Concealed guns could have killed student

As expected, gun advocates like National Rifle Association spokesman Charleton Heston and Gov. Jesse Ventura have shamelessly exploited the Littleton tragedy to extol the virtues of concealed weapons. Someone could have shot the gunmen before too much damage was done, they argued. (Ventura has since retracted his statement.) While this is true, the presence of additional shooters could just as easily add to the confusion, increase the number of shots fired and increase the death toll; nobody can guarantee the outcome. One thing is certain. Relaxing the standards for concealed-weapon permits means more guns on the streets and increased numbers of gun-related deaths by at least one: mine.
You see, I accidentally mugged a woman four years ago. It was a Sunday around dusk. There was almost no one around. I had just missed my bus and desperately needed a quarter to make a phone call — I was already going to be more than an hour late for work. After sprinting down eight or nine city blocks searching for a kind soul who might spare some change, I spotted a professionally dressed woman walking on a side street. I shouted out to her, asking her to stop.
She didn’t.
I kept running. Between breaths, I continued yelling about needing change, telephones and being late for work. In no time I caught up with her. She handed me her purse. Out of breath, I tried to explain my dilemma and how I just needed a quarter to call my boss. Then it occurred to me, what if I get the answering machine? It would sure be nice if I could call a friend for a ride, too. So I asked the nice, 30-something woman if I could have three or four quarters instead of just one.
“Take whatever you need,” she said as she stood motionless against the deserted downtown office building’s wall and watched me fumble through her purse and eventually extract three quarters from it. Mission accomplished! I gave her purse back, thanked her and sprinted off to find a telephone.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I told my roommate about my ordeal, that I realized how menacing I had appeared in the eyes of my victim.
From her perspective, she would say, “I was minding my own business when a long-haired man wearing tattered baggy blue jeans, an oversized sweatshirt, (prescription) sunglasses and a blue bandanna suddenly came running toward me. The lunatic was carrying a gym bag under his left arm like a football and was frantically yelling gibberish. He looked like he had just held up a liquor store. I was afraid. So when he got close, I shot him in self-defense.”
This is the plausible story she could have told the police if she had been legally carrying a loaded pistol. Any witness could verify this story and my life would have been legally snuffed out — all because I needed to make a phone call.
But my serendipitous thuggery tells only half of the story.
Carrying a gun for protection creates some hazards of it own. Learning how to handle a firearm often instills a sense of confidence in people. But too much bravado can be counter-productive, clouding otherwise sound judgment.
I once had a job that required me to work until midnight. Having no car, and no desire to wait for a bus, I walked three miles down a dangerous street (by Minneapolis standards) every night. Although I was able to shrug off the drug dealers and prostitutes who tried to engage me as a matter of course, I went to great lengths to avoid these encounters.
Not able to avoid everyone, I took to carrying a claw hammer with me — just in case. The confidence instilled by my claw hammer was nothing compared to carrying a gun. I can’t help but think about how I might have handled myself differently if I had been packing heat. Walking right past a stranger in the middle of the night creates a tension for both parties. I would have been tempting fate with each encounter, playing the odds and assuming the other person was one of the 95 percent who, like me, just wanted to pass by without incident. This would have greatly increased my chances of running into a genuine thug.
But this is what the concealed firearm issue comes down to: odds. Fewer firearms mean fewer opportunities for gun-related incidents to occur and especially accidents. Proponents of relaxed gun laws need to consider all the ramifications of their proposals before inundating the public with simplistic slogans. They can start by thinking twice before advocating more guns as the solution for gun-related violence.

Ed Day is the Daily’s copy chief. He welcomes comments to [email protected].