Houston, we have an open carry monster

monsterWe have created a monster. It’s swallowing up our children and innocent Americans at the rate of 89 a day. It’s ubiquitous. It’s huge, slimy, deceptive, has sharp teeth, lots of money, bullies elected leaders and doesn’t care about the health and safety of our communities. It has an agenda to make lots of money for an industry, keep itself influential and wealthy, keep everyone feeling unsafe and paranoid, and arming our country. It’s evil and the cause of a lot of death and injury. It leaves in its’ wake victims and survivors and a ripple effect that is devastating our communities. It is rearing its’ ugly head after loosening our gun laws and it’s coming into more clear focus every day.

Open carrying of guns has come into sharp focus after the man who walked down a street open carrying a rifle in Colorado Springs shot and killed 3 people, seemingly without provocation. I should say that even if someone provoked someone, there is no need to shoot them. The guns were legally purchased. Law enforcement ( or a dispatcher) allegedly did not act quickly because, as she supposedly told a panicked 911 caller, it’s legal to open carry in Colorado. Not to worry. But questions are being asked and let’s hope they can be answered in the interest of public safety.

That said, let’s examine this more closely. An article in The Trace that has picked up on some others written after that shooting incident last week-end looks at the idea of rights vs. public safety. This is the ubiquitous tension in our discussion about gun violence prevention. The article summarized a meeting held in Houston regarding the new law in Texas to allow open carrying of guns in public places but the Colorado Springs incident was on the minds of the attendees. The worst fears came out in the meeting. Residents asked many questions of law enforcement and even they could not answer them. No one seems to understand the details of the law and it turns out the law was “badly written” and difficult to understand.

That is all done on purpose by the gun lobby. When they work with their bought and paid for legislators, many nuances that are meant to confuse the public and law enforcement but benefit the gun rights extremists are stuck into bills. The result is bad bills that are as far as you can get from public safety. So the residents’ questions were right on point.

From the article:

As the meeting got underway in Houston, the law enforcement officials, seated behind a green rectangular table, did not exactly put the room at ease. “As a police officer, it is so complex,” Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr., announced. “I don’t really understand all the nuances of the law.” City Attorney Donna Edmundson agreed. “Unfortunately,” she said, “this law wasn’t written very well. It’s not very clear.” District Attorney Devon Anderson conceded, “This is complicated.” Later, she admitted to only learning that morning to which government buildings the law applied.

And further:

It was a mother who prompted what might have been the most poignant exchange of the evening. “Most of us, as parents, have told our children that, if you see someone with a gun, run, scream,” She said. “What do you suggest we tell our children, who might be out and about without us, when they see a man with a gun, what do they do? Because they’re scared. They’re very scared.”

The DA appeared sympathetic. “That’s hard, because I have kids too,” she said, fumbling for an appropriate answer.

The mom persisted. “The main thing is, in Colorado Springs, at what moment did he become a threat? When he shot a person on a bike, a woman in her face, and a woman in her chest?”

The DA said, “Let me say this, and I’m taking a chance here but I’m going to say it: if you see a civilian with a gun in a school building, that’s a 911. That’s a prohibited place, inside a school building.” She continued, “You can carry around a school, on the sidewalk, in a parking lot — that kind of thing. But that would give me pause.”

The mom appeared dumfounded. “So I tell my child, if it’s outside a school, it’s okay?”

So what is a parent to do? What are kids to do? What are we all to do? The gun lobbyists and leaders in concert with legislators, who either believe in the deception that more guns will make us safer, or are not willing to challenge the fierce gun lobby are making us all less safe.

Isn’t the job of elected leaders to deal with public health and safety epidemics and concerns? The answer is Yes. So the parents who asked law enforcement in Houston about what to tell their children when they see a “good guy” with a gun walking down the street with a rifle have every right to ask the question. And notice that even law enforcement officers have no idea how to answer. How could they? They don’t want this either. It makes their own jobs very difficult. If they stop someone with a rifle, will that person give an officer ID or will that person shoot the officer? If you ask for ID, the gun rights folks get huffy and often challenge the officers.

There are many examples of these Texas open carriers provoking officers and then getting out their iPhones to video tape the exchange so they rile up their own “troops” or maybe challenge the law or bring a law suit. Here is just one where the open carriers claimed that officers treated them like terrorists. Good grief. This is the world of the gun rights extremists and we have let it happen. And now we are paying the price in lost lives. It will only get worse as more people believe they should be able to “normalize” open carrying in public.

We are not safer now. Anyone with common sense understands that we have created a monster. So now what are we going to do? Expose our kids to this lunacy? Not pay attention to guys with guns strutting around the streets of our cities until they actually decide to kill innocent people? Can we arrest them? Apparently not. Are they a public nuisance? At the least.

We just have to be better than this. The other night I was introduced to some young professionals who had traveled to my city from our sister city of Petrosavask,(Petrozavodsk) Russia. They asked me about gun laws here and were astounded that anyone could buy a gun and that guns were for sale on the internet. In Russia, one must have a license to buy a gun and also go through some questions to make sure it’s OK for you to buy a gun including your mental health status. Unfortunately, Russian President Putin just gave citizens the right to carry guns in public for self defense. Things are changing even in Russia. Russia has its’ own problems politically and culturally but they don’t have the rate of gun violence as that in our own country. 25% of homicides are caused by firearms in Russia whereas in the U.S. that number is 60% at least, according to this chart in Gunpolicy.org. This is a uniquely American tragedy.

We have a problem created by our own elected leaders. Fixing it will not be easy and far too late for the many innocent victims of gun violence. And no, laws will not fix all of this. Many of the folks wandering our streets are legal gun purchasers and “law abiding” until suddenly they are not. It takes a few seconds to snap and when it happens with a gun, lives are lost quickly and violently.

It’s our gun culture run amok with the help of our own leaders and the compliance and urging of the corporate gun lobby. It’s the public, unaware of the implications and the detalis of the laws passed under the radar and scrutiny they deserve. It’s deception at its’ worst and at its’ deadliest.

It’s time for a change. Let’s get to work now while we can still save lives.