We can't imagine why a 20-year-old man was carrying around a toy gun Thursday night in Farmington, but he must have had his reasons.
Instead of a night on the town with his toy pistol, John Cushman ended up at the Franklin County Detention Center charged with terrorizing.
Cushman "made lots of people nervous," according to Deputy Chief Shane Cote of the Farmington Police Department, as he strolled around the downtown.
Employees of the Homestead Bakery first called police at 9:50 p.m. They were so concerned by Cushman and his gun that they also called The Roost pub to warn them.
Roost employees locked their customers inside until police arrived, and then asked for a police escort for them when they left.
Farmington police officer William Tanner had trouble finding the toy gun troublemaker, but he finally caught up with him outside Dunkin' Donuts.
The gun looked real to Tanner until he saw the orange ring indicating it was actually a toy, which must have been a relief.
For frightening people, as well as for some threatening statements he had made on an earlier occasion, Cushman was charged with terrorizing and taken into custody, which eased a lot of people's minds.
But the incident says a lot about how people generally regard other people carrying guns in public — with suspicion.
It is legal to carry a gun openly in Maine, and it's equally legal to carry a look-alike replica. Few people do, which is probably a good thing considering the ruckus it causes in populated places.
But thousands of Mainers receive permits each year to carry guns secretly beneath their clothing or in their purses rather than openly in plain sight.
But, really, what's the difference? Suppose they all had a sign pinned on their backs saying, "I've got a gun."
Gun advocates live with this mistaken impression that the rest of us feel safer knowing a lot of them carry guns.
But evidence Thursday night in Farmington shows otherwise: People with guns, particularly people we don't know, frighten most people.
The reason for that is simple. We can't tell whether the person is a cool-headed, clear-thinking marksman or a raging schizophrenic off his meds and hearing voices.
Sorry, we can't tell at first glance.
The terror in Farmington is reminiscent of a Portland incident in December of 2012, about two weeks after the slaying of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn.
There, a man who identified himself as a Second Amendment activist, carried an AR-15 assault-style rifle from Parkside to Back Cove in Portland.
Like John Cushman, he never pointed the gun at anyone or made threats, but he certainly frightened a large number of people.
Police received more than 65 calls from concerned residents. No one seemed reassured by the man with the assault-style rifle and high-capacity magazine.
Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the man was "trying to send a message that guns are not scary."
Oops. Message sent, but not received.
Call them crazy, but most residents thought he might be out to hurt someone.
The unidentified Portland man was allowed to complete his march under the watchful eye of police, but was not charged with anything because, apparently, he wasn't terrorizing people as much as Cushman in Farmington.
Toy gun or real gun, the two incidents point out how much effort goes into protecting the right of people to carry guns in public places, and how little care is given to the right of others to feel safe about that.
The people in Farmington and Portland certainly were briefly denied their right to "domestic tranquility."
No, there's no Constitutional amendment for that; it's in the first sentence of the original document.
Having a river of guns pouring onto our streets each day is creating the exact opposite of domestic tranquilty in this country.
Perhaps it's good we don't know how many people we pass on the sidewalk are carrying guns.
The police would be way too busy.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.