This will be a relatively short post. Despite the brevity, do not equate short with unimportant. This issue is deeply entrenched in contemporary American culture, and as is frequently evidenced, can unexpectedly affect any of us.
I still vividly recall that one of the suggested responses by the Gun Lobby and proponents of unfettered access to firearms, in response to the December 14, 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was arming the teachers and administrators. In fact, similar advice emerged after Century Theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20 of the same year.
As a card-carrying Concealed Handgun Permit owner, not only am I personally comfortable with firearms, I am properly trained, and have been qualifying on shooting ranges for more than 20 years. Still, the notion of vigilante justice gives me pause.
First, I am concerned because I respect the power of firearms to instantly and irreversibly change the dynamics of any human encounter. Second, just as people may be skilled vocal artists, or chefs, or public speakers, not everyone who engages in one of those pursuits is good, or effective at doing so. The same is true with handling firearms. A clear distinguishing feature is that typically the consequences of hearing a song poorly sung, or eating an improperly prepared meal, or listening to an agonizingly dull speech, are not fatal. Alternately, a bad encounter with an armed individual may be one’s last.
On Sunday, June 8, 2014, Jared and Amanda Miller, a married couple, shot and killed Igor SoldoandAlyn Beck, two police officers while they dined at a Las Vegas pizzeria. They left a swastika on one, and covered both bodies with a Gadsden Flag, which is a yellow banner depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. The words “Don’t tread on me” are positioned below the snake. The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden, who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution.
After killing the two officers, they stormed into a nearby Wal-Mart with Jared firing his weapon, ordering shoppers to evacuate, and shouting an anti-government message. The two, apparently were supporters of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher who engaged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in a 20-year standoff over unpaid grazing fees. In April they tried to join the armed standoff against federal agents at Bundy’s ranch. According to Bundy’s son, they were asked to leave for being “too radical.”
It was at the Wal-Mart that the Right Wing bromide that holds, the best way to counter an armed mischief-maker is to be armed, met with an epic fail as a strategy. Mr. Joseph Wilcox, 31 years old, happened to be inside the Wal-Mart. As fate would have it, he happened to be armed. After observing Mr. Miller in full rant, Mr. Wilcox decided to intervene by confronting Jared. Unfortunately, he was unaware that Mrs. Miller, who was behind him, was with Jared, and also armed. At that point, she shot and Killed Wilcox before he could successfully intervene.
Kathleen Parker wrote an article that appeared in the June 10th edition of the Washington Post, entitled, “Armed and Dead.” I think her caption writer nailed it, as least as it pertains to my position. While noting Mr. Wilcox’s good intentions, Ms. Parker argues that this example should give pause to any who believe arming citizens is the best deterrent to a would-be killer. She goes on to note “the would-be hero in Tucson — when Rep. Gabby Giffords and others were shot — was an armed young man who almost shot the wrong person.”
I understand one or two instances do not constitute a statistically significant data pool. However, neither do the well-worn talking points of the Gun Lobby. I believe in the Second Amendment and its explicit conferral of the right to keep and bear arms. Moreover, I also believe in and affirm the Supreme Court’s ruling that such rights are not unlimited, and may be regulated by the State and Federal governments.
Ultimately, I am persuaded, the chicken in every pot, or in this case a gun in every belt prescription is just, well, “Dead Wrong!”
I’m done; holla back!
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