Pistol Packing in Public

3 min readJul 5, 2022


I remember the first time.

It was in an outdoors equipment store, not really a surprising place to see a guy packing a gun.

He looked like a normal fellow, with jeans, strangely pressed in a pleat, a forest green LLBean shirt, and scuffed ankle-high brown shoes. But, his belt held a black holster containing an automatic pistol, probably a Glock, not the typical Colt 45 of my Army days. He was headed toward the men’s department that featured various types of sporting garb.

New hiking boots were high on my shopping list that day, but, after encountering this pistol-packing-papa, I rushed to the door, heart pounding. It was fight or flight — and I fled.

Arriving back at my car in the third row of the parking lot, I stopped to consider my flight? What the hell is wrong with me? After all, unlike now, shootings had not reached epidemic proportions in 2019. So why the panic? Hiking shoes had become low on my priority, compared to preserving my personal safety.

Why would this guy carry a gun?

Could he have been a plain clothes cop?

Did he just want to show off, to exert his macho image? Look at me, I’m in charge. You’d better not challenge me because I might blow your brains out.

Had he been threatened; perhaps feeling he needed self-protection from a possible assassin?

Was he trying to make a political statement — a visible message that he supported the second amendment?

Did he fashion himself as a protector of innocent people, those who might be in danger if some evil person entered the store and started shooting?

Was he a well-dressed thief ready to use his weapon to hold up the store — or a disturbed person ready to shoot customers like me in a fit of rage?

There may be a lot of other reasons this fellow was armed, but these rattled my brain.

Some will say this armed person had a right to protect himself, even the right to protect others. But, I have the right to feel safe in stores, on the street, in the office, in the school, in public places.

Yesterday, I went to Monticello, the local historical home of Thomas Jefferson, to buy a plant in their gift shop. Much to my surprise, one had to go through a security line to visit the site or the gift shop. How sad that we have to go so far to protect ourselves.

During my time in the Army, there were young men in my unit that I would not have trusted to be alone on the streets with a high-powered weapon because of their relative lack of skills or the attitude they displayed. Sure, people like that were few and far between, but some looked unreliable to me. What about the general gun-owning population? My bottom line — I don’t trust the average American to have the good judgment required for carrying a powerful weapon in public — especially now that so many people are angry.

So what is a person to do? Some would say, be courageous, live life normally. I choose a different path, a prudent path.

I will be alert to identify people packing weapons.

I will not attend events where armed people are allowed or welcome.

If I see an armed person, I will vacate the premise or the meeting.

I will not carry a firearm to protect myself or my family unless society devolves into chaos.

This means not attending concerts or other large meetings in certain states. This means avoiding certain towns and cities. This means analyzing the risk in attending any event, anywhere.

These rules obviously affect my freedom of movement, but they will help protect my family and me.

We all have a right to feel safe in our society, but that freedom is being compromised by an American culture gone awry.

Am I too paranoid?

For more information about the author, see www.handontheshoulder.com




Grant Tate is an author, thought leader, confidential advisor, and idea explorer in Charlottesville, VA. His latest book is “Hand on the Shoulder.”