When you are both armed
The headlines are reporting more police shootings of black men, this time in Charlotte and my old hometown – Tulsa.
I was comparing these shootings with my own recent run-in with law enforcement, one with a completely different outcome.
Was it because the Georgia State Patrol trooper and I were both white? Or was it because I went out of my way to keep the officer at ease – even though I was carrying a concealed 9 mm in my waistband?
You tell me:
Not long ago, the Little Black Dress and I were driving on a small two-lane back country road on our way to a fundraising event. I crested a small hill and down at the bottom was a state trooper beside the roadway, waiting for someone like me who was enjoying the drive just a tad too much.
I thought he might let me go as I passed, but those blue lights cranked up as he pulled out. Not to be.
I immediately flipped on my turn signal, slowed down and pulled off the road when it was safe. Put the car in park, reached for my wallet and pulled out two cards. Held those two cards in my left hand, which was on the wheel at the 10 o’clock position. My right hand was also on the wheel, at the 2 o’clock position.
My old driving instructor would be proud.
My window was down as he approached. We exchanged the normal pleasantries of “do you know why I stopped you?”
“Probably having too much fun driving on this old road.”
“May I see you license?”
With my left hand, I handed him the two cards. My right hand remained on the steering wheel. One of the cards was my Georgia driver’s license, which he looked at first.
He looked at it, then the other card, and said, “Mr. Winters, are you carrying right now?”
“Yes sir. Have a 9 mm in my waistband at roughly the 4 o’clock position.”
See, that other card was my Georgia Weapons Carry License. It allows me to carry a handgun in open view or even concealed. In fact, other than schools and certain government buildings, I can carry a concealed gun just about anywhere in the state.
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you keep yours right where it is and I’ll keep mine where it is.”
“Sounds good to me,” I responded.
The trooper then returned to his vehicle to do that whole “run your license” to ensure you don’t have outstanding warrants or just escaped from jail. I was clean.
However, the trooper noticed I did not have my 2016 tag on my license plate. He informed me of such, and also pointed out records showed I had paid for the decal so it must have fallen off. He asked to see the registration card.
I had kept my hands on the wheel the entire time. I told him the registration card might be in the glove compartment, and waited for him to say it was okay to look before moving my hands. I pulled out four different years of registration cards, but not 2016.
Since his records showed I had paid (I had), he told me how to get a replacement decal, handed over my license and carry permit, and told me to slow down. Just a warning.
And not a single shot was fired, even though we were both armed.
I refuse to believe it was simply because we were both white. I refuse to believe white police officers wake up in the morning and decide to hunt black people. I refuse to believe black officers wake up in the morning and decide to hunt whites.
Granted, we all know there are bad cops, and some have been charged in these highly publicized shootings. I believe they are a statistical abnormality.
I would like to think how I behaved had more than anything to do with the outcome.
To recap, the officer saw my hands the entire time. I immediately let him know I was armed (even though legally I did not have to). I was courteous. I never made a sudden move. I was calm.
Compare that to suspects who yell at officers; who refuse commands to show hands; who refuse to stop moving; who give officers a reason to think something is wrong or that their lives are in danger.
How about -“Keep calm and live longer.”
A silver bullet to stop these types of shootings or just a catch-phrase that solves nothing?
I don’t know the answer. All I know is those in law enforcement face death every day. It’s bound to put anyone on edge and rightfully so. We owe them the benefit of the doubt. The officer’s or suspect’s skin color is irrelevant.
Remain calm. Be respectful of each other.