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. 43 Should I Shoot? The Trench Coat and the Crowded Church
- Ep. 44 Should I Shoot? The Car Accident and the Driver with the Pistol
- Ep. 45 Should I Shoot? Date Night Goes Wrong
- Ep. 46 Should I Shoot? The Assailant and the Attendant
- Ep. 47 Should I Shoot? Late Night Banging at Your Door
It’s 10 a.m. on a crisp, winter morning and you, your significant other and three other couples are driving in a minivan from your suburban homes into the city to hang out. The day’s downtown plans include checking out the farmer’s market, shopping in some stores in various pockets of the city, lunch at one of the popular burger joints, a tour of the city’s art institute and, if everyone is up for it, dinner at the newly opened BBQ restaurant. You arrive downtown, park in a public parking area, lock the car and begin walking.
Downtown is a mixed bag. There’s a lot of good going on in the city. Most consider these areas fairly safe despite literally being across the street from more run-down areas. But the nice areas are few and far between. As positive as things seem, the city’s rough condition does not improve in three years or even 10 years. So, there are still parts of the city — known for gangs, arson, violence, drug abuse, you name it — everyone knows to avoid.
You and one of your friends have concealed pistol licenses and both of you are carrying today. You are carrying a Glock 19 (with a round chambered, of course) inside the waistband at 4 o’clock with a spare magazine in your front left pocket. Your friend has a Smith & Wesson .38 Special in his front right pocket with a full Bianchi Speed Strip in his front left pocket. As a matter of awareness, you and your friend discuss all these facts with each other. You also go over Col. Jeff Cooper’s color codes and agree that both of you will be, at a minimum, in Condition Yellow (relaxed but aware) all day. You’re not paranoid but prepared. You’re not a tactical vigilante but a trained shooter who will find every way to avoid a problem. But you’re not afraid to defend yourself or your friends if something should happen. Like every time you holster your pistol, you hope to never have to use it.
The outing downtown starts off well and turns out to be a lot of fun. Everything your group has enjoyed so far has been within easy walking distance, but for the visit to the art institute, you decide to ride the city’s elevated train. It’s an unmanned, unattended, automatic transportation system — sort of like a string of buses that glide along an elevated rail — traveling in a loop around the city, stopping at various locations. The fare is 75 cents, whether you ride it for one minute from one stop to the next or whether you ride it all day — which some people do, either because they are homeless or bored.
Your group is walking toward the terminal. Your buddy’s in the lead and you are bringing up the rear. Everyone’s having a good time and looking forward to the train ride because it’ll take about 10 minutes for the train to get you to the side of the city with the art institute, which means you’ll get to enjoy a brief tour of some of the city while you look from your seats in the train. You all enter the terminal where your group immediately starts digging in purses and wallets for dollar bills to pay the fare. That’s when you, about to walk into the terminal door, decide to take a look over your shoulder. And that’s when you spot him: a man in hi-tops, baggy jeans and a light blue hoodie about 25 yards down the sidewalk, staring at your group. He starts walking toward you with a determined gait.
You get your buddy’s attention and nod over your shoulder.
“Light blue hoodie,” you say. “Let’s get moving.”
Your buddy gets it and immediately starts encouraging your group to engage in a bit faster movement and less conversation. Both of you have moved from Condition Yellow to Condition Orange (specific threat). Some of the others in the group quickly acknowledge the wisdom in hustling to the train. Eight loud out-of-towners with handfuls of cash deep in the city… No one panics, but the group moves with a little more gusto up the stairs to the boarding area.
Your buddy is still in the lead and you’re still bringing up the rear. At the top of the stairs, you look back and see the man in the light blue hoodie has jumped the turnstile and is beginning to ascend the same stairs you are on. He takes them two at a time.
The train is waiting, doors open and there’s hardly anyone around or on board. You and your friends board the train and you have a moment for a quick conference with your buddy on what to do. For all you know, light blue hoodie is on his way to work and wants nothing to do with you. But the purposefulness in his movements just doesn’t seem right. You and your buddy agree to have your friends sit at the end of one the train cars with you both standing nearby, creating a sort of human gate between your friends and everything else. You all get in position and the train doors are about to close when, at the last second, light blue hoodie sneaks through the closing doors on to the train. He turns and looks right at your group.
Scenario 1: The train car contains your group and the guy in the light blue hoodie. You size him up: About 5-foot, 9-inches tall, 160 pounds, stocky. You remember his deft leap over the turnstile and the two-stairs-per-step climb. Nimble. Agile. Your right hand looks like it is resting on your waist at 4 o’clock, but your thumb is actually between your waist and the grip of your pistol. If you need to, you can get your gun out in half a second. Your buddy has his hand in his front pocket, but only you and he know his hand is on his gun. Both of you are standing, holding a support bar with your weak hand as the train pulls away from the station, completely on autopilot. Both of you take occasional looks at light blue hoodie. You don’t want to stare, but you want him to know that you are completely aware of his awkward presence. The man holds one support bar in each hand while he continues to look at your group. He’s about 15 feet away.
Scenario 2: You and your buddy look at each other and you both know you need to get off the train at the next stop. The situation is just too weird and you both prefer to avoid confrontation, not aggravate it. The train plods toward the next stop, which is probably a minute or so away. You and your buddy continue to stand guard, hands on or near guns, your friends giving their full attention to the situation. The other guys in the group have moved closer to you and your buddy, just in case.
Just then, the guy in the light blue hoodie moves toward your group, slowly walking about three paces. His right hand goes into his hoodie pocket while his left hand grasps the next available support bar. His face has a smug look on it. Not quite combative or angry but not friendly. He continues to look at you and your buddy and even looks at your hands every now and again. With the man’s advance, you and your buddy now opt for a full-on stare to let him know, as best as a look can communicate it, not to mess. This is Condition Red for both of you, the identification not just of a potential threat but a potential target.
Scenario 3: The train rolls to a stop at the next terminal and the doors automatically open. You and your buddy each take a step forward to allow your group to disembark the train behind you. You keep your hands on or near your guns and your focus completely on the man in the light blue hoodie.
Your friends file out, your buddy follows, always facing the man in the hoodie, and the two of you more or less walk backwards out of the train. The man in the hoodie is smirking at you but not moving, which is a great relief. Your group walks on while you and your friend continue moving away from the train, slowly starting to turn away from the train but keeping your eyes on the man in the hoodie. The train doors automatically close and the trains pulls away, taking light blue hoodie to wherever he is going.
How would any of the scenarios have to change in order for you or your friend to be justified in drawing and firing your gun? How would you have handled any of the logistical decisions, such as whether to board the train, where to stand or whether to engage the man in conversation?
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.