[politics] You’d better run said the man with the gun

A day or two ago, [info]kenscholes and I were enjoying a leisurely breakfast in The Bomber, in Milwaukie, OR. It’s a sleepy little diner mostly patronized by older folks in a sleepy little suburb south of Portland. In other words, about as a dangerous as your living room. Probably less so.

A very large man walked in with a pistol on his hip, open carry. I am extremely dubious that he was a peace officer off duty, based on his hair, clothes and grooming. I turned to Ken and said, “We need to leave.” We did. I didn’t follow my normal policy of dialing 911 whenever I see a weapon in public because the diner staff had taken no action.

Open carry scares the hell out of me. So does concealed carry, frankly, but concealed carry is a defensive measure, at least in theory. Open carry is a very deliberate threat. It’s a gun owner saying, if in my judgment you are dangerous, I will shoot you down.

I am far, far more frightened of someone who feels the need to walk around openly displaying a handgun than I am of any theoretical criminals that might have been menacing Milwaukie that day. The fact that this guy had that need to threaten everyone he encountered telegraphs some very negative information about both his emotional stability and situational judgement. Open carry isn’t about safety, it’s about dominance.

The weird part is how hard this is to prove. The same conservatives who loudly assure us that firearms are safe and that firearms improve public safety have for decades banned Federally funded research into precisely those questions. If guns were such an excellent safety tool, wouldn’t gun rights enthusiasts be eagerly embracing the research to underscore their point?

Quite the opposite. A firearm is a tool for killing. It serves literally no other purpose. All the collateral uses such as target shooting or hunting are simply practice for the killing. Even the gun lobby knows better, hence the research ban. They just don’t want people thinking in those terms because it’s bad P.R.

I do not want to be around another human being who feels the need to threaten to kill me for the sake of their own sense of security. It saddens me that this is legal, acceptable behavior, and people who practice open carry in normal, everyday situations scare the living hell out of me.

This is not a well-ordered militia, as the always-neglected part of the Second Amendment calls for.

30,000 people die every year in shootings in this country. It is one of the great shames of our society, and will eventually be one of history’s greatest puzzles that we as a society embraced this wholesale slaughter when every other similar industrialized society of our era managed a much more peaceful solution with much lower death rates.

Why would I want to be a part of conservative America’s rain of blood just to satisfy some guy’s paranoid ego?


If past experience proves true, I will catch a lot of flak for this post. A note to head off at least one line of criticism: I am quite comfortable with firearms, am a rather good shot, and understand range safety. In other words, I am not speaking from some thick-headed liberal ignorance. It’s precisely because I understand guns that I don’t want to be around them.

17 thoughts on “[politics] You’d better run said the man with the gun

  1. Ellen Eades says:

    Completely agree, and I’m very sorry he cut off your leisurely breakfast.

  2. Stella says:

    The gun-toter’s role as trouble magnet is nowhere better illustrated than this case. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/09/melanie-hain-gun-carrying_n_315291.html

  3. Albatross says:

    Locally we had a very vocal gun, um, advocate who died of a heart attack at a young age. I think his gravestone should read “Less bullets, more Lipitor.”

    Gun advocates are people who display even less ability to process risk than the usual human (and we’re really bad at it). Owning a gun puts everyone in your family at much higher risk of death, a risk considerably higher than the risk of death due to some other kind of violent crime.

  4. Ed says:

    That diner seems like a good place to avoid. From a Canadian perspective, your whole country is a good place to avoid.

    1. kiloseven says:

      Avoid it for the cholesterol, but otherwise a very safe place.

  5. Laurie Mann says:

    You did the right thing. Even here in gun-happy PA, people don’t carry openly.

  6. Andrea says:

    “The fact that this guy had that need to threaten everyone he encountered….”

    Sounds like maybe you were the only one feeling “threatened”. Did anyone else leave the diner? Did anyone call 911 because they felt fear?

    “I am not speaking from some thick-headed liberal ignorance.”

    Ummm… I dunno about that. You automatically lump conservatives as being the instigators of the “rain of blood” in this country & you don’t give one word to all the “liberals” who enjoy their conceal & carry permits. That sounds kinda “thick-headed” to me.

    Out of the 30,000 people that die each year from gun deaths, how many of them were killed by people owning conceal and carry or open carry permits? How many school shootings were done or theatre shootings were done, by people who had permits to carry a weapon?

    If the typical murderous thug (no permit, stolen gun, etc.) would have walked into that diner & started shooting people… and the only guy shooting back would have been the large scruffy guy with the open carry permit… I can guarantee that you would have been hiding behind him like a little girl… thanking him for saving your life after he shot dead the thug who illegally possessed a gun & was using it to kill folks.

    But we’ll never know, will we? Cos you ran out of there at the sight of a gun, without even finishing your breakfast.

    You’re “quite comfortable” with firearms? Sorry… I think your nose just grew 2 inches cos I don’t believe that one!!

    1. Jay says:

      Take an open mind and go read up on the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, and their response to it. It’s what economists call a
      “natural experiment”, and provides overwhelming validation for widespread gun control as the best possible reduction of harm.

      Go read about it, then come back and tell me again I’m wrong.

  7. Cora says:

    I totally sympathize. I would have gotten the hell out of there, too, once I saw a person who was not a cop or soldier on duty walking into a diner with a gun. Of course, he probably was harmless, but there’s no way to be sure. I wouldn’t have thought to dial 911, if only because I would have expected to be laughed off.

    As a matter of fact, I always was worried when visiting your beautiful country that some nutter with an itchy trigger finger would shoot me, because he’s scared that I might steal his TV or something. I found this possibility a lot more scary than the possibility that I might become the victim of a violent crime while visiting the US, especially since I kept away from areas that looked like poor or high crime areas.

    And for the record, by German standards I’m pretty liberal on gun laws, since I’m against disarming hunters or sports shooters, as long as they keep their guns locked up in a secure location when not in use. I’m from a rural area, where there are lots of hunters and sports shooters, so I know that 99.9% are harmless and because of the close-knit structure of hunting and shooting clubs, problematic gun owners tend to get spotted. Though we did have shooting incidents involving the 0.01%.

    I also find it odd that every time someone in the US says something against general unlimited gun ownership, there’s always the caveat of “I know how to shoot and I have shot a gun.”

    Well, I have never shot a gun in my life. I could likely get a permit if I wanted one via joining a sports shooting club, though I never felt the need. Besides, the social rituals of sports shooters are so not my thing. And I’ve never been in a situation where I would have felt safer with a gun.

    BTW, your formatting is messed up.

  8. so, anyone can just walk around with a gun? out? is it covered under C&C?

  9. You’re completely misunderstanding most of the open carry movement (I don’t of course know the particular person you encountered in Milwaukee). It’s not about aggression, it’s about normalizing being armed, making it not seem weird and unusual to the rest of the population. Getting shall-issue concealed carry permitting in most states was good, but because most people carry concealed (widely thought to be tactically advantageous for self-defense), much of the population doesn’t think about our presence, and continues to think good guys with guns are rare to non-existent. The political purpose of open carry is to be “out” about being armed.

    And the bit about “a well-regulated militia” is not a restrictive clause, so it doesn’t limit the application of the rest of the 2a. Read the period discussion of it, nobody thought it meant what you claim it means when it was debated and passed. That phrase is yet one more example of the dangers of attempting to explain things when writing laws.

    1. Jacob Engstrom says:

      Well said David.
      I understand where Jay & other people whose opinions I respect are coming from. I will even go so far as to say they are partially correct on some of the issues, particularly that the 2nd Amendment is a legal quagmire. However, that fact is that we are currently in this position because Law-n-Order Conservatives in the 30’s through the late 70’s effectively denormalized firearms in American culture. Now we are left with a mess. Many organizations, including the FBI & Police Representative Organizations have opposed indepth analysis just as much as the NRA. For my part, I am a strong believer in responsible gun regulation, aggressive prosecution of individuals engaged in active Menacing or Disruption of the Peace, even Assault in the 3rd or 4th Degree when warranted. However, for myself as someone who has been shot at, faced down guns handled by individuals in states of extreme agitation, and buried several friends due to self inflicted gunshot wounds, the issue isn’t about guns. Its about how this country approaches the issue of self-defense as a whole, and the actual, practical, and achievable role of police & other law enforcement elements in our society.

    2. Jay says:

      David, I think normalizing being armed is such a terrible idea that I can’t even begin to address it. Every other industrialized society in the world solves problems of violence, crime and defense without widespread arming of the population, and with much lower crime and murder rates.

      Are you willing to concede that in a world with no guns, there would be no gun deaths? (Many gun rights advocates are not, in my experience.) Are you willing to concede that in a world with markedly fewer guns, there would be markedly fewer gun deaths? (Again, many gun rights advocates are not, in my experience.) Because if you can accept those two statements, then the rest of the gun lobby’s arguments about armament and self-defense fall apart logically.

      The first rule of holes is that when you’re in a hole, stop digging. Yet the answer in our country to problems of gun violence is more guns. Nowhere else in the world does this answer make sense, and everywhere else in the world that disarms is much safer than we are. Does this suggest anything to you?

      1. Jacob Engstrom says:

        a) Due to the fact that several significant 1st World Countries don’t report or are known to be falsely reporting homicide/gun use information, that becomes a tentative claim. Check out UNDOC website and note who is NOT reporting.

        B) I concede that in a world with no guns there would be no gun deaths. However, speaking strictly in the realm of logical deductive process, “…in a world with markedly fewer guns, there would be markedly fewer gun deaths?” is not sound. While there is a good chance that would be the case, its not a definite.

        Sigh- if only the NRA split had gone the other way…..

        1. Cora says:

          Who is supposedly falsely reporting? Because most EU countries give accurate information and have crime and gun death figures that are a lot lower than in the US. There are some outliers like Israel or Switzerland, which have high gun ownership but comparatively low gun death figures, but Switzerland’s numbers for gun suicides and murders are high by European standards, though low by US standards. Besides, the guns owned by Swiss citizens are pretty strictly regulated.

          1. Ginger says:

            In Israel and Switzerland, active duty military do not carry their weapons home. Israel instituted a ban on carrying weapons home for weekends, which resulted in a decrease of deaths by gun (homicide or suicide), and Switzerland has a similar ban. Both countries have extensive training, yet still reserve the privilege of carrying weapons for those on actual duty, on a range, or in a potentially-dangerous location. In Israel, there are a lot of places where terrorist target the population, and are defended primarily by unarmed security or police. Guns don’t contribute as much to defense for civilians as advocates would have us think. It’s time to move past the reflexive desire for guns, as this is a false sense of protection.

          2. Jacob Engstorm says:

            Cora, you say “most EU countries…” I would generally agree. However there have been problems in the reporting of the UK, Spain, Italy, and France. I would also point at the fact there are a large number of firearms legally in the hands of Israeli citizens. Scandinavia also features a significant ratio of legally held firearms to total population. Note that the FSR & China both either do not report some years and are known to not correctly report when they do. Also, Many European countries do not report Homicides where the person responsible is a peace officer.

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