A 67-year-old Tennesse woman is facing criminal charges due to an incident in a Walmart parking lot in which she pulled a gun on a man asking for a light for his cigarette:

A 67-year-old woman was arrested for pulling a gun in a Walmart parking lot after she was approached by a stranger in what she called self defense.

The woman said she feared for her life and pulled out a gun, but she was the one facing serious criminal charges.

It has become a controversial case raising questions about how far you can go if you think you are in mortal danger.

“It scared me absolutely to death,” said Sherry McLain. She was loading groceries into her car this past Saturday in the crowded Walmart parking lot on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.

That’s when a strange man approached, surprising her, and she pulled her revolver. “I have never been so afraid of anything in my whole life I don’t think,” said McLain. “This guy is the bad guy and I’m the one in handcuffs walking away.”

Murfreesboro police said there’s much more to the story. “There was no reason for her to perceive any legitimate threat,” said Sergeant Kyle Evans.

Officers at the scene talked with McLain and the man who approached her. It turned out that he had just bought cigarettes and asked her for a light.

Witnesses confirmed this and security video showed the man, who we could not reach for comment, never got closer than 10 feet to McLane.

When she pulled the gun, he ran back into the store to call 911.

“Certainly pulling a gun on someone who just asks a question has no weapon is not appropriate,” said Evans.

I completely understand where Mrs. McLain was coming from.

“Can I get a light” is indeed one of the oldest tricks in the book for criminals trying to get close to their prey before attacking.

But you know what? I’ve probably been approached hundreds of times in my life by strangers asking to borrow a lighter, and none of them were muggers. They were smokers. That’s it.

This was an incident captured on numerous security cameras and witnessed by multiple people, including several that McLain put in the line of fire.

Mrs. McLain
Mrs. McLain

That she still insists that a guy who never showed any signs of aggression and never got within ten feet of her is “the bad guy” makes me question her judgement. Evidence strongly suggests that McLain was startled, freaked out, and grossly over-reacted. Most damning of all is her utter refusal to admit the possibility that she may have been in the wrong after pointing a Ruger revolver not just at a man who didn’t give any visual cues that he was going to attack (according to the experienced police investigators who reviewed the tape and who know what signs to look for in his demeanor), but also at three generations of the Benoir family.

“Clearly this is a gunowner who doesn’t need to own a gun,” said Keeley Benoit.

Her 7-year-old son and his grandmother found themselves in McLain’s cross hairs as the man ran past them at the Walmart.

“When she looked up the gun was being pointed at the three of them and the lady says I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to kill you,” said Benoit.

That she pointed a gun at innocents as a well as the man she feared makes me not only question her judgement, but her level of firearms training.

A fragile elderly woman packing a lightweight compact revolver screams either "clueless" or "serious shooter." McLain was clearly the former.
A fragile elderly woman packing a lightweight compact revolver screams either “clueless” or “serious shooter.” McLain was clearly the former.

Folks, the entire human experience of mortal combat tells us that you will not “rise to the occasion” in a high stress situation. You will instead default to your level of training, and barring suitable training, you will simply either attempt to flee, lash out in a blind panic, or you will freeze and lock-up entirely.

Mrs. McLain went with the blind panic route.

I rather strongly suspect that she’s probably never had a single defensive handgun class in her life (no, the required concealed carry course is not a defensive handgun class), and that she’s probably never even fired her Ruger LCR, which, like all lightweight revolvers, is hard to shoot accurately without a lot of practice, and is punishing to shoot with quality defensive ammunition.

If McLain had quality defensive handgun training from a good instructor, she would have been clued in to her surroundings, would not have been jarred from “condition white” to “condition red” due to a lack of situational awareness, and would have known to look for visual cues that would told a competently-trained person that there wasn’t a threat here, as the police made clear in their investigation and review of security camera footage.

If you are going to carry a firearm for self-defense, you owe it to yourself, your family, and the wider community to get competent and professional instruction from a good defensive firearms instructor on when and how to employ your handgun.

Mrs. McLain clearly did not, and is now facing felony charges as a result of this failure.