Apr 2, 2021 | OPINION | By Emma McDermott | Photo by Bibi Powers

For most Americans, running to the supermarket is a weekly errand that requires nothing more than a shopping list and an hour out of the week. However, since the mass shooting at a King Soopers in Boulder on March 22, in which ten people died, what once was a relatively thoughtless, mundane chore has become an extremely stressful task.

Last Sunday, my roommate and I headed to the King Soopers in Uintah Gardens (about 1.5 miles from Colorado College) to stock up on our weekly needs. We’d just enjoyed a fun block break and had been soaking up the beautiful weather that the Springs so often offers and were preparing for the start of another rigorous block. Needless to say, the last thing on our minds was the idea that we could be putting ourselves in potentially life-threatening danger.

Upon entering, we noticed a small memorial honoring the victims who lost their lives doing exactly what we were doing: buying groceries. It was sobering to think that these people were killed so senselessly and that it happened so close to us; I have never been in a state when a mass shooting that made national news happened. This felt close to home.

We headed to the produce section and started moving about, crossing items off our lists as we moved through the aisles. We don’t usually stay together when we grocery shop –– usually we start at the same spot and find each other again at checkout, but remain pretty unaware of each other’s specific locations.

This time, however, we were all in the same area when I noticed that the man next to me was carrying a handgun, which I assumed was loaded. I immediately started panicking; it felt like my heart stopped for a second.

My mind quickly jumped to the conclusion that this was it. I was six feet, at best, from a man who, at first glance, fit the profile of a mass shooters: a young white male, maybe in his mid-twenties, visually unkempt, and carrying a backpack and a gun. I kept thinking that he could kill me at any moment if he wanted to, and there would be nothing I could do to protect myself.

Somehow, miraculously, I managed to remain calm and walk away slowly. If this guy was about to shoot up the supermarket, I thought, I didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to myself or agitate him in any way.

I decided this man was there for one of two possible reasons: as a copycat of the Boulder shooter, or as an individual who wanted to be able to protect himself should someone else be acting as a copycat.

I told my roommates what I’d seen and we decided we should finish shopping but do so as quickly as possible. For the rest of the time that I was in King Soopers, I couldn’t stop thinking about what this guy was trying to do. At every corner, I tried to peek carefully to see if he was there; I wanted to keep an eye on him but also not be close to him.

This was, I think, the first time I’d seen a civilian carrying a gun in a public place and to say it caught me off-guard is an understatement.

What really stuck with me, though, was the backpack. Who brings a backpack to the supermarket? Unless you’re carrying groceries home, which I don’t think was the case given this individual’s overflowing cart, there’s no reason to wear a backpack around. Again, my mind jumped to the worst possible conclusion –– that this backpack was packed with ammunition.

Thankfully, my roommates and I made it out of King Soopers and back in the car safely. In hindsight, this individual probably only intended to protect himself should something terrible happen, but in the process of doing that, the amount of fear that he created for everyone around him was extremely high.

There were people, like my roommates and I, who felt fear for their lives. That should not be the case. My roommates and I, along with every other American, deserve to be free of the fear and anxiety that guns create. I have never heard of a time when the presence of a gun lowered the temperature of a situation.

While this individual apparently intended no harm, he should still not have a gun on his person at the supermarket –– even more, he should not feel the need to protect himself at the supermarket. The tension and fear that his gun caused for all those around him to feel is not worth the comfort he may feel from being armed.

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