I had a situation happen to me recently that led me to question whether or not I had the proper mindset for concealed carry.
I was driving down a busy city street and as I approached an intersection, I accidentally cut too close in front of a white panel van. I waved “sorry” to the guy behind me, who was clearly upset and yelling at me through his windshield.
Then, sitting there at the stoplight, I hear a loud pounding on my drivers-side window, and it’s the guy from the van who is standing next to my window screaming at me. And as I’m sitting there, with my concealed carry handgun right next to me tucked between the seat and the console, I just keep telling the guy “I’m sorry,” in the hopes he’ll just get over it.
Well unfortunately, he didn’t. He ended up following me, and all the while I’m thinking, “Is this really happening? Is this guy really following me?” When it became clear to me he was, I decided that rather than head home (which is where I was originally heading), I headed back to my office building, which has a security guard stationed at the entrance [in hindsight, I should have headed straight to the nearest police department while dialing 9-1-1, but hindsight’s great that way].
Once I got to the office, jumped out of my car and headed inside to the security desk, the guy finally sped out of there – all the while cursing me, and finally screaming out his window, “I’ll find you.”
The second guessing
Almost as soon as the incident was over, I began to second-guess my actions. First was my initial and continuing disbelief that this was really happening. That some nutjob was first getting out of his van at an intersection to scream at me through the drivers side window, and then that the nutjob actually continued to follow me.
Second was my panicked choice to drive to my place of work once I realized that he was, in fact, following me, where he could certainly find my car and possibly wait for me at some later date with who knows what intentions.
Third was my decision to not be more aggressive with him when he first approached my window, letting him “see” my handgun and forcefully telling him to “back off.”
Situational awareness is the key
The first issue, that disbelief that this was actually happening, is actually very common.
In the aftermath of public shooting incidents, survivors will often say they thought the noise they heard was fireworks or backfiring, rather than recognizing immediately that the noise was gunfire. There’s an initial disbelief that their worst nightmare could actually be happening. This to me is key to the mindset question – it’s being in the “yellow” state of situational awareness and moving rapidly to red as required.
As for my choice of driving to where I work, I think it’s related to the state of disbelief and panic I was feeling because of my lack of proper situational awareness.
I admit I was only thinking partially clearly in that moment. At least I didn’t drive to my home, I drove to somewhere where I knew there would be people, but I could have picked a less identifiable option than the place I work if I had been more calm and had been able to focus and reason.
As for the third, I still believe I did the right thing by trying to de-escalate the situation rather than escalate it by exposing my handgun. The guy was clearly enraged, and who knows if he, too was carrying and if that would have just set him off? Also, I did not at that moment fear for my life, even though I was scared.
One of the 4 Rules of Gun Safety is never let your muzzle cross anything you do not want to destroy. I felt I was in the “safety” of my locked car at a very public (and crowded) intersection. Right or wrong, it was what I believed in the moment.
In the end, I was able to learn a lesson about myself and my need to focus on improving my situational awareness and mindset. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another to practice and live it. I’m working on the latter.
Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.
Some additional reading: