Shoppers at Best Buy in Auburn Sunday may have seen a young man in a black T-shirt, hat, sunglasses and camouflage pants.
But what really set him apart from other shoppers was the large handgun strapped to his hip.
As Mainers, of course, we realize citizens have the right to carry their firearms openly in public. But merchants have the right to decide whether the public can carry firearms in their places of business.
Most retail establishments seem to have made a calculated choice that it is better to allow customers to carry firearms than incur the protests of pro-gun activists.
The popular argument developed by open- and concealed-carry proponents is that if a shooting breaks out, it's better to have a law-abiding citizen available with a gun to shoot a robber or crazed gunman.
As we have pointed out in the past, either scenario is extremely unlikely in Maine. In fact, we have yet to see a case of a random mass killing by a gunman.
In Maine, family members more often kill spouses and children, and friends kill friends with their guns.
But, as Sunday's experience demonstrates, there's a problem with open carry: When that person walks through the door, how can customers tell if the person bearing the weapon is a potential rescuer or killer?
In other words, is the guy or gal with the gun angry with the store's management or return policy, or simply browsing for a new digital camera?
With police officers and members of the military, the gun and uniform just go together.
Otherwise, shoppers are forced to make a hasty decision about the gun-bearer's mental state and propensity for violence.
In a country on edge, where political, social and personal tensions seem on hair trigger, allowing people to openly carry guns in places of business is bound to put other customers on edge rather than reassure them.
And that can't be good for business.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.