I’m not going to get into the great Mask Debate of 2020 here, but let’s start with this simple premise: no matter where you come down on the issue, don’t be a jerk about it. If you’re wearing a mask in a store and you see someone who’s not, it’s not your business to try and scold them. If you’re not wearing a mask and you see someone who is, it’s not your business to shame them. Leave people alone, do your thing, and go on about your day. It’s really not that hard.
Unfortunately, it does seem to be a bridge too far for some of us on both sides of the mask debate, and one recent argument in Florida has ended up with a concealed carry holder behind bars after he pulled his gun in a dispute over masks at a WalMart. 28-year old Vincent Scavetta is now charged with aggravated assault and improper display of a firearm in the incident.
According to investigators, Scavetta pulled a gun on a shopper and his daughter in the electronics section after the shopper said Scavetta should be wearing a mask. Scavetta then cursed at the shopper. The father asked Scavetta not to curse in front of his daughter.
Scavetta told deputies the shopper got into his face and threatened him. That’s when Scavetta pulled his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic weapon.
Deputies said Scavetta told the shopper, “I’ll kill you.”
According to the report, Scavetta said he wore a face mask when he came into the store but took it off after he had trouble breathing and his glasses fogged up. Scavetta said he knew he shouldn’t have cursed at the man. He also said the little girl appeared to be scared when he pulled out his gun, but he felt the shopper planned to punch him.
Just like the case out of Michigan involving an argument in a Chipotle parking lot, there were plenty of opportunities for both parties here, including the concealed carry holder, to de-escalate the situation. In this case, when Scavetta was scolded by the shopper, he could have simply walked away. He didn’t owe the shopper any explanation as to why he wasn’t wearing a mask, though he obviously could have shared that if he wanted to. Instead though, Scavetta decided to respond by cursing at the guy, which ultimately led to him pulling the firearm.
I haven’t been able to find the surveillance video from WalMart, just a few still frames, so I have no idea if the unnamed shopper did get into Scavetta’s face and threatened him in any way. Scavetta says he “felt” like the shopper was going to punch him, but doesn’t say that the man actually articulated a threat to do so. Even in a stand-your-ground state like Florida, you can meet force with force, but state law says that in order to do so the you must “reasonably believe that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” I’m not sure that would apply in this case.
Maybe the surveillance footage will clear Scavetta, but I’m guessing if that was the case he likely wouldn’t be facing charges to begin with. It sounds like he wishes he handled the situation differently, and I don’t blame him. Improper display of a firearm is a misdemeanor charge, but aggravated assault is a felony offense, and Scavetta could be looking at a couple of years in prison if he’s convicted.
It may be tough to find some items on your shopping list at the moment, but there’s no shortage of jackasses at the grocery store these days. If you’re confronted or verbally harassed by one of them, just walk away. A stranger scolding you for your mask habit is worthy of an eye-roll, but it’s not important to enough to risk going to jail.