Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 38 Should I Shoot? Lunch Date Gone Wrong
- Ep. 39 Should I Shoot? ‘You Mad, Bro?’
- Ep. 40 Should I Shoot? Your Carry Gun vs. the Man with the AK
- Ep. 41 Should I Shoot? Do You Carry in the Home? Do You Know the J.A.M. Calculation?
- Ep. 42 Should I Shoot? When Do You Call 911?
On a Sunday morning somewhere in Michigan, dozens of people, including you, are entering one of many suburban churches. This particular church sits on the edge of four communities, three of which are described as typical, middle-class suburbia — you know, Starbucks, indoor trampoline park, nice community college. The fourth community is a poorer, economically distressed community — roads not well kept, a few burned-out houses, lots of stray animals.
In recent months, the church, an icon in its community for more than 60 years, has endured several thefts and seen an increase in people showing up on the premises looking for handouts. As a result, while trying to meet legitimate needs in the surrounding communities, the church has just started a scratch security program to help deal with any problems or even threats that might arise before, during or after Sunday morning worship services. The small security team isn’t predisposed to assuming trouble will most likely come from the economically distressed community, but they weren’t expecting it to show up in a suit, tie and trench coat.
A little background: Michigan law requires anyone with a concealed pistol license to have permission from the church’s presiding officers before carrying concealed on premises. And, because you’re a law-abiding citizen and a faithful attendee, you obtained that very permission several months ago. You don’t always carry your single-stack 9 (with one spare mag in your weak-side pocket) in the church, but on this particular Sunday, you do. Moreover, you’ve talked to the church’s security leader about possibly joining the team and taking a shift every now and then. It seems like a good way to participate in the life of the church and you want to help. As such, you’re 10 times more vigilant than the average churchgoer, grateful to worship freely in America but also aware of recent violent incidents at other churches around the country. In short, you’re realistic about the threats.
It’s 10:39 a.m. and the service starts at 10:45 a.m. You’ve taken your seat on an aisle about 10 rows back from the front row. You have a clear view of the stage and the pulpit is just to your right. You watch other people file in and take their seats. The pianist is playing a welcome tune. People are greeting one another, getting kids situated and sipping their coffees. Then you spot a man who you don’t recognize wearing a long trench coat. He’s looking for a seat about 30 chairs to your right but in the front row. He’s also looking at the stage, looking behind him, etc. It’s a little strange but “not every trench coat means a gun is hiding underneath,” you chide yourself, trying to think the best…
Then the man takes off his trench coat, moving in such a way that you see he is not only wearing a suit and tie but, under the suit coat, is a shoulder holster with a large, semiautomatic pistol. The man folds his trench coat and places it on the seat next to him, adjusts his suit coat, trying to wrap it around him more but not actually buttoning the coat. He picks up the bulletin and looks through it, waiting for the service to start.
You immediately but nonchalantly get up, find the security team leader and discreetly let him know what you saw. He finds another security team member, reports what’s happening and then takes a seat directly behind the man with the shoulder-holstered pistol.
Then the church service officially starts. You participate in the service as you can but are quite distracted by the man who is carrying the large pistol. Thoughts of all types cross your mind: What if this man is a law enforcement officer? If so, he’s exempt from having to get permission from the church’s presiding officials. What if he’s a private citizen with a concealed pistol permit? Maybe he too has gained permission and you just don’t know about it. He’s clearly not a part of the church’s security team and his holster and apparel have not done very well concealing his pistol. What if he does something during the service, such as getting up and approaching the stage during the minister’s message?
But the service goes without incident and the man carrying the concealed pistol behaves, for all intents and purposes, like a typical churchgoer — standing when you’re supposed to stand, sitting when you’re supposed to sit, singing when you’re supposed to sing, etc.
Right at the conclusion of the service, one of the security team members approaches the man, greeting him with a friendly smile and an offer of a handshake. You discreetly make your way over to try to listen in on the conversation and possibly be of help, just in case something goes awry. The security team member who sat behind the man comes around to his front and starts an interchange:
“Hi, how are you today?” the security team member says. “My name is Bill. Are you new here?”
“No, I used to come here several years ago,” the man replies. “Just visiting today.”
“I see. Well, we are glad to have you,” Bill says. “Say, I happened to notice you’re carrying a concealed pistol. Can you tell me why you’re carrying in this church?”
Bill has a pleasant but firm look on this face. The man’s eyes widen as he hears Bill’s question.
“Oh! Well, I, uh, I have a concealed carry license and carry everywhere,” he said.
He starts pulling his jacket closed, trying to better hide the gun from view.
“I see. Well, according to the laws of the State of Michigan, you’re not to carry on church premises without permission from the church,” Bill says.
“Right, yeah, but I’ve had all the training so it’s, you know, totally safe,” the man says.
As he stammers through his answers, you see him getting a bit red in the neck and face, fidgeting more, unhappy to be confronted in this way. He stands up. Bill stays cool and collected.
“Sir, here’s what I’d like for you to do,” Bill says. “First, you should know I am an off-duty police officer and a member of the church’s security team. While we appreciate the 2nd Amendment and your desire to exercise that right, state law as it stands today prohibits you from carrying on premises without the church’s explicit permission. I’d like to ask you to leave the premises immediately.”
Bill gestures as if to show the man a path to the exit.
“If you come back — and you are welcome anytime — you are to leave your gun in your vehicle,” he says.
You’re still in the church sanctuary, watching this conversation unfold from about 10 feet away, to the back of the man but in the clear line of sight of the security team member. Dozens of people are all around, chatting with one another, oblivious to the conversation-turned-confrontation. At this point, any number of scenarios could play out.
Should I Shoot?
Scenario 1: The man puts on his trench coat and quickly and deliberately heads for an exit. He’s clearly steamed on being called out for carrying on church premises. Not knowing him or his intentions, you and Bill follow him out of the building and to the parking lot — sort of an escort out to help make the point. He turns and looks back at Bill with a scowl, shaking his head. You guess the man won’t be back. Hopefully, this situation is over, only to be brought up as a matter of training for the next security team meeting.
Scenario 2: But as he gets in his car, you see him fumbling with his coat. He puts his car in gear and the tires squeak a bit as he makes a quick backward movement out of the parking spot. He somewhat erratically drives toward the main entrance where you and the security team member are standing. He spins the steering wheel with one hand and brakes hard, putting the car about 50 feet in front you, driver side door toward you. He glares out his window at you both. Neither hand is visible and he just sits there for several seconds. His driving has caught the attention of others in the church parking lot and they’ve stopped to give attention to this bizarre standoff. Questions race through your mind: What is this guy doing? Where are his hands?
Scenario 3: All of the sudden, his door flings open and he steps out but stays behind his door. One of his hands is on the top of his car door; the other appears to be reaching inside his suit coat, as if going for a draw. You think back to the sanctuary: Was the gun under his right arm or his left? “His left, definitely,” you think. So, he’s likely right-handed. Which hand is reaching inside his suit coat now? His right … While you watch his hands, you — and everyone else nearby — hear his exclamation: “I know my rights! I’ve got the training! I’m not here to hurt anybody!” Then both of his arms go up in the air in the shape of a “Y” — a sign of exasperation or frustration — and he then sits down back in his car, slams the door and tears out of the parking lot. Bill is already on the phone with the local police, relaying the events as well as the man’s license plate number and vehicle description.
Should I Shoot?
While some of the man’s behaviors were bizarre and unwise, he never presented a threat with his gun or any other weapon. At one point, his driving might have been construed as hostile, but this was in a crowded parking lot with enough room between you and him to allow you to seek cover or escape.
How would any of these three situations have to change in order for you to be justified in drawing your gun and shooting?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.