“They Had Rights, Too”
President Barack Obama’s emotional East Room speech Monday
made the salient point that the gunslinger fantasy bill of
goods the NRA is efficiently selling to so many white males
must be balanced, as all of our civil rights must be
balanced, against the civil rights of others. As I’ve
mentioned elsewhere, freedom really isn’t about your right
to blast hip-hop music. Freedom is about protecting the
*other guy’s* right to blast hip-hop music. Only be
preserving all freedoms for all people can any of us
actually be considered free.
Your Second Amendment right cannot impinge upon my right to
not be terrorized by your gun-toting. I have a right to buy
milk without feeling threatened. I have a right to feel safe
within my community and to not be bullied. Even without ever
pulling their weapons, these white males I come in contact
with each and every day are bullying me because they are
armed and I am not. I am surrounded by people who
statistically embrace the most paranoid and ridiculous
things about our sitting U.S. president, those superstitions
extending surely to myself as well.
“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only
defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.
That's not the Texas way. And that's certainly not the NRA way.”
—NRA Statement dated May 30, posted on the website of the Institute
for Legislative Action, the group's lobbying arm, later retracted.
“According to the NRA's principles, you have a right to carry a
weapon that may cause a reasonable person to believe they are in
danger of great bodily injury, and they have a right--if they feel
that way--to respond with deadly force. It's a perpetual violence
machine. It's Gunfight at the Golden Corral.” —John Stewart, The
I Am The NRA
I am an NRA member. I think Wayne LaPierre is a lunatic and I
believe many of the NRA’s extreme positions are indefensible. Theirs
is the face of intolerance and de facto White Power. It grieves me
to give money to them, but I also believe they lobby for an
important right that needs protecting. So I hold my nose a lot and
wish, frankly, that more independents and liberals would join up so
we could vote the fringe out of there in favor for some common-sense
I am not anti-gun. I’m saying: put it away. Stop giving old folks
heart attacks. For that matter, stop giving actual bad guys a
preview of your weapon and tactics. I see these guys—15 round clip
(the legal max, here), one in the chamber, and a pair of mags on
their belt. Why? Do they really believe they’ll be in for some
protracted gun battle? That’s the insipid brainwashing TV provides:
these five, ten-minute long gun battles. Most gun battles last about
eight seconds and somebody’s on the ground. One, two shots fired.
The mass, epic battles between cops and terrorists, hundreds of
rounds fired, are an anomaly. And hundreds of rounds were fired
because nobody’s actually hitting anything except innocent
bystanders and cats. You don’t need a gun. You certainly don’t need
to routinely walk around with fifty rounds of ammo.
I’d imagine, for 90% of civilians, a simple, subcompact “belly gun”
like the Ruger LCP would be just fine. This weapon is designed for
personal defense, not national defense. These guys toting Glocks and
AR-15's just want to be seen. You don’t need a big gun to
defend yourself or your kids. These men are carrying heavy because,
in the movie playing in their head, they are the hero who will
defend Safeway from guys who look like me and engage in long
stand-offs where they are saving lives.
Which is insane. The very first command issued by law enforcement
when they arrive on the scene will be for you to put your gun down.
Despite what you’ve seen on NCIS, the cops will not join up with
this guy in shorts and form some kind of ad hoc tactical command.
They will shoot him dead if he doesn’t put his gun down. Period.
Which makes carrying some cannon around completely futile and the
obvious mark of an individual living out a paranoid fantasy and not
dealing, in any way, with reality. Which makes me nervous; these
people lost in paranoid delusion running around a supermarket with
guns under the pretense of “making the store safer.”
Safeway bans open carry, and this nut likely knows it but, as gun
nuts tend to do, feels the need to test limits by making everybody
nervous just so he can get his jollies. I believe many if not most
open carriers enjoy the attention and get an adrenaline rush out of
making people around them anxious. People like the senior citizen
suffering hypertension who can suffer a panic attack just at the
sight of one of these goofs.
Meanwhile, there's the family at the park, a Muslim family, the
bearded husband and wife in full burka. I'm there with my five-year
old great niece and we're getting a few off-looks because we're the
only blacks in the playground, but pity the Muslim family who are
getting paranoid glares from the mostly white moms and dads. Now,
take it a step farther: what if this husband or wife had a gun? For
all I know, they did, and who'd blame them? Now go a step further:
what if either were open carrying their weapon? How long would it
take one of the white mommies or daddies to call the police or,
worse, engage this family who are simply minding their own business?
Whose kids are on the monkey bars the same way mine are?
I would never open carry because open carry laws are intrinsically
racist. Here in Ourtown, each and every day I see some toter wandering through Walmart or ordering a
burger at a fast food joint. People pretend not to notice, but
everybody notices, and the gun toter knows this; he gets off on the
Now, were a black man or, shudder, a Muslim, to be seen wandering through Walmart with a Glock on his hip, the cops would be called instantly, and, in fact,
the gun-toting white guys—carrying open or concealed—would start
shadowing this man, suspicious he might be a terrorist or something.
Call me names if you want, but a black man in Walmart was gunned
down without warning by a white cop because the black man was
holding a plastic BB pistol--like a Daisy--he'd pulled off the shelf
and planned to buy. Somebody saw a black man with a pistol and
panicked. Why? White men wander Walmart with pistols every day of
The truth of it is open carry laws are really Open Carry For White
Males laws. Were I to open carry around town, I’d be harassed by
cops everywhere I went and likely shot dead.
One In Three
News of 18-year old Ethan Couch’s capture in a Mexican
luxury apartment complex was announced in the same broadcast
announcing no charges against the police officer who gunned
down twelve-year old Tamir Rice. Couch was fleeing an
additional four months juvenile imprisonment for
breaking his probation for having murdered four people in a
drunk-driving accident. The U.S. justice system’s rampant,
blatant inequity towards persons of color, characterized by
the now-routine acquittal of white males gunning down black
men, women and children seemingly at will, makes the
ubiquitous sight of conspicuously armed white men all the
more chilling for black people as they go about their daily
lives. We know these guys could shoot us at will and face no
serious consequences. All they need say was they “feared for
their lives.” I fear for my life every time I shop at
This has become the rallying cry for blacks to obtain
concealed carry permits for self-defense not against al
Qaeda or some stick-up kid, but against the Soccer Moms and
paranoid yahoos swaggering through Walmart with their pistol
on their hip. It is a formula for social disaster not
apparently on the all but exclusively white conservative
Republican gun lobby radar.
As policy, I will get up and leave a restaurant that allows patrons
to openly display firearms. I can’t do anything about the concealed
carry people but, statistically, the concealed carriers are much
more likely to have been vetted in some way, while the open carriers
could literally be anyone. In many states, the cops don’t even
have the right to demand I.D. from these persons to see if they are
felons, which is a real boon for felons who no longer have to hide
their illegal weapons. So long as a felon openly displays his
hardware, there’s not a thing a cop can do to stop him. The stick-up
guy does all his shopping first, gun on his hip, then robs the
place. The bank robber just walks in with his AR-15 and, as
ridiculous as this sounds, everyone just ignores him. Or, maybe, all
of the customers are armed, so they open up, firing at the hold-up
man and killing each other and three bank tellers.
This is what the extremists advocate.
I’ve heard all the arguments and they’re all crap. At any given
point in time, I know I’m surrounded by guns. It’s Colorado:
everybody has a gun. An ex-police chief friend estimates one in
three Coloradans are armed. One in three. Most are tucked away in bags or strapped under
jackets or to ankles. I imagine a healthy proportion of Colorado
soccer moms have cheap Tauruses or Ruger LCP subcompacts in their
purse. The commonality between these people is they all watch far
too much TV, see far too many violent films, and have bought into
the insane idea that, when the time comes, they’ll hear the music
and will save themselves if not save the day by gunning down the bad
However, in most panic situations, more than 75% of shots fired from
zero to six feet miss their targets. This means Soccer Mom has a
staggering 75% chance of hitting her own kids instead of the bad guy or,
worse, mistaking me for the bad guy because, in a blind panic, all
she’ll see is a black face.
No matter your level of training or whatever movie is running thru
your head or whatever nonsense the gun lobby has sold you, when the
time comes, you absolutely, positively, I assure you, will not save
the day. You will, at minimum, make things worse by either gunning
down innocents or, worse, freezing up and having your weapon taken
I want to stop the Safeway gun toter and ask him, “Dude, seriously:
when’s the last time you got caught in a firefight in a
supermarket?” Because of the Planned Parenthood shooting here, now
all the toters will point to that or to the multiple tragedies in
the Denver-Aurora Metro area, which has creatively banned open carry
through some legislative alchemy. None of them will connect any of those
tragedies to the ease with which virtually anyone can obtain
high-powered weaponry here.
Truth is, the statistical likelihood of your being caught in some
situation where you’d need to defend yourself with a firearm is
beyond miniscule. Open carry is much more appropriate to the open
range--the vast rural areas here where you really are on your
own for the most part. But Denver is a city like any other city;
pretending it's the wild west is what has led to its sad legacy of
paranoid white male gun violence.
This is not me, not people who look like me or even people who look
like the Muslim family at the playground. The terrible mass
killings, here, have al been committed by white males who obtained
theiwr weapons legally because (primarily) white conservatives
continue to vote through legislation that treats municipalities like
Denver and Colorado Springs as though they were rural areas like
Evergreen or Durango or Teller County, where your nearest neighbor
can be a mile away and the sheriff's response a half hour or longer.
pressure shoots up ten points when I see some idiot in tee shirt and
shorts in ten-degree weather with a pistol strapped to his waist at
nine a.m. no Christmas Day.
My first and second thought is this man is not in his right mind. My safety is now in
his hands. I’m alive because he
chose not to shoot me. Nobody likes to feel helpless, and nobody
wants to give that kind of power over to a complete stranger. So, now, I want to go out to my car and get
my gun, just so we understand each other. It
becomes an arms race. The difference between me and this guy? You’d
never see mine. That’s for my safety as well as the safety of those
What Would Jesus Carry?
My Christian faith notwithstanding, I’d have no reason to open
carry. Regardless of what the gun-toters believe, open carry is no
deterrent whatsoever. A criminal or terrorist bent on doing harm has
already made the calculation that X-percent of Walmart shoppers are
armed. A jihadist, frankly, desires martyrdom, and an unhinged
lunatic like the Planned Parenthood shooter likely never considered
or much cared how many armed persons might be in that clinic. The more balanced Walmart shoppers put it away
and keep it out of sight. Most off-duty cops I know put it away and
keep it out of sight. Why isn’t that good enough for John Q Citizen?
He is open carrying because that’s what he wants to do, because he
gets some thrill out of it.
As I’ve said before, blacks and Latinos (and, for that matter,
whites) driving around with loud rap music thundering out of their
cars are all but announcing their own insecurity and need for
external validation. Look at me. I have loud music which means I
had the cash to afford this ludicrous public broadcast system which
is now ruining my hearing. It is, to me, an act of violence to
impose your taste in music on me, when you could easily keep it in
the car. Oh, and, by the way: the measure of how expensive or
exclusive your car’s sound system is is how little it bleeds
to the outside world, not how much.
Similarly, I regard open carrying as an act of violence; an assault
on my nerves surpassing the idiots with the booming car stereos.
Worse, many of toters waste valuable time and resources provoking
police to stop and question them, then arguing their rights and refusing to
cooperate. What about my right to not be assaulted by your open
display of hardware?
I think guns are like penises: best left in your pants. Most
civilians who carry guns, open or otherwise, have been brainwashed
by all that TV, by all those movies.
In defense of CSI: Miami, a truly stupid but, yes,
entertaining show: Caruso’s Horatio Kane and his team displayed not
only their guns but their I.D. cards clipped to their belts. I
believe open carry laws should require the toters to
display their ID in much the same fashion. That card might be phony,
but just the gun-toter’s willingness to display some kind of
credential would go a long way to ease my anxiety over this complete
and total stranger “asserting his rights” by bringing a gun to a
grocery store. The anonymity these men tend to cloak themselves in
is not extended to me, to the Muslim family guy, to anyone of color which makes most open
carry laws not totally unlike Jim Crow. This white man has the right
to intimidate me at will, while I would be routinely harassed for
doing the exact same thing. The main difference being I’m not nearly
so insecure (if not unhinged) that I’d need to bring a gun on a
search for a kid’s whistle.
It just amazes me to see “Christians” loudly advocating extremist
gun policy. Many gun enthusiasts claim to be Christians while
demonstrating a baffling indifference to the trauma they inflict upon
people with their in-your-face open displays. Regardless of your
position on the issue, if you are a Christian, the last thing you’d
ever want to do is traumatize people. I really wish people who live
and breathe intolerance would please stop claiming to know Jesus.
You want to open carry something, open carry Christ.
Christopher J. Priest
1 January 2016
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