I went to 7-Eleven this morning and found myself standing in the checkout line behind a police officer.
Now me, I’m worried by guns. For example, whenever I stand next to a police officer in a 7-Eleven checkout line, I can actually break a sweat seeing the gun he or she is carrying. The way I did this morning. Those automatics, up close, are bigger than I’d imagine. I wonder if it’s difficult to hold them up while you’re shooting. That weight, I think, would be hard to deal with, and then accuracy, or the lack of it, would seem to follow from you not bearing the weight easily.
But there’s something that can make me start sweating even faster than standing behind an armed police officer in a 7-Eleven checkout line. With the new law here, I could be in that line with someone carrying, unbeknownst to anyone, a pistol just like the one this officer has. Not being able to see it, but imagining it, that’s scares me more.
Which is not to say I’d be happy to know the people around me in that checkout line were carrying guns. I dread the day that folks here in Hawai‘i will be open-carrying weapons like they do in, say, Texas. I don’t think I’d leave my house anymore.
So what about that non-law enforcement person in the 7-Eleven line? If he is carrying a gun the size of the ones the police carry. Can he handle that gun easily? Deal well with its weight? Can he sight accurately? If he decides someone in 7-Eleven needs shooting, will all the rest of us be in danger of getting shot because this guy doesn’t really know what he’s doing but somehow managed to get a license to carry?
I have a friend, Alex, who’s in law enforcement. He carries a gun. Not just when he’s on duty, but all the time. It’s a requirement. When he’s off-duty, he has it on him somewhere. I never asked him where because I don’t want to know that. I sweat less not being aware of the exact location. The funny thing is, he hates guns. Not afraid of them, mind you, he just doesn’t care for them.
Whenever we get together, I always think about the fact that I’m sitting with someone who could shoot me or anyone else in the blink of an eye. I’ve never asked him about it, but I always wondered. Does he think, in a situation that might call for it, that he’d do anything he could to avoid using a weapon he didn’t want to have on him in the first place? Or would he choose the shooting option as quickly as the situation would warrant?
I haven’t since him recently, but I’m sure this new law must be making him crazy. Alex told me long that he believed anyone who isn’t trained, and trained well, should never be allowed to own a gun. Just taking a gun safety course, he said, and going to the range for a few hours should not qualify anyone to be armed, and mental stability, he noted, is a fragile thing. Any kind of trauma, for instance, might push anyone with a gun past rational thought.
So back to my story about this morning. The line is moving along, and when we get to the counter, the officer turns and opens the window to grab a hot musubi. To my surprise, this officer is one of my former students. I don’t want to surprise him by saying his name too loudly, so in a very natural, normal voice I say, “X, is that you?”
He turns and recognizes me instantly. Normally, when I meet a former student, I hug that student. It’s a very Hawai‘i thing. But I wasn’t sure of the protocol here, and I for sure didn’t want it in any way to seem like I was reaching for his gun, so I stuck out my hand and we shook.
We chatted for a few moments until we split up at the registers. He finished paying first, and as he left the counter, he called out a goodbye to me. Through the glass, I watched him and that big, bit gun disappear.
I know most people in all branches of law enforcement, over the course of their entire career, are never in a situation where they have to fire their weapons. Is that going to stay true here?
That student, I hope, will never have to use that gun. But in the days to come, with more and more people roaming the streets armed, I do wonder if there will be a new trend where more law enforcement people do have to fire their weapons?