The right to bear harms | Our View

By Paul Archipley | Jul 01, 2015

That a gun rights advocate should suggest the victims of the Charleston shooting were themselves to blame because they hadn’t armed themselves demonstrates yet again how far down the rabbit hole the gun rights debate has gone.

Charles Cotton, an NRA board member, said of Emanuel AME Pastor Clementa Pinckney, one of nine church members who were slaughtered by a white supremacist: “He voted against conceal-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

When someone from the extreme wing of the gun rights faction opens his mouth and spews offal like that, I generally note it’s coming from some other part of the country where the wackos reside. I comfort myself that I live in a region where saner souls prevail.

But then, something happens locally, and I’m reminded once again that misguided misanthropes can be found anywhere.

In this case, it occurred last week when my daughter, who is carrying my first grandchild, was walking out of a local Walmart just as a man, woman and several young children were walking in – most likely a family. The man had a handgun on his hip.

The growing number of people packing concealed weapons is alarming enough, but open carry? Who does that? Why? What kind of message was he trying to send? Was it, “I’m armed, I’m going to defend my family at all costs, don’t tread on me.” Or, “Open carry is my right, and I’m going to exercise it, no matter how loony you may think I am.” It certainly wasn’t, “Hi neighbor, glad to see you. Have a nice day.”

Gail Collins, a columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote, “We’ve moved from the right to bear arms to the right to flaunt arms.” She wrote that even the National Rifle Association at one time called open carry demonstrations “downright weird” before it backtracked and apologized.

I went to the Washington state website to investigate, thinking an enlightened region like ours surely wouldn’t permit open carry. But no, the Walmart shopper was within his rights.

There are, of course, exceptions. Firearms aren’t permitted in school buildings, for example. Bars are off limits, too. Lawmakers decided guns and alcohol don’t mix, a brief interlude into sanity! Private property owners have the right to impose their own rules, so Walmart may have chased that man out. My daughter, carrying precious cargo inside her and understandably alarmed, didn’t stick around to see.

But if you have a permit, you can openly carry a weapon in any public park, be it city, county, state or federal. You can openly carry on any municipal bus, train or ferry as well.

Arguments about the meaning of the Second Amendment aside (In case you haven’t figured it out, I think interpreting it to mean everyone should be able to own a weapon is nuts.), statistics are stacked against gun owners.

If you own a gun, you’re more likely to be killed by or kill someone you know, not some stranger who accosts you in a store. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that where guns are prevalent, there are significantly more homicides. More Americans are killed by guns every two years than were killed in Vietnam over 20 years. Death by homicide, suicide, accident – they’re all higher where guns exist.

What will it take to bring sanity to our gun laws? Even Sandy Hook didn’t make the cowards in Washington, D.C. act. I’m pessimistic that the Charleston church shooting will, either.

Instead, guys like the Walmart shopper who openly carry will probably drive more people, freaked out by the continuing growth of firearms ownership, to surrender to the insanity and buy themselves a gun, wrongly thinking it will protect them from harm.

Coincidentally, Walmart sells guns. It also sells caskets. If you’re going to buy the first, you might as well buy the second. You may need it sooner than you think.

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