What the heck, I thought as I spotted the man. Does he have a …?
He did. Two spots ahead of me in the Dunkin Donuts line was a man wearing camouflage shorts, a pocket t-shirt, and a dirty baseball cap. Around his waist was a belt, and on that belt was a holstered gun.
I’m not a gun nerd, so I can’t tell you what kind of gun it was. It had wooden grips and a clip, and it was held in place by a strap-snap combo.
I glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed the local balance of power, or maybe to see if I was the only one who missed a memo to go to brunch packing heat. The closest I’d come to being armed was the 16-foot tape measure clipped to my pocket, although, I suppose, given enough lead time I could have pulled out my Leatherman and fumbled around with it to get the knife blade out.
The gunman stepped to the counter and presented the clerk with a long list of sandwiches and coffees. Likely he was from a work site, and he’d been sent out to grab lunch for the crew. Knowing the nature of cooling coffee and sandwiches, I deduced he was working locally – and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what neighborhood in Manchester, N.H. was so bad that a guy would be worried about being lunch-jacked on a sunny Saturday mid-morning.
But there it was. And just by the simple act of bringing a gun into the mix, the man with the dirty baseball hat had become the most powerful man in the room.
New Hampshire gun laws are pretty lenient. Anyone sans felony conviction can buy a gun, load it, and carry it around openly. The only time you need a permit is if you want to keep it in your car or carry it concealed.
But you don’t see it often, or at least I don’t, and it shocks me every time. Who was this guy? How sane was he? Was he hoping someone would make his day ala Bernard Goetz? Maybe he was on edge, just a fouled coffee order away from a violent crime. In either case, there wasn’t much I could do about it with my tape measure. Had he carried a rock, a knife — heck even a sword — into the doughnut shop I’d have some chance. But a gun?
The only way I’d have some hope of defending myself, not to mention the three old ladies and the Mom with two kids behind me, would be to have a gun on my own belt. But then we’re living in the Wild Wild West, and that’s not what I signed up for. I’m paying for civilization. I’m working for civility. I live in the twenty-first century.
Very likely the man with the dirty hat was just reminding people of his rights. He wasn’t scared or “crazy”; he was just demonstrating. “Look what I can do.” It’s the same mentality that makes people feel OK about driving a Humvee in the suburbs. It’s not necessary, but, hey, why not? The Second Amendment says I can.
I have that right, too. I have a lot of rights, but I don’t feel the need to run around wagging them in people’s face. I’ll speak when I want to, protest when I need to, and defend my family when I have to. I have the power, but I don’t need to be a dick about it. I don’t need to make the people around me uncomfortable to prove my potency.
To the most powerful man in the doughnut shop: Weak.
We're better than that.