Armed and dangerous and driving like an idiot

The passing car rolled to a quick stop. I had just hurled an epithet to get his attention. It worked.

It was dark and I was walking the dog along the side of the street – our DeKalb County neighborhood has no sidewalks – when an approaching driver for some reason flicked off his headlights and sped up.

The move was mystifying, stupid and dangerous and I wanted to get the guy’s attention because every now and again I find it necessary to point out someone’s stupidity. Usually a vehicle is involved.

I took a couple steps towards the idling car when a small voice in my head called to me: Stand Your Ground law. Guns everywhere law. Justifiable homicide.

I’ve known forever that guns are paramount to protecting one’s castle in Georgia. And a car, by law, is an extension of that castle.

Folks have grown increasingly worried they’ll become crime victims. Or, at least they’ve become more openly vocal that they need to be armed.

This year, legislators passed the so-called “guns everywhere” law, which allows Georgians to legally carry firearms in a wide range of places, including schools, bars, churches and government buildings.

The NRA says the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun. Seems reasonable, although cops complain that it’s already hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, especially if all of them are armed.

It’s a complicated world. The school massacre at Sandy Hook caused almost equal numbers of states to tighten or loosen gun restrictions. Conundrums abound. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter, who will doubtless be portrayed as a lib this fall, voted for the “guns everywhere” law that passed this spring.

A while back, I wrote a story about road rage, about how vehicles get people amped up to brandish weapons, smash windshields with crowbars, even shoot at each other.

In Gwinnett County, a salesman named Michael Stokes drove up on a car in the left lane, causing the driver in front to pump his brakes. Stokes started around the guy and said the man pointed a pistol at him.

In the 2011 story, Stokes said he drives 50,000 miles a year for his job and sees all sorts of insanity on the highways. “That’s why I don’t carry a gun,” he told me. “What if I pulled out my gun the other day?”

With all this in mind the other night, I stopped after taking a couple steps toward the car.

Yeah, I wanted to know what kind of an idiot would turn off his lights as he was driving toward a pedestrian in the dark. I also wanted to tell him exactly what I thought of it.

But then I saw a vision of DeKalb Homicide placing crime-scene tape on the street and a driver, if he was ever caught, telling police that I was the threat, that he feared for his life.

I pivoted mid-step and walked the other way into the night as the car rolled on. Guns, or the threat that they might be there, stopped a confrontation – although they left a knucklehead unscolded.

Post script: I called Stokes this week and he said things are a bit different. In fact, the incident in 2011 helped him reconsider how he viewed traveling unarmed. Today, he, his wife and oldest daughter all have concealed-carry permits. “I think everyone who values his life should carry one,” he said.

He said he would not have fired on the other car – unless the other guy started shooting first. “I’m not on a mission to go out looking for things,” he said.

Staff writer Bill Torpy, who hails from Chicago, has covered murder, mayhem and politics for 32 years, 24 of them at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The only weapon he has when walking the dog is a set of canine teeth.