It was a typical coffee gathering for us “old/retired guys.” A nice Wyoming spring day outside with another semester and another school year coming to an end. It’s difficult not to feel optimistic about the world when the stars align like this every year in early May.
Yet, in this moment of everyday euphoria, it all came crashing down when a 30-some stranger (I’d never seen before) walked into the coffee shop with a gun strapped to his hip like he was walking out of a 1950s Hollywood Western movie set—I don’t doubt that’s how he saw himself too.
This has happened to me before when I was in a Rock Springs Loaf & Jug store; another time at a Walmart in Riverton. Each time, my reaction is the same—just leave. Whatever I’m doing at that moment, I’m not doing any longer, I am simply getting out of that setting as quickly as I can without causing others to panic.
It’s one thing if a police officer is in the same space as me knowing they are armed. Although there are no guarantees even with armed police officers, at least I know they are thoroughly vetted when it comes to their line of work and carrying a weapon. With “Joe Cowboy” walking into a public space with a gun, I have zero knowledge of the rationale behind his self-appointed armed status.
In such instances I’m not going to stick around to find out whether he’s simply some paranoid, insecure White dude who needs to announce to the world that he is carrying a gun and is here to save us all, or he is some insecure White dude with a chip on his shoulder and has intentions of using the gun indiscriminately in the form of a mass shooting. If all I have is one’s appearance to go on, I’ll always error to the latter.
Hanging around to discern the intentions of an armed stranger is just another version of Russian roulette in my book.
And unless you’re a fool or have had your head in the sand lately, my reaction shouldn’t seem too extreme giving the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.
And, while I’m here… fuck the N.R.A. and fuck the 2nd Amendment, period.