Doing some grocery shopping at Walmart today, there was an opportunity to stop at the ammo desk. There was a rough looking “family” (the “family” bit being doubtful) from a few states away. The “father”, looking every bit the mafia hit man, was now on his second day in a row harassing the retired law enforcement officers who were working at the ammo desk. There’s usually only one, but this mafia guy was clearly a threat.
The “father” was insisting on buying a concealable handgun for his underage kid by having the kid himself buy it, that is, with the kids own details on the purchase. The problem was that the kid wasn’t legally eligible to buy a concealable handgun. The kid had a super-apologetic look to him, as if he was sorry that he was being used by this “father.” They had another “family” member there, but he had incorrect details on his (false) ID. The “father” didn’t dare put his own information on the purchase.
One of the retired LEOs tried his best to explain that doing a straw purchase will end up with multiple people going to jail. The idea is that, for instance, the “father” is a felon who wants a gun but can’t get one himself. He uses some stooge to do the purchase for him and then acquires the gun from the stooge. That’s a straw purchase. The “father” just couldn’t understand. It was getting pretty tense as the “father” was obviously pretty desperate to get his hands on a gun. Of course, anything can happen. It was explained to him multiple times that he was on camera right then, right there. That didn’t work. I consider the ammo guys to be friends and didn’t want to abandon them. I tried to give the “father” a simple explanation of a straw purchaser and why he couldn’t do what he was attempting to do. He still couldn’t get it. I suppose I knew that would be the result, but by now the explanation wasn’t the point of giving an explanation. This intervention was a way of letting the “father” know that he would be outnumbered should he try anything stupid. Wow. The look he gave me then was very telling. But it was enough to get that storm somehow moving away from the desk and down the aisle and out of the store. Whew! Methinks that deescalation skills are becoming more important by the day.
I had a good chat with the retired officers after that. They were very relieved that it all resolved peacefully. Some people say that rule number one with disputes is not to intervene. Generally, that’s true, but every incident is unique and has to be appraised on the spot. This guy, with his little cohort of helpers, could easily have grabbed some guns and ammo followed by the unspeakable. But the intervention equaled the odds a bit. If you can nip it in the bud, it’s much better for all.
For those who are interested in being available for critical incidents, I recommend checking into the FBI Citizens’ Academy Community Outreach program which creates relationships through dialogue, as they say: