Two years ago, I was followed into a convenience store in northwest Detroit by two young men who were acting a bit too peculiar — and paying me a bit too much attention.
They didn’t do anything specific to raise my suspicion, but I’ve lived in big cities long enough to know when I ought to keep my eyes peeled. Something just didn’t feel right.
As we entered the store, one of the men followed me down an aisle; the other went down a separate aisle.
When I got to the register, one of the men stood a couple customers behind me. The other had already exited the store.
As I walked to my car, the man behind me began shouting after me, trying to get my attention. I kept walking, but also was scanning the parking lot, trying to put eyes on the man who had come out of the store before me.
That’s when I noticed “the other guy” ducking down behind some cars in front of me in the next row.
The man behind me, now just 10 or 15 feet away, continued to call out to me.
After his last shout of, “Hey!” I dropped my package and turned. I lifted my shirt so he and “the other guy” could see the HK .40-caliber handgun in the holster on my hip.
And I finally responded: “What?!”
The two men fled in separate directions.
People buy insurance for their cars or houses, even their pets — usually with the hope that they never have to use it.
People take driver’s training or go to driving school to help them navigate the hazards and bad drivers on the road. They install alarms and locks for added security at home. And they watch over their pets and keep them in their house or yards to keep them out of trouble.
I think the same way about my gun.
Those are the analogies that I used to explain to the person who asked me recently, “Why do you carry a gun?”
Then I told them about my parking lot incident.
I carry it, like insurance, hoping that I never have to use it.
But, more importantly, I train with it.
I train with it because: a) It’s the responsible thing to do. b) I like target shooting. c) If I ever do have to use it, I want to be prepared to not only deal with the split-second situation, but also to help mitigate any unintended injury to those around me.
To put it plainer, if I have to shoot, I want to hit my target — and only my target — if at all possible. I don’t want to be part of the problem of people walking the streets, shooting aimlessly with no regard for human life. We have enough of that already. We have 300-400 people killed each year in Detroit alone.
But Detroit is not alone in that problem. And I don’t just carry my weapon in Detroit. Crime happens everywhere: From the quietest, far-flung community where the jaded response of “that just isn’t supposed to happen here!” echoes; to the grittiest of urban cores where the fed-up response of “Enough!” refrains.
Unfortunately, there seem to be too many reminders of how important it is to be prepared.
James Hill is the politics editor at the Detroit Free Press. A longer version of his column was originally published in the Free Press.