Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 3, 2017.
By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
The past months have been fractious to say the least. Protests have been staged around the country, many of which have become unruly. Some have turned violent. At present, given the nature of the opposition to the current administration, there will probably be more.
Most of these protests tend to occur in major metropolitan areas. While not everyone who legally carries a concealed firearm lives in or in close proximity to large urban areas, a good number of people do. Mobs are a dangerous thing, so it’s good to be aware of what a person should do if they come close to such a “gathering” (we’ll call it) and they think events are about to take a turn. After all, the reason why a person puts on their gun holster and pistol is in case they face a threat and as we have seen, protests can easily turn into riots.
Obviously, you should try to avoid being in such an area if a protest is going to be taking place. The simplest and easiest way to keep out of a situation in which your safety may be at hazard is not to go where you know it isn’t safe.
Large university in your city? Lots of people angry about Trump and are prone to protests? The easiest way to avoid risk is to avoid the protests.
However, there are situations wherein a person must – say if a person worked in the vicinity or their commute took them close to a protest area – then there are a few things that a person should bear in mind.
First is that provocation will not be in your favor. Counterprotesting, going to an anti-Trump rally wearing head-to-toe “MAGA” gear, etc., can put fuel on the fire, so to speak. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to counterprotest or you shouldn’t do or believe what you want, but it does mean that you could be seen to be looking for confrontation rather than avoiding it. That will make a self-defense claim more difficult.
Also, as most people are aware, two or more people on one is an unfair fight and thus there is a disparity of force. Multiple protesters/rioters on one person would certainly qualify as well. If you are legitimately threatened by multiple people, there is potential for lethal injury. If attacked, defense of yourself is legitimate. The mere presence of a protest, no matter your opinion on what they are protesting for does not, however, justify drawing a firearm.
For instance, independent journalist/blogger Michael Strickland was convicted on Feb. 10, 2017, on 10 counts of unlawful use of a weapon, 10 counts of brandishing/menacing and a single count of disorderly conduct for drawing a pistol during a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, Ore., according to OregonLive.
Strickland, who had a license to carry, claimed he was threatened and some video of the event certainly indicated there was tension, but not a sufficient threat to Strickland to justify drawing his firearm.
There have been reports of people drawing guns on demonstrators at other protests as well; though none appear to have resulted in courtroom proceedings such as in Strickland’s case.
Protests can easily turn into riots. If you find yourself in an area with civil unrest, there are some good things to remember.
Firstly, the best course of action is escape. You don’t want to stand and fight multiple attackers and a large group of people can go from peaceful protesters to crazed mob in a matter of seconds. A handgun won’t necessarily save you, as you can be easily overpowered by multiple assailants quickly.
If you have no choice but to use it, a handgun can buy you a few moments to flee. If menaced by a group of people, there may be a “leader” that others are taking their cues from. That person poses you the greatest danger, as they are the most proactive in threatening you. The rest may disperse if the leader is disabled.
Situational awareness and keeping calm are critical. Be aware of your surroundings, including people and geography. Read the body language of the crowd.
Large mobs won’t look to go uphill, so if you’re in an area with sharp slopes – some cities in coastal areas have generous grades, such as San Francisco and Seattle – uphill streets may be a good route to safety. Try to work your way to the edge of the crowd, as this will give you better opportunities for flight down side streets and arterials.
If it comes to it, look for a building that you can get into for a safe haven. Multi-story buildings are best, as retreating up a few flights will put you above the fray.
Also, the police will not necessarily be your friends in a riot/turbulent protest situation, as they can’t tell that you aren’t part of the crowd. If it was the most expedient option or no other option was available to you, laying down in front of police will get you cuffed and into the paddy wagon. Safe, yes, but likely to face a court battle to prove you weren’t rioting.
If in your vehicle and it is possible, drive out of the area. Don’t stop, but don’t try to run anyone over. Do not try to engage protesters or rioters, just leave. Whatever you do, don’t sit in your vehicle; cars can be overturned in moments. If driving away isn’t possible, your vehicle becomes a trap rather than an asset. If you have a pistol in a vehicle-mounted holster, be sure to retrieve it before leaving.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.