For those not up to speed, MWAG means Man with a Gun. I am a man with a gun, and I have been on the receiving end of a few police MWAG calls. When I lived in Florida, it happened twice. Both times, the responding officers were polite, very professional, and a little embarrassed to speak with me about it.
By John Bibby
For those who do not know. Florida is not an open carry state, with a few exceptions. One such exception is when you are on your own property. One call happened because I was openly carrying while push mowing the lawn. A person driving by was so unnerved, they called the police.
The officers and I had a pleasant conversation for about 30 minutes, mostly about guns. It made kind of a nice break from mowing. The other call was similar, and one of the officers knew me by reputation from the prior encounter. He ended up meeting a group of us at the local range the next day, and a good time was had by all.
In Tennessee, an open carry state, I have also been the subject of an MWAG call on two occasions. The first one happened as a result of openly carrying while pumping gas. Someone called me in, and the police arrived as I was driving away. They followed and pulled me over.
One officer was very friendly and polite; the other was new and quite agitated. After about 5 minutes, everything was great, and I ended up giving them a recipe for candied bacon. They gave me a warning on my expired tag. We all left happy, and the veteran policeman used it as a training example for his freshly minted partner.
The second call went quite a bit differently. I will summarize the incident by saying that a local city cop fed into the fear of an assistant bank branch manager and almost chose to draw on me for the sin of openly carrying in a bank. It ended well, but it almost didn’t.
I bring this up to point out how important image is. In the first three incidents, the officers had a positive image of gun permit holders and entered the situation cautiously but with room for the assumption that I was a permit holder. After some initial polite questioning, everyone relaxed and we had pleasant conversations before peaceably going our separate ways.
Ironically, in the last incident, I was dressed the best. From that perspective, my image was great. My attire was khaki pants, a black button-down dress shirt, and freshly-polished combat boots. I had a spare mag on my left side and a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm in a Safariland level 3 retention holster on the right. That mattered not at all to the officer I encountered. He seemed to have a strong opinion against carry holders, and the fear and agitation of the bank employee fed into that preconceived idea. His brain did the math and came up with a probable bank robbery or similar.
When the officer arrived, I raised my left hand and waved him over. He slowly realized I was the MWAG and started to draw on me. His gun never actually got anywhere near clearing his holster, I think partly because I was waving him over and sitting calmly in a chair. It took him a while to overcome that preconceived image and deal with the reality in front of him. To his credit, he finally did.
Image is important. Whenever I openly carry, I present at least a decent image. That does not mean I am always clean shaven and wearing a suit. It does mean I am dressed well for what I am doing and leave any chip on my shoulder at home. My interactions with people are overtly courteous and polite. I am sure to open doors, thank people for similar courtesies, and actively work to project a picture of genteel civility.
On more than one occasion this has helped in the MWAG interaction. An example would be the second Florida interaction. My reputation preceded me. In the first Tennessee interaction, being in a button-down dress shirt and providing my driver’s license and carry permit as the officer reached my car window helped. My polite demeanor didn’t hurt either. It helped that the officers brought similar attitudes to those encounters as well.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We can choose to be our own best friends. Give it a try.
Are you a MWAG or WWAG? Do you favor or oppose open carry? Share your answers in the comment section.