Mike?
        That the only action once use of a gun becomes part of one’s defence should be that of shooting the aggressor?

        What do YOU suggest someone does when faced with an armed criminal?
        Oh & if you think a knife isn’t worthy of being responded to with a firearm, I suggest you use your friend Google & look at images brought up using the phrase “knife wound”.

  20. I don’t recall ever “showing” a firearm out in public, but have had to more than once while on my own property. I won’t go into detail, other than no one was shot, no one was arrested, and I don’t believe I even raised my voice, and the problems that caused me to regularly home carry at that time eventually solved themselves when the lead perpetrator of most of the neighborhood’s problems took his own life.

  21. Not really in public, but I can home from work early one day, opened my garage door parked my truck inside, left the garage door open because it was summer time here in Dixie.
    Came inside, sat down and was watching TV and got up to get a drink of water when I noticed from window in the door leading out from the inside of my house to the garage there was some peckerhead inside my garage looking around. I went got my 1911 and went back to the garage door and opened it and chambered a round and asked this guy, “what the fuck are you doing in my garage and it better be good”. He stuttered and stammered like some retard and I told him to get the hell out and if I ever catch you back in my garage it will be the biggest mistake he ever made. He backed up real slow and I told him to run! He hauled ass like Bo Jackson.
    I called 911 and told them what happened and they sent a deputy out and he found the guy and had a nice little talk with him…

  22. Twice, sort of. As background, I’m an instructor and a competitor and have been around thousands of people with guns. So, I went for a long walk up a canyon with a girlfriend and her dog. On the way down, we met a hunter (turkey season was open) who began to eye the girl. He was one of only 2 armed people I ever met who creeped me out. Had a shotgun. The dog, too; she was an affable husky who never failed to be friendly, and she was growling at this guy. (You hear about this. First and only time I witnessed it. That dog knew something.) So I let the wind brush back my shirt. I was Mexican carrying a semi-auto. The dog revealed teeth. He left. When we went down, I kept us off the trail and took a less ambush-able route.

    The other time, my neighbor was a ranger. Tiny enclave of 8 houses, a couple miles from town. He got crosswise with a guy who had recently finished 7 years for 2nd degree murder. The guy came out to our little compound to rage at my neighbor, out in the street that ran past our places. It looked to me like he was working himself up to act. He had a rifle in the truck, and I’m not sure what else. (Yes I know felons don’t get to, etc etc, but in remote parts of the west that doesn’t seem to get enforced as much as it might be elsewhere.) So I went out to my car and opened the passenger side. I stood in the angle of the open door with my hands out of sight, near the glove box, which as a matter of fact was open and did contain a 1911A1. But hands and pistol were not visible, just a person standing tensely in a cover angle of the car. So the guy shouted a few more sentences and left; he showed us by chirping tires. I guess I ‘d put that one down to postural deterrence, rather than actually “showing.”


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