Is this man given over to hero fantasies?

My wife and I stopped at the restaurant at Fair Oaks Farms in northwest Indiana as we returned from a long weekend in Chicago. That restaurant is at about the halfway point of our trip home and has become a Chicago trip tradition.

photo of man in black holding a gun
Photo by cottonbro on

We got a seat in the bar and presently a couple was seated next to us. The fellow openly carried a semi-automatic pistol on his hip.

It was overwhelmingly unlikely that he would have any reason to use his gun that Sunday afternoon. Fair Oaks Farms is a quiet place families like to visit, in open Indiana farm country. It’s not some sketchy bar in a bad part of town.

But I don’t know anything about this guy. Does he have any idea how to use his gun? Is he prone to hero fantasies where, at the first sign of trouble, he leaps into action like Captain America?

Or is he well trained with his firearm, of mature and calm demeanor? Is he perhaps a law enforcement officer?

It could have been either, for in Indiana it’s easy to get a carry permit. Unless you’re a felon, or have a conviction for domestic battery, you need only apply, register your fingerprint, and visit your local law enforcement office. You can then carry anywhere in Indiana except in a school, at the Indiana State Fair, in courthouses, in the Indiana Statehouse, and at lakes managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

As I’ve written before, I feel safe in my world and see no need to own or carry a weapon. I don’t understand people who feel that need — but I also don’t know anything about their lives. Perhaps they legitimately don’t feel safe in their worlds. As a result, I choose to live and let live.

But that doesn’t mean I have to feel safe when I’m around a stranger who openly carries.

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29 responses to “Is this man given over to hero fantasies?”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    I am with you, Jim. Honestly, I assume that any person with a gun could potentially do more harm than good and that they are to be avoided. They don’t earn my respect or gratitude, they earn my apprehension.

    There’s a woman in my community who is a firearms instructor and, despite her training, I find her threatening. Perhaps it’s because she carries herself like she’s prepared for a gun fight at any time. Maybe it’s because the rhetoric she uses tells me she’s terrified of the world around her. I don’t know but I was stuck with her in a community meeting of about a dozen people recently and found the experience unsettling. She seems to be afraid of her shadow. Technical abilities in handling a weapon are little comfort when you fear someone may come unhinged.

    And, by the way, I am a gun owner and I support the second amendment. I just think there should be some higher standards regarding mental health, training and common sense.

    Thanks for this story today. Glad to know I’m in good company!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think the likelihood that someone who carries has that threat mindset is high, and that I think is what puts me on edge. Did I just walk into a place where I should feel threatened? I work hard in my life to stay out of those kinds of places. I would not have thought of Fair Oaks Farms as a threatening place.

      For the record, I’m for the 2nd, but I won’t own a gun.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        The problem is that they believe they’re at risk everywhere they go. I certainly am attentive and, like you, am careful to avoid risky places but refuse to live in that state of constant fear. It isn’t healthy. My gun is for home protection but I don’t feel compelled to carry while out.

  2. J P Avatar

    You raise an interesting question. If the guy’s weapon had been concealed you would have felt safe, but seeing it reminded you of what can happen (but usually doesn’t) in our daily lives.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If the guy had concealed, I would have been ignorant. My actual level of safety would have been no different!

  3. Joseph Decker Avatar

    Jim, in some ways I come from the other side of that line. I spent a lot of time in other places in the world where safety could be measured in seconds. I was a short distance away when the orlando mass shooting occurred, and there wasn’t one person in that nightclub who was prepared to act in defense of their own life. Let that sink in.
    I do not in any way advocate for open carry, though, because it makes people who have no reason to feel unsafe, feel unsafe.
    in 2016 Brandon, Oregon only two months after the orlando shooting I saw a man walk in to a Fred Meyer wearing a pistol, and I was actively preparing to stop him should need arise. The man in question walked in the door talking loudly, made a B-line for a long-haired clerk who was stocking cheese, and began to harrangue him about the Truths of Baptism …. …. The clerk seemed puzzled and gave a violent start when he saw the man’s pistol, though at this point i was four feet away to the rear of the loudmouth and caught his eye. He calmed down and told the man that baptism was wonderful which seemed to satisfy him and he went on shopping. I spoke with the clerk and kept an eye on the gun, eventually meeting up with the manager who knew the man and pointed out that he was harmless and that there was an open carry law in the state of coregon. fine is fine, but had his body language been hostile or had he unthinkingly placed his and on that pistol, things likely would have ended up very differently, likely with having to disarm the fool, and get the local authorities involved.
    So I second your notion that dragging out a weapon on display before a crowd is not only foolish but it endangers the fool and the crowd alike.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I go about my life in places where I am overwhelmingly safe. I suppose a random shooting can happen anywhere, but statistically I’m far more likely to be in an automobile accident than be shot on a given day. That’s true in most places in the US.

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I saw more open carry in Indiana than any other place I ever lived. It’s also a state of easily purchased guns and where most of the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from. And yes, it’s disconcerting because any moron in Indiana can walk around with a gun, and in fact, sociologically, those who think they have the right or feel the need to be armed all the time, are those I would have the greatest fear about. Carrying a gun in the open is almost a red flag of the type of person that probably you would have questions about their reasoning abilities associated with carrying a gun!

    Joseph Decker’s view point is interesting, but he lives in a world created by gun nuts: i.e. once you’ve allowed such lax gun laws that every person of marginal sanity can easily get a gun, then you feel the need to arm yourself to protect yourself from them. My complaint with NRA types is they seem to want a “gun-fight” society that we thought we got rid of with the death of the “old west”. Maybe you shouldn’t have made it easy for all of them to get guns. What’s worse, is that if you have questions about an armed person you see walking in a store, the first thing you should do is call the cops. If you think that the society I live in wants untrained, unlicensed, and un-badged people promoting personal gunfights in the streets, you’re sadly mistaken!

    I’ve lived in some pretty marginal neighborhoods in Chicago and Washington DC, and managed to survive without being robbed or killed or being armed. Something dangerous can happen to you at any time, anywhere, mostly because of the society “free gun” nuts have created, but knowing where to go and when to be around goes a long way to being and staying safe. Most radical gun carry nuts I know, are also the type of idiots that would say: “Hey, no one’s going to tell me where to go and when, I’m armed and I’ll go where I want.” Again, good luck with that. Your title to this entry couldn’t be more accurate: hero fantasies, too many violent movies, westerns, whatever?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m not opposed to people owning guns, even big, scary ones. But I don’t like being around people who carry for just the reason you cite: people who feel the need to be armed, and therefore arm themselves, make me nervous. That’s not to say I won’t associate with people who arm themselves; I can think of two friends who do. But I know for sure that they know what the hell they’re doing with a gun, and that both of them are mentally together and aren’t ready to go all Rambo when they hear a twig crack under someone’s feet.

  5. matt Avatar

    I utterly fail to see what the problem here.

    He wasn’t waving it about; he didn’t pull it out of his holster; he didn’t point it at you; he didn’t point it anyone else… It was just there.

    You saw it and it scared you?

    I presume you don’t have the same feeling of terror when you see a LEO open carry because you probably think the LEO is well trained with his firearm? On average, you’d be wrong. Cops aren’t particularly good marksmen as a whole. There are of course individuals that perform better than others.

    Now I personally know some people who carry in whom I have absolutely no confidence in their abilities to shoot. But I personally know these people; I’m not judging complete strangers with no insight or knowledge of their backgrounds.

    I also know people whose marksmanship skills I’d have utter faith in.

    I’d suggest you go to a local range and be honest with the staff there: Tell them guns scare you and you’d like to learn more about them. Maybe even shoot one or two, ask about lessons. Most Leftist-bent people simply don’t understand anything about guns other than what they see in the movies or the news and all of that’s fiction.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You used the word “scared” and I didn’t. I have fired plenty of guns and I enjoy doing it. I’m not a bad shot, either, for a guy who doesn’t practice. I don’t trust a stranger with a firearm, is all I’m saying. Is he sound of mind and well trained? You don’t have to be either to carry in Indiana.

  6. tbm3fan Avatar

    I would have walked out of the restaurant as there is no guarantee that this fellow knows how to use a gun under extreme stress. I read a study many years ago concerning the accuracy of the NYPD in stress conditions. A major conclusion was if you, the perp, were at least 20ft away from the officer your best move was to run as the odds of him hitting you were extremely low. Stress. I now own three WWII rifles, a Mosin-Nagant, Enfield, and Arisaka. The Arisaka was brought back by my father in 1946 but uses extremely difficult size ammo to acquire. So I shoot the other two at a range and am working on 200 yards now. May not hit the bulls eye but always hit the sheet. Now imagine the sheet was firing back at me. I would probably be lucky to hit the hillside behind. Stress under pressure. If it were an officer or Navy SEAL I’d stay but an average civilian who may also miss the hillside…no thanks.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Your first sentence is my whole point. Some nutjob bursts in, waves a gun, and does menacing things. Does the dude with the gun next to me have any idea how to handle himself under that kind of stress?

  7. Nancy Stewart Avatar
    Nancy Stewart

    Hi Jim … gun owner here. I have a lifetime license and have rifles, shotguns, black powder and one handgun. Had a Mosin-Nagant until recently … Michael liked it so I gave it to him. My favorite to shoot is my Henry rifle. Since I was not as familiar with using the hand gun, I recently attended an instructional class for women, put on by the DNR at one of their ranges. There were around 25 women ranging in age from teens to some of us in our 70’s. Not one of us looked like “nut cases” … most were there to learn proper use of the handgun for personal or home protection. I feel more comfortable with it now and hit the target “guy” most of the time. But I don’t carry it away from home or in public. When I’m working outside alone on the farm, and hubby is gone, I usually have it with me. But I don’t belong to the NRA because I don’t agree with some of their way of thinking … I don’t have any problems with trying to reign in unstable people and controlling the assault weapons.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The guy next to me at the restaurant was probably not a “gun nut” or even a regular nut — but would he have the coolness under pressure to handle a stressful situation, if someone burst in waving a gun and doing menacing things?

      I’m not a fan of the NRA either, but I’m good with healthy people owning reasonable weapons.

      1. Joshua Fast Avatar
        Joshua Fast

        What if he was your only chance?

      2. Khürt Williams Avatar

        Do American police “…have the coolness under pressure to handle a stressful situation…?”

  8. Joshua Fast Avatar
    Joshua Fast

    I guess to elaborate…What if that guy was your only hope of survival if something against all odds happened? Yes it’s very unlikely you are unsafe at a family establishment but I’m sure the kids felt safe at school before shootings began. I’ve been on both ends of guns. I’m from Indy also and I’ve been held at gunpoint in Carmel.

    Its got very little to do whether you trust me if I’m open carrying. I’m well within my rights and it increases my families chances of survival if something out of the ordinary happens. You don’t buy insurance because you know something is going to happen. You are just giving your security the best odds.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My point still stands: I don’t know anything about this guy and whether I’d want to go to war with him. Would he crumble under pressure? Is he so ill trained that he’d inadvertently shoot me, or my wife?

      1. Joshua Fast Avatar
        Joshua Fast

        I think that would be an extreme circumstance bordering on unrealistic.

  9. DougD Avatar

    Well there’s an experience I’ve never had in my country, although I have had it in yours. I guess the only time I’ve been truly shocked was encountering guards with assault rifles in front of the grocery store in a remote corner of Argentina.

    You’re only trading one sort of freedom for another.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I confess to not understanding why anyone in the US feels like they need to carry a weapon openly into a family restaurant.

  10. Khürt Williams Avatar

    I wonder if police feeling threatened is one of the reasons they shoot innocent black people? When I see a police officer in uniform with a gun, I immediately want to leave the area. I do not feel safe.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t feel entirely safe either, and I’m (obviously) a white man.

  11. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    Do restaurant and shop owners have the right to refuse entrance to people carrying weapons? You can keep out pets and people with no shirts or shoes. I wonder if the same applies to firearms.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, shop owners can have a no-weapons policy, and enforce it.

  12. Sam Avatar

    I always get a little nervous around someone who openly carries a gun but like you said Jim it’s their world I don’t know about.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Right. I try to live and let live but when someone else’s reality overlaps too much with mine, I reserve the right to comment — even if only on my blog!

      1. Sam Avatar

        True! I always wonder like you do, what possibly happened in their world that they need to do such things!

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